How can I make $800 within the week?
January 16, 2013 12:35 PM   Subscribe

My car broke down on me. Needs a new alternator, battery and wiring. It costs $800 to fix. How can I come up with the money? I have $0 to my name, 1 maxed out credit card, and no way to take out a payday loan because I just started a job 4 days ago after a lengthy unemployment. I can't borrow the money or bum rides from friends/family. I'm required to drive for my job and I'm in danger of losing it. I've also just started making new friends after years without them and now I can't drive to meet anyone anywhere. I'm worried my life is going to fall apart. I have one thing that I can sell for maybe $150. Are there ways to come up with the money I'm missing? I'm freaking out. Thank you.
posted by Pericardium to Work & Money (38 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe talk to the mechanic and see if they are willing to work out a payment plan?
posted by goethean at 12:38 PM on January 16, 2013 [24 favorites]

Things that are easy to sell on craigslist that make more than a few dollars:
laptop computers
video game systems

I know you think you only have one salable thing, but maybe there are others you haven't considered.

You can also learn how to replace a car alternator in less than a week. This will remove labor from your cost, which is probably half of the whole bill or more.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 12:39 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Would your employer be willing to forward you a paycheck?
posted by fontophilic at 12:40 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't know what the "and wiring" part refers to, but depending on the car changing an alternator and battery can be pretty easy to DIY, for a lot less than $800. If you're driving a beater, a used junkyard alternator may be good enough.
posted by jon1270 at 12:40 PM on January 16, 2013 [8 favorites]

no way to take out a payday loan

If you're already in debt, this will only make your problems much, much worse. Try another mechanic and look into selling other items before taking out a payday loan.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:44 PM on January 16, 2013 [6 favorites]

It's a horribly usurious practice, but how about a title loan? You'll pay a ton of interest, but they'll take the title of your car as the collateral on your loan. I don't recommend it, but if it is the only way it is better than your life falling apart.

TitleMax is one of the national outfits.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:45 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ask the mechanic about putting in a rebuilt/used alternator. It may not last as long, but will probably be much cheaper.
posted by belladonna at 12:48 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Fix the alternator and battery yourself and have the mechanic only do the wiring? Changing the battery should take like 5 minutes, and the alternator typically isn't hard either. Enthusiast forums often have detailed instructions, as does youtube.
posted by zug at 12:49 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Nth'ing goethean's advice, especially if it's a smaller mechanic shop. Odds are he knows what it's like to be close to behind on your bills. And I would add that you should offer to leave collateral of some kind, even if it's not worth the whole $800.
posted by Etrigan at 12:51 PM on January 16, 2013 [7 favorites]

As a last resort, ask or beg for it? Maybe try r/loans or Wish Upon a Hero.
posted by ethidda at 1:00 PM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

There are lots of folks on Craigslist who are looking for work/extra income. Doesn't solve your immediate cash problem, but you might be able to find someone to do it for significantly cheaper. Maybe you can barter some physical labor or to do their taxes or something in exchange for the labor.
posted by vignettist at 1:18 PM on January 16, 2013

I know you said you can't ask friends or family for money, but maybe you could set up a gofundme page and ask for donations (via facebook)? I have a friend who is using this to raise money for a vet bill now, with some luck.
posted by Flamingo at 1:19 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sell furniture on Craigslist. Sell electronics on eBay. Have a yard sale. Odd jobs on craiglist. Ask mechanic if they will take payments on a plan. Take extra shifts at work (if possible). Pawn jewelry. Ask for an advance from work (prob a bad plan if you just started though).
posted by murfed13 at 1:27 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

You might not have the time, but look into Modest Needs.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:28 PM on January 16, 2013

What's the make and model of your car? I'm looking at alternators for a 2001 Honda I have, and the top price is about $200. They're not terribly difficult to replace, though you will likely need to get under the car to do it. You will probably also need access to some socket wrenches (to detach the thing). If you have the time and tools, I'll second Zug's advice to give it a whirl.

Failing that - do you know any shadetree mechanics who would do it for a 12-pack?
posted by jquinby at 1:28 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Where are you located?
posted by mosk at 1:31 PM on January 16, 2013

Actually, you may not need to get under the car at all. Here's an instructable that goes through the general process.

You're going to (generally):

disconnect the battery (for safety)
disconnect the alternator from the battery
remove the belt
remove some bolts which hold the alternator in
put the new alternator into place
replace the bolts
put the belt back
reconnect it to the battery
reconnect the battery
posted by jquinby at 1:34 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

A local branch of St. Vincent de Paul or similar organization may be able to help with a low or no interest loan. If you are in the US, the United Way could also help point you in the direction of organizations that may be able to help.
posted by goggie at 1:43 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

"replace wiring" could be as small as a corroded battery terminal or a problem with a horribly difficult-to-reach part of the wiring harness that requires pulling many other pieces to access. Without more information it's just a wild guess that it's easy or even possible to DIY.

It the vehicle drivable or is it at the shop? If it's movable, I would ask friends and co-workers for a back yard mechanic that could assist rather than a shop.
posted by anti social order at 1:51 PM on January 16, 2013

Plasma sale? Sell sperm?
posted by lalochezia at 1:52 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Pawn stuff if you would like the items back.
Pawn/sell.TVs, cameras, musical equipment, tools, etc.
Bring CDs, video games, DVDs, books to a local used media store.
Ask for a credit increase.
Odd jobs on Craigslist.
Ask family if you can shovel/garden/clean for some cash.
I'm guessing no public transportation or ride shares in your area?
posted by KogeLiz at 2:00 PM on January 16, 2013

You could apply at Modest Needs, which offers help with 'one-time emergency expenses for low-income households'.
posted by jacalata at 2:33 PM on January 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

I am a female and at age 18 I replaced my own alternator on an 85 Ford Tempo. Very simple - 2 bolts. You can borrow tools from Auto Zone or other parts stores for FREE to get the job done. Junk yard will almost always have what you need. Most parts places will charge a core charge to get a new alternator that you will get back when you bring them the old junk alternator.
If you have bad battery connectors you can usually visually see that by looking at the cables and connections right there on your battery. If your alternator is bad and battery is bad you may just have some serious corrosion on those connectors which can be cleared off with Coca-Cola.
Batteries are expensive - no way around that but once you get a new alternator in the car have someone give you a jump and it is possible that your battery can be recharged enough to last a couple of more weeks. A bad alternator will always drain the battery completely so it may not actually be DOA. Does your battery have the pop open lid where you can add some water? If so do that before jumping and it could help.
I feel for you as I have been in this boat myself. But get your hands dirty and get in there. This is definitely a job most anyone can power through and move on to the next phase of making money! Good luck!
posted by phytage at 3:14 PM on January 16, 2013 [21 favorites]

Where do you live? Where do you work? That's going to make a pretty big difference in how feasible these suggestions are.

Some options to consider that no one's mentioned yet:

--can you carpool at all with a neighbor or coworker? Even just part of the way, and then use public transport or a bike?
--do you know anyone who lives closer to your workplace, and would let you crash on their floor?
--if you haven't already, try calling local social services (dialing 211 works in most of the US.) Some places have rideshare, some places have emergency financial assistance of some kind, and if nothing else they might have some ideas that AskMe hasn't thought of.
--try asking about a loan from your bank or credit union anyway. Even with bad credit, you may be able to get a loan to cover part of it, especially if you can document for them that you have a job (even if you haven't gotten paid yet.)
--this last one is left-field, unlikely to work, and would almost certainly take more than a week, but: how much would you be able to sell the old car for, as junk or parts or a fixer-upper? Depending on what condition the rest of it is in, you might able to sell it and get a cheaper, probably shittier (but still running) car.
posted by kagredon at 3:39 PM on January 16, 2013

15 years back, when I was neither particularly handy nor particularly wealthy, I replaced the alternator of my 1983 BMW 320i in the rain in a parking lot where I was told I had until Monday at 8am to get it out or it would be towed.

It died Friday when I was heading downtown and I put it in a corporate office building's lot. I could not afford a tow or a mechanic to fix it. I had a friend drive me to pick up a new alternator and then that same friend held a giant golf umbrella over me as I spent about 8 hours over 2 days in the rain, replacing the alternator and the alternator bushings.

This was before the Internet was nearly as useful for finding out how to do such things, and I barely had any tools. I just figured it out. If your car has a popular following, it's possible someone on a car forum will help you.

You can do this.

Will your mechanic let you bring in the alternator if you try to do it yourself and decide you can't?

Will your mechanic take a payment plan?
posted by MonsieurBon at 3:50 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Scooter or moped?? Might be cheaper than a car.
posted by ohshenandoah at 4:05 PM on January 16, 2013

If you are fixing it yourself, and need to replace the battery, it's possible to buy used batteries that still have some life on them. You'll have to ask around to find out where to get one. This is probably only feasible if your car takes a medium to large battery, it's a lot harder to fit the wrong battery into a small space.

If you are doing it yourself, call around and find a parts store with an alternator tester before you spring for a new battery. If buying a new alternator, compare prices at the different stores.

Are you required to use your car _for_ work rather than just to get to work? If that's the case, some of your coworkers might have a lead on someone who could do the repair more cheaply, maybe someone who isn't connected with a shop.
posted by yohko at 4:40 PM on January 16, 2013

I'm going to see if the mechanic will take a payment plan and if not I'll try to DIY it. Here's some requested information in case anyone has any other suggestions:

Car is a '97 Mercury Mountaineer and this is in Ohio. I'm a woman so no sperm donating for me unfortunately!
posted by Pericardium at 5:08 PM on January 16, 2013

I wouldn't bother with Modest Needs. They tend to gravitate towards very specific types and are not great with quick fix loans. They also have limited resources and favor situations with children. Plus your time requirements are not the way they work generally.

You might get lucky, but I would not put too time into MN.
posted by lampshade at 5:19 PM on January 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Pericardium: "I'm going to see if the mechanic will take a payment plan and if not I'll try to DIY it. Here's some requested information in case anyone has any other suggestions:

Car is a '97 Mercury Mountaineer and this is in Ohio. I'm a woman so no sperm donating for me unfortunately!

Pep Boys is showing a rebuilt alternator for a 97 Mountaineer for $138. eHow has the step-by-step, but these are usually a little easier with pictures. You can also use the find-a-mechanic widget at the Car Talk website if you want to call around to some other shops.
posted by jquinby at 5:29 PM on January 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

...and they've got new batteries as cheap as $104.
posted by jquinby at 5:33 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Grace Period is local to Pittsburgh, so I'm not sure they would approve someone out of state (even neighboring state), but it's worth a call. They helped me out when I needed money for a security deposit earlier this year. Basically you commit to paying additional funds into a credit union savings account for yourself, which for me has been nothing but good.
posted by notquitemaryann at 5:51 PM on January 16, 2013

I don't typically play on stereotypes, but I'm going to do it anyway: you say you have friends now? Are any of them men? Odds are good there is at least one man in your life (personal life or work life) who has done this at some point in their lives, and (at least) will be willing to explain how it is done, or (at most) will be willing to do it for you.

Also, if you are worried about losing your job, just be up-front with your boss: your car requires repairs that you can't afford until (at least) the next (x) paychecks, and you're wondering if he has any ideas about other employees in the area you can carpool with.
posted by davejay at 7:33 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wonder whether you might buy a battery cheaply through one of the suggestions above, and then - if you don't think you can do the job yourself - advertise for help on something like Taskrabbit? I looked into that site before for a task I needed help with, although I never actually followed through with it, so can't personally recommend it, but it looked useful. My understanding is that you name a price and people in your area will offer to do it (sometimes for less), or something to that effect. It might be a bit more reliable than getting someone on Craigslist, because people seem to leave reviews for each other (like Ebay, but with labor, not goods). I bet you could get someone handy to do it for far less than $800, even including the battery cost.
posted by UniversityNomad at 8:21 PM on January 16, 2013

A used battery from a junk yard (aka breaker yard) will cost much much less and will probably be good for at least a year or two. Ditto the alternator. Call around among your acquaintances because for sure someone knows someone who will help out with the DIY.
posted by anadem at 8:32 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't think this has been mentioned, but might be a means to borrow the money.

Best of luck. Sounds like total suckitude.
posted by Michele in California at 8:54 PM on January 16, 2013

Its rare to need all that simultaneously, sounds the mechanic it just going to replace everything that is associated with the charging system to make sure he fixes the problem. OK if you have plenty of money. You could ask for the bare minumum to get you driving again. Maybe a craigslist curbside mechanic could fix you up for less.
A religious acquaintance worked with a church group of guys that fixed cars for the people who needed work transportation (sort of like Habitat for humanity for cars), it a long shot but maybe there is a local group.
posted by 445supermag at 8:55 PM on January 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding donating plasma but within a week this might only get you $100 -- that would work if you did the work yourself maybe...
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 7:05 AM on January 17, 2013

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