I desperately need $300.
March 27, 2013 10:28 AM   Subscribe

I think I've reached the end of my rope, credit-wise.

I'm in need of money right now, or my credit will tank, and I won't be able to support myself.

I'm very depressed that I'm in this financial situation-- it's a result of taking a risk on a better job that immediately folded and left me with no source of income and depleted savings (due to moving and an unexpected emergency). I could be starting a new job that pays well on April 1st, but I don't have the money to move back to my last city, where the job is. I have bills that will start being due on April 12th. I'm familiar with being poor and have scraped the bottom before, but I feel like there's nothing left to me and I don't know what to do.

1) When I was a full-time student I could apply for emergency loans at my school, but I'm not anymore.
2) When I had a good credit rating (an A rating) I could apply for a signature loan to cover temporary costs, but now my credit has fallen (a C rating) and last time I applied at my credit union, I was rejected.
3) Both of my parents are struggling and/or homeless at the moment, so it's not possible to ask them for help.
4) I've thought about taking out a payday loan, because I WILL be getting a little cash around April 21st-- I just need it before the 6th or the 7th. I'm very afraid of this option because I've been accruing debt slowly for a long time now, and I know the consequences of not paying this off would be bad.

The reason I need a quick $300 is that I overdrafted my checking account on accident-- forgot I signed an overdraft protection agreement that says I can overdraft my account up to $700 for a $25 charge each time. Basically, I made some minor purchases unaware of my account balance and they snowballed into being $200 below balance. Not a huge amount of debt, but I have almost literally nothing to my name (about $40 in a separate checking account at a different bank), can't pay it back, and if I don't before the 6th or 7th, it will go to collections.

I really don't know what to do. I feel very upset that my credit rating is already falling. I can do some work from home, but I won't be paid until around the 21st, as I wrote above. I looked into state benefits and they seem to be only for people who need the money to cover a basic need in an emergency. I live in Minnesota. I have no children.

I'm very exhausted.

Is there anything I'm overlooking? Is the payday loan idea horrible? I know payday loans are horrible-- I used to work for several banks-- but I have no other ideas. I don't have anything expensive I could pawn or sell, except a wedding dress I've been trying to sell for ages.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (38 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sorry to hear this. I would, as a first step, go into my bank and talk to them about waiving the overdraft fees. They might, they might not. It would cost you nothing to tell them your story and try.

Payday loans come with tons of interest, obviously. The golden rule, if you absolutely have to use them, is this: unless you are 100% certain that you know both when you are going to get the money and that you will be able to use that money to pay back the loan, do not touch them with a bargepole.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:32 AM on March 27, 2013 [7 favorites]

I don't know what the rates would be in comparison to a payday loan, and I don't know how quick the process is, but you could apply for a loan with Prosper. It's a peer-to-peer system.
posted by brentajones at 10:36 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm really sorry.

Take the credit hit rather than a payday loan. At this point, you have zero wiggle room in your financial state, and it would be ridiculous to spend money on interest to protect your already non-existent ability to borrow money. This is survival time, not optimization time.

Best of luck.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 10:37 AM on March 27, 2013 [19 favorites]

I agree with LittleMissCranky, don't get a payday loan: Take the credit hit rather than a payday loan. At this point, you have zero wiggle room in your financial state, and it would be ridiculous to spend money on interest to protect your already non-existent ability to borrow money. Plus, if you're able to pay off the collections agency by April 21 (two weeks after they buy the debt), it might not even hit your credit report.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:41 AM on March 27, 2013

I know you said you looked into state benefits, but would you be eligible for unemployment benefits? (It's not welfare.)
posted by tuesdayschild at 10:44 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

If it's spring break where you are, babysitters are in high demand. Around here, people charge $20 an hour!
posted by xo at 10:46 AM on March 27, 2013

Can you sell some things you can do without or maybe do some quick services for some friends/family/neighbors?
posted by j at 10:47 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know your bank, but before doing anything I would verify that there isn't any way to put off the transfer of this debt to a collection agency on the 6th or 7th. I have a similar "overdraft account" at my credit union, and they essentially handle it as a $500 revolving line of credit--as long as I make monthly payments I can carry a negative balance essentially indefinitely instead of discharging the whole thing in one go.

I would first call your bank and ask if they would accept a partial payment, be willing to set up a payment plan, or retroactively implement the overdraft protection. It doesn't hurt to ask, and if they are willing it could buy you another month for much less than the full $300.
posted by pullayup at 10:50 AM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

Sell your plasma.

Call up the day-labor places in your city and see if any of them have regular work.

Downsize your computer/phone/technology on Craigslist.
posted by thylacine at 10:51 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't take out a payday loan, they're obscenely overpriced. Start selling everything you can on craigslist. Check any local temp agencies. Go to the state unemployment/jobs center and see if they have anything and if you qualify for unemployment. Talk to the bank and see if they can help you cover that check somehow with a loan.
posted by mareli at 10:52 AM on March 27, 2013

Long term you need to start figuring out how to make and stick to a budget so you don't get into trouble like this. If your budget is such that there's no wiggle room at all you need to adjust. You should have a reserve. You should have an emergency fund. I highly recommend Dave Ramsey's plan and products.

Short term, time to pawn something, sell something, borrow, negotiate with your bank, whatever. You should be able to pull together than kind of cash if you try. Surf the balance to a card.

A bad credit rating is not the end of the world and might be helpful. Make your mistakes now when they are in the $300 range. Don't do it when your mortgage is on the line or you've maxed out a 30k credit card or defaulted on student loans.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:53 AM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Churches often have emergency funds.
posted by Miko at 11:11 AM on March 27, 2013 [5 favorites]

Sell as much stuff as you can. Television, phone, computer, clothes that might be of interest to a consignment shop, whatever. You can get those things back when your finances look better.

Also, look on Craigslist under jobs > etc for companies that have posted opportunities to participate in paid usability studies or focus groups or for odd jobs.
posted by joan_holloway at 11:13 AM on March 27, 2013

I agree that you should talk to your bank and see if you can pay this off over time. If you are so poor that you can't take care of the overdraft right now, then you should NOT take care of it. Don't borrow money you don't know for certain will show up, and use any money you do get to take care of your immediate needs of food and shelter. This is triage - don't throw any money at the overdraft until you know you can handle it.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:16 AM on March 27, 2013

Sell anything you can -- maybe try this FPP for a bit of inspiration and cheering-up. And yeah, talk to your bank. Having a debt go to collections isn't great, but it's not as bad as not being able to pay your rent.
posted by asperity at 11:19 AM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Definitely apply for UI. It sounds like the job folded, instead of you quitting. If may take a couple of weeks to kick in, but it may just do that. In the meantime, maybe call them and see what emergency services are around where you live. I'm sure the folks at UI have run into this before, and whenever I've talked to them on the phone, they've always been really helpful and supportive.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:22 AM on March 27, 2013

It seems like the main thing you need to do is get yourself to the April 1st job, so prioritize that.
posted by Miko at 11:22 AM on March 27, 2013 [10 favorites]

If your credit score is hit, you can have a notation included on why you had missed payments, etc., so you could write to the reporting agencies about the loss of your job. That won't affect your score, but an explanation would be there for anyone pulling your report to see. Especially if a month or two after the hit you're back on your feet and making all your payments in a timely manner again.

And while this may not be ethical, you could also elect to dispute anything negative on your credit report. The organization has 21 days to respond, and if they fail to respond within 21 days, then any disputes need to be removed from your credit report. So, you figure if a lot of people are disputing, you just hope to wait out the 21 days. There's no penalty to disputing, but if the organization responds, then whatever you were disputing remains on your credit report.
posted by zizzle at 11:23 AM on March 27, 2013

Craigslist also has ETC and Part Time sections under Jobs, where it lists a lot of part time, misc. jobs that need to be done. Sometimes they also list Focus Groups, where you show up, blab about the topic of the group, and then walk away with cash they pay you immediately upon finishing. You can apply for multiple focus groups, and when they ask you if you've ever done a focus group before, say 'no'. The companies don't cross check.

I've done focus groups for everything from mock juries to hot sauce to city planning. I find them a lot of fun, personally. And they pay from $25 - $200 dollars a pop.
posted by spinifex23 at 11:28 AM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Do whatever you have to to make it home for the April 1st job. Call in favors.
posted by fshgrl at 11:31 AM on March 27, 2013 [3 favorites]

Call your bank and ask them to forgive your overdraft fees. I just want to tell you from recent experience, don't be ashamed to tell them you can't afford them. I have cut my utilities in half by being honest and asking for help, and I have been a longstanding customer with my bank, and when I get hit with a stupid charge, I make sure to talk to them about it.

If you have any friends, ask them if you can borrow money and if necessary, be very open with them that there is a strong possibility you may not be able to pay them back. You never know what will result if you open up.
posted by phaedon at 11:35 AM on March 27, 2013

Selling your stuff, then ridesharing and couchsurfing your way to the new city would be an excellent way to get there on the cheap if not totally free. Speaking to someone at the bank will get you results - make an appointment with someone at the bank, dress nicely, be polite and plead your case. It's very possible they'll drop the overdraft charges completely.
posted by theraflu at 11:36 AM on March 27, 2013

Try hitting up these folks: Modest Needs. They are all about giving small amounts of money to people to help them out of a tight spot.

But also: that overdraft - it's basically a loan from your bank right now. If at all possible et it ride until you have the money on the 21st, chances are you'll pay much less than if you took out a payday loan.
posted by mskyle at 11:38 AM on March 27, 2013 [4 favorites]

Hit up the pawn shops. Pawn anything that isn't nailed down, heck sell it if you don't think you'll want it back, while pawn shops offer terrible prices on items sold there the advantage is the money is there quick. You have craigslist if you have time.

The interest rate on pawning anything sucks but unlike a payday loan you don't "have" to pay it back if you can't get the money in time they don't care as they keep the item, I don't think it effects credit history at all (not 100% sure how that works in the US).

Also those bills that are due on the 12th ring them now and arrange payment options, often times you can arrange to make part payments or set up payment plans which might give you a bit of breathing space. Ring before the bill is due, the companies want there money and most will work with you as that is a cheaper option for them than sending it to debt collectors. As others have suggested it wouldn't hurt to talk to the bank, be calm and explain the situation and don't demand anything, ask if there is anything they can do. If nothing else you won't be any worse off for asking. Also look into food banks etc for food options to help tide you over food wise, some people feel bad about hitting up the food banks but that is what they are for, and you can pay it back with a nice donation when you get back on your feet.

Good luck.
posted by wwax at 11:59 AM on March 27, 2013

Yes, prioritize the April 1st job if it's a sure thing. What would it take to get there? Ask to waive the overdraft fees, and pay the bank back once you have a steady income stream.
posted by salvia at 12:35 PM on March 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you aren't really on top of your finances, as far as really knowing how much you have in any one account, how much you will need in the near future, and how much you can spend. Start by writing lists of all of these things. That way, you'll _know_ what you're dealing with now, and you'll be in control, all the time, in the future.

This is when you need to change from a typical person to a super-organized money manager.

Find some free financial counseling if there is any available in your area. If not:

I'll include some example items below, but I'm sure there are web sites that can help also. _Knowing_ what you really need will help you a lot. It will also help you when you ask people to loan you money -- seeing that you have a very clear grasp of what the future holds for you, at least financially, will persuade people that you can pay them back, and that you're organized enough to do that. It will also help you feel a lot better about asking friends for a loan, if that option is open to you.

How much will you need to get to your new job? Make a list:

approx. miles from here to there:
add 5% since it's impossible to know precisely:
approx. number of gallons of gas needed (miles you write above, divided by miles per gallon of your car):

Date of your first expected paycheck:
Add one week in case there's a problem with the check:

How sure are you about this new job? If you don't have a 100% guarantee -- written job offer -- then find something that is guaranteed. Find temporary work, also, if there isn't something preventing you. I realize this won't help with your $300 need right now, but having a solid plan (even if it's "call these three places with temporary job listings") will help you think clearly.

If you got a waitressing job today, and started tonight, you could have some cash in your hand before tomorrow morning (although maybe not that much if you're not an experienced waitress - it's not that easy).

Cost of food between now and then (figure out approx cost of some beans, rice, maybe potatoes, some frozen spinach and green beans, some cheese - how much will you eat per day? How many days?):

Other expenses - do you need clothes? Can you borrow anything? Do you need to spend $$ at a thrift shop for work clothes? Is there a non-profit that will help you?

Do you need to put $$ toward your phone or Internet?

Any utility bills coming up? What's that going to be? Will you have to pay them before your first paycheck?

Don't let this overwhelm you; one thing at a time.
posted by amtho at 12:38 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

On a similar note to Modest Needs -- I'm on the board of a community foundation that does, among other things, emergency funding in small amounts for people hit with a sudden and unexpected need. There are other organizations in my area that do similar things, including one that explicitly focuses on helping people with a one-time need where a relatively small amount will solve their problem. See if there is anything like that where you are. Google "[your metro area] emergency funding" and check with the local churches.
posted by chickenmagazine at 12:47 PM on March 27, 2013

Where I live, the township trustee has emergency funds for folks who need help paying the rent and such.

Also, seriously discount that wedding dress.
posted by steinwald at 1:00 PM on March 27, 2013

if you haven't found a solution by April 2nd, send me a me-mail
posted by jkaczor at 1:10 PM on March 27, 2013

Where in Minnesota are you? If you're in Minneapolis, try the Chrysalis Center at the Tubman House.

Other ideas have been mentioned: Sell plasma, babysitting (can be very, very lucrative).

-- Definitely talk to someone at the bank. I know most banks are made out to be Big Old Orge but I've never gone into a bank and made a request where someone said "There's nothing we can do."

-- If you need work clothes, hit the Goodwill. I have a well-paying job and I still buy 90% of my work wardrobe at Goodwill.

-- Check churches to see if they have food pantries. If you can cut your food budget, perhaps that will allow you to stretch a bit of cash.

-- Call your local United Way to see if there are any short-term loans available through any of their programs.

-- Do you know who your local state representative is? If so, give his/her office a call and tell them your situation and ask about any programs in your area that might be able to help you. I was legislative aide for some time and I often got calls from neighbors who were in need.

-- Go through your closet. Anything at all that you haven't worn/don't need, post it for sale on Craigslist. Be merciless.

Good luck. I've been where you are. It's temporary and it WILL get better. Don't worry about your credit now. It took me a good 18 months to repair mine once it was damaged but now it's stellar and I know what to do with my money.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 1:33 PM on March 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do you have a talent? Do you play an instrument or sing or paint? If there is a nearby park or gathering place you could probably get away with performing for a bit and see what you can raise that way.
posted by agatha_magatha at 4:04 PM on March 27, 2013

Churches often have emergency funds.

And pastors often have a discretionary fund they can dip into independent of the church slush and sometimes will dip into their own personal funds. Offer to pay the church back, do some snow removal or lawn care or whatever. My pops is a pastor and he all the time gave out money for hard luck stories. People would offer to pay him back when they "got where they were going" or would offer to do work around the place.

Protip: They won't let you do any work. That's a liability churches don't want to take on, but it does generally show sincerity. (Yeah, I'm telling you how to game the system.)

If you do offer to pay back...I'd do so, but that's my ethics. Yours may vary.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:11 PM on March 27, 2013

Echoing the calls to speak to the benevolence committees at local churches (though they may use different terminology). They exist for this very thing.
posted by orrnyereg at 6:48 PM on March 27, 2013

Think a little outside of the box and be absolutely un-emotional. Can you sell your car and buy a $200 clunker within a few days? That could potentially net you $1k or more. Take it to a few used car dealers to see what they can do for you. Selling your laptop could net you a few hundred dollars. Look into all free food programs in your area. That alone could save you at least $100 between now and April 1st. Do some scavenging if you can't find any better way to make some quick cash. A couple garbage bags of aluminum cans will bring in cash flow without too much hard work.

You said you went to college. Can you write, can you prepare taxes, can you tutor, can you teach a foreign language, can you paint someone's garage, can you run some errands for nearby old folks? These are all some easy ways to make quick cash in a week but the opportunities won't appear without a little entrepeneurial skill. Start talking to neighbors, people on the street, the neighborhood store, acquaintances, etc. If you don't look or act like a psycho, you should be able to sweet talk an older person into doing some menial labor for money. Be honest but don't reek of too much desperation. As has been mentioned, a church may be able to put you in touch with some people with needs they would pay you for.
posted by JJ86 at 7:30 PM on March 27, 2013

Not a huge amount of debt, but I have almost literally nothing to my name (about $40 in a separate checking account at a different bank), can't pay it back, and if I don't before the 6th or 7th, it will go to collections.

Where did you get this info? How long ago did the overdraft occur? Is the account closed now? Or just frozen? Are you sure they are reporting it to a collection agency? Or to Chex Systems (which is a reporting agency for checking accounts that does not collect debt)?

The bank should be able to tell you when it will go into collections (say, after 30, 60, or 90 days of nonpayment, for example).

(Apologies if you are already 100% sure about this April 6 or 7 thing.)
posted by murfed13 at 7:36 PM on March 27, 2013

Do you know about the personal loans subreddit? I can't think of what it's called, but folks offering short term loans and folks seeking short term loans both post there.
posted by tapir-whorf at 6:45 AM on March 28, 2013

That sounds like a really tough situation. It depends on your bank, but I've also been hit by surprise overdraft fees (total robbery, the CFPB needs to get on this one) and managed to argue/plead my way out of them. Initially the person I was talking to was very hostile, but when I threatened to close my account at this bank the manager came over and offered to rescind the fees. I don't know how this tactic would work with existing debt but it's worth a shot. I really hope it works out for you.
posted by iamleda at 9:01 PM on March 28, 2013

And also seconding tutoring as a source of income, esp SAT, GRE, science, math, writing. There are plenty of anxious parents where I live and the going rate is about $20/hour, more if you have some special qualification in a difficult subject.
posted by iamleda at 9:05 PM on March 28, 2013

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