Resources for family in financial distress?
April 21, 2014 10:34 AM   Subscribe

After some ups and mostly downs, my family thought we were finally going to get out of the dismal living situation we've been enduring for 2 years I spoke about in this anon question, but then life decided to completely derail, and I don't know what to do. Details inside.

Pertinent situation details - Family of 3, we have his daughter (who I love as my own) about 35-40% of the time. We make just enough to not qualify for public assistance (I've looked into it extensively), not enough to save any money. I have cut out everything that can be cut out of our budget, live as frugally as possible while maintaining a roof over our heads/food on the table, and paying off debts we have from the past one at a time to repair our credit.

Here's the (slightly edited for life updates/relevance) copied situation if you don't feel like clicking the link -

"We have had to live in a room at a friends house since January of 2012, and due to income vs. bill output/cost of living, haven't been able to save up for a security deposit to get into a new place. The house rules are pretty strict because the owner has severe OCD, we can't have anything of ours outside our room, and can't really keep food in the house. He also keeps the house insanely cold, for most of this brutal NE winter he's had the heat totally off - the only room that is warm is ours, so we tend to stay in there. Unfortunately our budget doesn't really allow for us to take our daughter out to do things when we have her, so we engage and entertain the best we can with what we have. There is nowhere else for us to live at present, there are no other family or friends that have room for us/can help out financially."

After posting that question (which had to do with ways to cope with her saying she wanted to go back to her moms quite a bit), we had the incredible luck of someone helping us out with a security deposit. We proceeded to start looking for places, and because of that cushion had the ability to start splitting up bills so we could start moving towards not living paycheck to paycheck. Everything was finally starting to turn around for us, when we got hit with the following triple whammy -

-My fiance's car suddenly required a major necessary repair that cost $1200 to keep it driveable.

-I got in a car accident from which the repair bill has been estimated (with second and third opinions) at $4800. That's with reduced labor and salvage parts. I still owe 12k on the car, and the damage did not total it. I could only afford the barest of insurance, and it will not cover any of the repairs.

-A medical issue of my fiance's was randomly aggravated (most likely due to the stress of the previous events, and a serious injury to one of his parents) which requires an out of pocket expense of around $1500 over 1.5 month's period of time, ongoing. It's not something that can be put off due to medical necessity.

I am at a loss as to what to do. We were able to cover the first car repair, which took away that cushion we were going to use to get a real home to live in. We are now down to one car, with him driving me to and from work every day, there is no public transportation that goes between where we live and my job. My credit is beyond poor because of the circumstances over the past 3 years, job losses, significant financial and life events, etc., and he hasn't had an opportunity to build any. We're working on trying to get him a starter credit card so that he can start to build some. The shop where my car is will not take payments, they require the full amount before they release my car to me. With the medical issue, we can barely keep his health situation from getting much worse as is until the treatment period is up.

All we want to do is just have some shot at a normal life, with a safe and comfortable environment in which our daughter (about to turn 4) can thrive. We do all the right things to get ahead in life with with we have. Before my car accident, I was looking for a second job to work nights to try to create more savings/safety net for us for when these types of major life events happen...they just happened before we could save up the money to lessen the blow. Fiance works manual labor 8+ hours a day, so a second job isn't an option for him, plus someone has to be around to be with Daughter and it, of course, should be him over me.

We'll be going in front of a loan revue board at a credit union next month to try and get a loan to cover some of the car repair, but even if we get approved with our poor credit and no co-signer, that's another monthly bill that I'm at a loss as to how to fit into our budget every month.

So, AskMe.... are there ANY resources out there for a family in our situation? I am just at a complete loss as to what to do at this point. I am unbelievably thankful for any suggestion/ideas you may have.
posted by assasinatdbeauty to Work & Money (36 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Seconding mistress: Splitting up temporarily might be the best way to go. It sucks, but it might be the best way to get back on your feet, if either or both of you has family or friend support you can't tap as a couple, and/or can find a cheaper place to live. And modestneeds might be able to help.

I'm concerned that your "friend" is overcharging you for rent, especially considering that they don't allow you to live outside your room - especially if rent is consuming a large part of your budget. There are landlords who will forgive the security deposit or agree to let you pay it in installments, unless you live in an area with a very tight rental market where landlords can have their pick of tenants.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:10 AM on April 21, 2014 [6 favorites]

Can you sell your car, as-is, for what the pay off is? I'd rather only have one car, than deal with repairing a car I'm paying on. Or hell, default on it and give it back to the dealer. If your credit is already jacked up, what the hell? You're only losing a bill. I'm kind of surprised that you were financing a car and were inadequately insured on it. Don't do that any more.

Okay, so you're down a car. Great, one less payment and less in car insurance. Can your fiance car pool with one of the guys he works with? That leaves you his car to drive until you get back on your feet.

You need to apply for health insurance, both of you. It's the law and it protects you against these kinds of events.

Stop paying your debts, let all of your credit go to hell in a handbasket now. This is an emergency. Default on everything and save your actual cash for your current use, right this very minute. It takes too damn long to rebuild credit, especially if what you're doing is paying late anyway everytime an unexpected expense hits you. Bankruptcy may be the right answer for you. It gives you a clean start.

We could be of more help if we knew what your income was, what your monthly spending is, and things of that nature. Just because you're eating ramen and sitting around a room in a comforter doesn't mean that you're being frugal. You may be throwing money at situations that are 100% insalvagable and pointless.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:11 AM on April 21, 2014 [21 favorites]

The advice about public benefits from another previous question of yours is still relevant.

The extent to which you have a social support network to draw on is unclear from your posting history. Your situation as described is one in which people I know have turned to their families, friends, or a church for help. In the absence of a stronger state-run social safety net it may be the best alternative. A local clergyperson might be in a position to recommend good local resources AskMe wouldn't know. If they are a good clergyperson your personal beliefs, or lack thereof, will not affect their willingness to help you.

Also re: the medical issue does your fiance qualify for medicaid?
posted by Wretch729 at 11:16 AM on April 21, 2014

You may want to try posting over on /r/personalfinance. Just to warn you though - they'll want you to post your current incomes, current outstanding debts (with interest rates), and current monthly budget/expenses. This information would also be helpful in answering your question here.

What state are you in? What do each of you do for work? How old are you?
posted by melissasaurus at 11:18 AM on April 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

So, lets see if I have these nuts and bolts correct:

Your incomes:
  • Your (1) job
  • His manual labor job
Your expenses:
  • housing
  • car repairs
  • old debt
  • child support (?)
  • food/living expenses
  • gas/transit
  • healthcare costs
Currently that works out net you guys $0/month.

On top of that, you have these financial goals:
  • Safety deposit to move out of OCD guy's house: ~$1200 (?)
  • Cover healthcare costs: $1500
  • Repair 2nd car: $4800
These add up to $7500.

If you get the loan, what would the length, interest and amount of the loan be? If you get the loan would you be able to increase your income or reduce your expenses? You've had a windfall/gift of money in the past, and it didn't change your fundamental situation then. What will make this different?
posted by fontophilic at 11:24 AM on April 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

You got a lot of suggestions in the last thread and I'm not sure which of them you looked into. This is a very similar question to the last one. I feel we could make more helpful suggestions if you provided more information on your location (just the state, at least) and your budget. If you live in some super rural location in Pennsylvania I think the likelihood of someone you know being on AskMetafilter and being able to identify you based on these additional details, but not the details you've already provided, is very low, but you can make the final judgment on that.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:39 AM on April 21, 2014

I looked into all the suggestions that were viable for my situation, unfortunately nothing panned out. There are no friends or family able to take one or any of us in or help. I'm reticent to put my location and specific financial information on a public message board, but I'd be happy to talk to anyone over MeMail who could give better suggestions if given that info.
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 11:56 AM on April 21, 2014

As much as I feel for you situation, you are not providing enough information to give you good suggestions on what may work. Like as been asked before, country, state, and city would be great starters. People may know specific things that may help specific areas.

Some things you may need to do aren't nice or easy.
You say you don't qualify for social assistance but just barely. Would it help to qualify if you and your fiance split up, at least temporarily?

You say you are both working but how much? There is a vast difference about saying you work 10 hours a week versus 45 hours. What is your income like? You don't want your fiance to take a second job as he is a laborer, but he still could. Just, maybe, a second job that doesn't involve manual labor. I assume that both you and your fiance are looking for better jobs.

How much are you paying for the 1 room? Is this a good rate for the location?

Have you looked into debt consolidation? Normally, debt councilors first visits are free but this depends on where you are.

Having two cars when debts are high is a luxury. Especially if there are payments involved. Now with one damaged and no way to pay for the repairs, you are going down to one car whether you want to or not. Can you trade down to cheaper vehicles if payments are involved? At least with one vehicle, you would have only one insurance as well.

There isn't an easy way out of this. There are going to be things you hate to do but you either do it now in the short term or this situation is only going to get worse and you are going to be in it for a long time. Short term pain for long term gain.
posted by BostonCannuck at 12:08 PM on April 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

Without more concrete info, I think it will be difficult to get any real advice. At a basic level, you need to increase your income and/or reduce your expenses. You say your expenses are already reduced as far as possible, so that means more income is the only solution - from jobs or the government. You've supposedly already eliminated government assistance as a possibility, so you're left with jobs.

How much are you making now? I'd suggest something like looking for work at Wegmans, which pays above minimum wage and offers health insurance to full time (and maybe pt?) employees, and is generally a good place to work. But, if you're already making $12+/hr, that would not necessarily be the best option (and if you are making above that, then I'd take another look at the expense column). For your boyfriend, it would depend on what his legal custody restrictions are. It may be a good idea for him to look at something like working in the oil industry in North Dakota, but that might not be a legal possibility if he isn't allowed to move away from his child.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:16 PM on April 21, 2014

Would either you or your husband be eligible to join the military (particularly as an officer)? I imagine that might be difficult given the custody situation, but at least the military would house you and there is at least a little money to be made.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:26 PM on April 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Talk to the doctor about paying your bill over time.

For car issues, have you looked into carpooling? Ask coworkers and neighbors if you could pay the gas to drive you to/from work. Even in rural areas, you may have luck listing it as a "job" on craigslist.
posted by susanvance at 12:43 PM on April 21, 2014

All we want to do is just have some shot at a normal life, with a safe and comfortable environment in which our daughter (about to turn 4) can thrive.

are there ANY resources out there for a family in our situation?

I sincerely mean this to be helpful, and I'm sorry to say it: No. Apparently there aren't any. You already looked. Nothing panned out. So, you're on your own. It looks like you need to lower your expectations and accept that your life will not be "normal" by whatever definition you meant above. You may have to deal with being unsafe and/or uncomfortable for a long while. This precarious situation will mean that your daughter will not have the same advantages in life that someone growing up in a family encountering fewer difficulties would have. Accepting that reality, and writing off certain things as impossible under the current circumstances, may help you to allocate the few resources you still have more wisely (see Ruthless Bunny's advice above).
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 12:46 PM on April 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

All of your options suck. I'm sorry. But it seems you have no choice but to take one that sucks if you want to find a way out of this. A few of them:

1) Would a move to a different city/ town give you better job options, lower transportation costs, and more affordable housing? You say you don’t qualify for any benefits, but in Pennsylvania, food stamps are available to households of three at $26,000. So if you’re both working and don’t qualify for them, you’re barely making minimum wage; there may be other options out there. I assume you would want to find one within a reasonable distance of Daughter, but you might need to push your limits on that until you’re back on your feet, unfortunately.
2) Crash with friends and family, camp, or live out of a car for a month or two so you can save that month’s rent payment. This may mean not living together during that period. It will suck but it is temporary.
3) This would be a dick move, but stop paying rent and make your housemate evict you.
4) Sell homemade pies door to door. Babysit.
5) Definitely don’t go back to having two cars until you can afford it.
6) Eat lentils, rice, oats, peanut butter, carrots, and frozen veggies.
7) Visit food pantries.
8) Look into jobs that include room and board. Again, this may involve living apart for a while, but that’s life.
9) Dumpster dive and e-bay.

Think hard about all your possibilities. I’m getting the impression that some of the respondents feel like you have come up with reasons for not taking past advice you have received. Think hard about whether they are unchangeable reasons or if some of the challenges can be overcome.
posted by metasarah at 12:59 PM on April 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

The way out of this is long term planning. You cannot "crisis manage" your way to a more middle class life. It looks to me like most of the things you have tried are essentially short term in nature and not likely to get you more than a slight advantage. Unless you are willing to try something like sex work or some other high pay, low skill work (which is often high risk of some sort), there are no quick fixes.

Are you willing to consider going to school?
Are you willing to start some kind of part-time business that might have a real future?

Off the top of my head, I can't think of any other real long term solutions. The kind of money you need is not easy to come up with, especially in the short term.

(I am homeless and have been for over two years. I have been slowly paying off some of my debts and resolving other issues. I think I have a bright future but it has sucked for a really long time and there are no quick fixes in sight, so I feel for you.)

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 1:28 PM on April 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

In 2013 you asked about divorcing your then-husband. "We have been living apart since January 2012."

In January 2012 you asked about activities for "our" toddler.

Out of that alone it is really, really hard to not jump to: your current relationship might not have been forged under the best of circumstances.

Are you sure you want to marry this guy? Per your profile, you are only twenty-six. That seems young to be saddled with a man who has for two years been unable to provide a heated home for his small child.

And she isn't your small child. Mom is still in the picture, you're not married to Dad, you haven't got any legal standing here. That may seem small but it is, from a child welfare standpoint, huge. Right now you are trying to take on many of the obligations of being a parent without actually being a parent; that's not a great situation, especially for somebody who is young and having trouble treading water. You're not this kid's only support, kwim? She has two parents. Maybe it is time to consider if dating this guy means you're all dragging each other down instead of bringing each other up. If everything you say is totally true and there is no way to change any aspect of your life at all (in which case, why ask for advice, but anyway), I've got to think it's time to re-assess the point of living with this man and his daughter. Would he qualify for state aid if you weren't in the picture? Would that improve his daughter's circumstances?

I feel like a dirtball saying 'No biggie, just abandon these people,' but. It's not clear why you can't walk away. From the car, from the debts, from the guy, from his kid, from his ex.

In your January 2014 q you said "We have our clothes and our respective computers - nothing else to our name." Here you have a non-beater car in your name. I don't know what to make of that or how people are going to manage to give you usable advice.

I am not trying to be a dirtball, just: if this was me at twenty-six I'd hope to hell somebody would have told me it wasn't my kid and I was allowed to bail.

(I am a mother and would not generally advocate bailing on children, but this isn't your child.)

The other thing sticking out to me here is that you mention depression and anxiety issues -- "tends to be difficult to get out of bed some mornings"-level stuff. I don't know much about the US disability income scheme, but is it possible you would be eligible? It sounds like you went from one frying pan to the next with the ex and the boyfriend, and a stretch of time focused on restoring your mental health might make a big difference to the rest of your life.
posted by kmennie at 1:29 PM on April 21, 2014 [34 favorites]

There's a helpful livejournal community called Poor Skills. It's not very active now, but has a good backlog of tips and resources. I'm going to say as kindly as I can that I don't think that tips and resources are what you need right now. I think what you need is to accept that you're going to need to make some very hard decisions. It's particularly difficult to make those sorts of decisions when you have no breathing room.

I would suggest that you take your next two days off to be by yourself. Abdicate on errands and household tasks, and root yourself in a library or a fast-food joint or wherever you can that's safe and free. Take something to jot down notes, and just spend some time with yourself. It is probable that you already know all the hard questions, you just haven't had time to do anything but panic and crisis manage. And you know a lot of the hard answers; you've done the research. So now it's time to prioritize. What is really your number one priority. Not the one that you feel you ought to have, but your real #1 priority.

What steps do you need to take to get there? Get right with your own head on those steps, and you'll finally be able to move forward. And, bad credit isn't forever. If you default on everything and go bankrupt, you'll have that wiped off your record before you're in your mid-thirties. You'll have had a whole bunch of time that you were pouring into trying to get good credit freed up to pursue other things. Don't rule it out.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:38 PM on April 21, 2014 [4 favorites]

I think what you need is to accept that you're going to need to make some very hard decisions. It's particularly difficult to make those sorts of decisions when you have no breathing room.

I have found the opposite to be true: When I have tried everything else and nothing is working, it gets a lot easier to bite the bullet and make choices that previously seemed unimaginable. And looks like this really is not working.

But, otherwise, really excellent suggestions by stoneweaver.
posted by Michele in California at 1:44 PM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your car is way too expensive for you if you are being honest about your situation. I have a job making money and drive a car thath would be considered totalled if it incurred 1200$ in damages. Why are you driving around in a 13k car? Thats a new car or a very very very nice used car. Get it out of the shop and sell it as is, pay it off and get a beater. You can get a nice car when you're back on your feet. Then get a second job. Don't look for the perfect job transcribing soundclips and browsing reddit from home for $23 an hour, just march over to Arbys or something and work your bits off for a year at 2 jobs. That should get you to a point where you have at least a security deposite to move out because you will not have time to spend money unwisely because you will be working. It's gonna suck, but it's necessary and temporary.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:44 PM on April 21, 2014 [3 favorites]

Per your question history, you were getting divorced last April? This is a lot of shit to deal with to be with someone for not that long if you've been divorced less than a year and are so entwined with OCD-roommate-no-place-for-his-kid guy that you are grasping at straws for how to live life to your standards. You should consider if this guy can really give you the life you want. Don't marry him (yet, maybe).
posted by WeekendJen at 1:53 PM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Looking at your old question: it was never clear exactly how you ate if you're not allowed to keep food in the house. Are you stashing food in your room? Are you eating fast food? With more details we could help you figure out a lower food budget maybe.

Have you considered having one of you stop working so that you can qualify for public assistance? If you're just barely making above the cutoff, then it could be more "worth it" to get the assistance than to have your income.

IANAL, but you may be barred from assistance if you quit a job you could have kept? but If your situation is really this dire, seriously, consider getting fired on purpose so you can legitimately claim to be out of work.

Definitely consider living apart or any arrangement that will allow you to be considered separately for public assistance. When you've applied for public assistance, have you always run the numbers as a couple or have you looked at whether you can qualify alone?

I think you should discuss rearranging the custody situation with your daughter for the time being. Your current housing situation is less than ideal, and it'd be better in the long run if you had less physical custody for the next year or two and could focus on working as much as possible to get out of it. I realize your prev post said the custody arrangement was so that mom and stepdad could work their schedules, but it's no longer working for you when you can't afford to live in a home with heat.

Can your stuff fit in a storage unit? Can you pay for a monthly storage unit and live out of your car for the summer? (Or, can you get rid of all your stuff that doesn't fit in a car?)

Can you join whatever local church aligns most with your beliefs and get whatever charity you can?

Can you sell or pawn your computers (or anything else) and scrape up enough for a security deposit?

Do you have two of ANYTHING (phones, computers, etc.) where you could get by with just one?

Have you called every single church, pantry, Goodwill, library, community center, etc. within a driveable distance and ask if you can volunteer in exchange for food or clothing? Or if they have any assistance available for people who don't qualify for welfare?
posted by nakedmolerats at 1:54 PM on April 21, 2014

So, this is unfortunate news, but here goes: you're poor. I'm sorry, because this is shitty, and Pennsylvania seems to try to make it shittier--thanks for that whole refusal to expand Medicaid thing, Corbett. I'm basically in the same shoes--I looked into public assistance and found out that we literally make about $600/yr over the cutoff. Today I got yet another denial for medical assistance. It blows massive chunks.

But there's good news and bad news. Good news is that you can kinda manage a reasonable life despite poverty. Bad news is that you have to stop thinking like you're middle class, or can somehow finesse your way to being middle class if things would just stop crapping on you.

First, stop trying to improve your credit. Lots of places will rent to you for an additional deposit, and improving things will take years. You do not have years. I don't know how you've managed to end up owing 12k on a car and being in this position, but that's a luxury you don't have. Stop paying on the car. Write it off, let them repo it from the mechanic, and move on with your life. It sounds like one car is non-ideal, but workable. Work with that.

Reconsider what's a "medical necessity". Will not doing this literally kill him? If not, it's not a medical necessity. Again: this sucks, and I'm super super sorry. But if you're paying $500 out of pocket for the medical things, just...stop. If they'll bill him later, that's awesome and ask them to do that and milk the treatment as long as you can. If you're in a major city, call around and see if anyone does a sliding scale or charity care or whatever--sometimes you'll get lucky. Otherwise, though, this isn't actually a necessity.

What bills are you paying right now? Do you have old debt, or whatever? Stop paying on it. Let them sue you, and if it comes to that, you declare bankruptcy. Your life is shitty right now. This isn't going to make it much shittier. Every time a collector calls you, create a phone book entry and set a custom ringtone of silence, or have it go straight to voicemail, or whatever will make you feel better about things. In an ideal world, you'd be able to pay all your shit, but this is not that world.

Seriously, just stop doing all that stuff, save all your money, and then realistically assess what you can afford. This is basically why bankruptcy laws were created. You'll have to pay cash for things for a while, and if you're going to rent somewhere, they'll probably want a higher security deposit. But from the sounds of it, a higher deposit is going to be a lot more possible than magically improving your credit to the point that this won't be necessary. It's ok to be poor. It's ok to declare bankruptcy. It doesn't make you a bad person, it doesn't mean that you're doomed to a life of misery and etc. It means that you're in the same position as tons and tons of people. Don't be ashamed to admit that you're in over your head, financially. Feel free to memail me if you want to talk.
posted by MeghanC at 1:56 PM on April 21, 2014 [13 favorites]

OP I'm so sorry you're going through this.

I think you are living above your means.

-I think your car payment was likely way too much for someone in your position. Sell your car for whatever you can get for it. Purchase a very inexpensive car (less than $5k) and fully insure it. The car payment you were making could have been going towards your rent.

-Where/what are you eating? If you can't bring food home, it makes me think you are eating out. You need to save money. I don't think your friend can legally kick you out of the apartment if you bring food home in the short term. Save the money you would have been paying to eat out towards a rental unit. Your friend will probably make a fuss, but by the time he is able evict you'll, you'll hopefully have enough saved to move out.

In your position, I would seriously consider leaving the relationship. It sounds like your financial situation is causing you immense misery and it would be much easier to break free from that if you weren't supporting a child. I would consider moving in with roommates and not bringing your fiance and the child.
posted by parakeetdog at 2:27 PM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

First: It is really unfortunate you're going through this.

Second: Reading over your past posts: swindling fathers, celebrities giving you cash windfalls, leaving an abusive ex and being in a relationship so fast, and you calling someone's kid "our daughter" even though she isn't..... It's a mess.

You keep calling him your fiance. I'm thinking it is time to hand back the ring and move apart until you can each stand on your own feet.

He's not in a place to support a family-- and I can't believe he has any custody at all with the current arrangement unless the mother is just wanting a free babysitter.

I would check into women's shelters in your area. You've gone through an abusive relationship and are apparently surrounded by people who are not helping you in any way. It's time to get some clarity and help from professionals.

Surely there is a women's shelter you can call and hopefully get in to.

It is time to decide what you want:

a) A life barely making it, paycheck to paycheck, with this guy, hoping for a magical windfall to solve your problems (that will probably never come).

b) Walking away, starting from scratch, and getting help for yourself. In a few years you will be independent and ready to find a partner who will support you-- not drag you down.

Things aren't going to "get better" or "Get back to where they were" on the path you're on now. You have not surrounded yourself with people who have your interests in mind.
posted by haplesschild at 2:33 PM on April 21, 2014 [20 favorites]

Quite a while back, you asked a question about living in the woods for a month.

You can always go back. Weather's getting warmer this time of year.
posted by yohko at 2:46 PM on April 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Can you please explain a little more about:
we had the incredible luck of someone helping us out with a security deposit. We proceeded to start looking for places, and because of that cushion had the ability to start splitting up bills so we could start moving towards not living paycheck to paycheck.
Can you tell me what you mean by splitting up bills? Were you using the security deposit money to pay things other than the security deposit? What about this security deposit money could "move you towards not living paycheck to paycheck", rather than moving you into an apartment or house that wasn't one room? I'm not blaming you but I think if we know a little bit more about how the money was used before your latest crisis hit, we could give more constructive advice.

Basically, what did you do with the money, and what did you want to happen when you used the money the way you did?

Finally I think this problem comes because of a lack of financial cushion. You need, like everyone needs, a certain amount of money in the bank for emergencies--emergencies that either threaten your life or your ability to earn further money. I know that it's so hard.

But looking at your needs in order of priority (your priorities may vary from mine):
  1. You need basic food.
  2. You need a reasonably safe and healthy place to live.
  3. You need emotional and social support in the form of counseling or good friends who can listen to you. Perhaps a local social worker or mental health professional does sliding scale. Perhaps a clergyperson.
  4. You need the most bare-bones form of transportation that meets your basic get-to work needs. That may be walking, a bike, carpooling, or sharing one car.
  5. You sort of need basic health insurance.
After you have paid those things, if you have any left over, put money into an emergency fund. PAY YOURSELF FIRST.

You do not need:
  1. To improve your credit score. Hell with that.
  2. To pay more than the absolute minimum on your debts. If you haven't already done so, please look in to restructuring or bankruptcy. I'm sure others here can recommend reputable credit counseling. Also, IF YOU ARE PAYING YOUR FIANCEE'S DEBTS, please think hard about that.
  3. The "idea" of a middle class existence.
Some resources:

Unitarian Universalist congregations in PA

Emergency food menu for a week (now, alas, significantly higher than the 2009 prices, but will still be about the cheapest thing at the grocery store). Please note this is for 4 people, so you can stretch it further with 2 adults + small child.

Food pantries in Pennsylvania

Another list of food pantries in Pennsylvania
posted by Hypatia at 3:17 PM on April 21, 2014 [8 favorites]

Are you sure you want to marry this guy? Per your profile, you are only twenty-six. That seems young to be saddled with a man who has for two years been unable to provide a heated home for his small child.

I feel like a dirtball saying 'No biggie, just abandon these people,' but. It's not clear why you can't walk away. From the car, from the debts, from the guy, from his kid, from his ex.

QFT. You are not married to this guy, and therefore, you have made no "for better or worse" promises. Suppose your present circumstances were to last the rest of your life because your fiance could never earn enough to provide a decent home for his one child, let alone you and any future children you might have? Financial stress contributes to many a divorce, and frankly, it doesn't sound like the two of you together can provide a stable enough foundation for a healthy and lasting relationship. Yes, I know it's not romantic, but romance has a way of drying up and flying away when met with the heat of real life. This guy sounds like a millstone around your neck. Again, yes, that sounds harsh, and yes, many good people are out of work thanks to the economy. But it takes two grownups to be in a relationship, and it does make a difference if your partner is able to pull his or her own weight or if they just flail around helplessly and drag you down with them. You can't eat love and it won't pay your bills.

As the song goes, "ain't nothing going on but the rent!"

It might be a good idea to split up from this guy for a while and go to the nearest large or large-ish city with a good employment base. Get an AirBNB or sublet, and find some decent roommates to live with. Get a job - any job that pays enough and offers a decent work environment. Temp work, retail work, restaurant work, whatever you can get. Then, once you have an income stream, you can start putting your own life in order. You may go back to your boyfriend, or you may not. But having a job, something to eat, and a decent place to live will help lift you out of endless crisis mode and enable you to make better decisions.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 3:42 PM on April 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

I have traded in a wrecked car before. Went to the dealership and told them I didn't have time to mess with getting it fixed, what would they give me as a trade-in? They can get cars fixed for much cheaper than you can.
posted by tamitang at 3:46 PM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

In the anonymous post you linked to here, several (four?) people asked you to contact them directly and privately, and I assumed that good-hearted people were offering you help. Are you asking for (additional) help?
posted by Houstonian at 5:21 PM on April 21, 2014

Various people are advising you to get out of your current living situation-- but in case breaking up sounds unthinkable right now, it's worth noting that seeking separate lodgings doesn't necessarily need to mean splitting up in romantic terms. Historically, plenty of engaged couples have had to live separately (often for years) while they saved up to be able to afford a joint household, which, as you've found, is a non-trivial expense however thriftily it's done.

If you and your guy were living separately, you'd be able to check out ultra-low-budget options like women's shelters or couchsurfing; he could look for men's shelters; public assistance might be easier, etc. It'd mean relinquishing overnight custody of the daughter, but you'd have the extra money to drive her to a mall or the library or something during daytime visits, which has to be preferable to sitting and shivering in your bedroom at OCDLandlord's place. Worth thinking about.
posted by Bardolph at 5:25 PM on April 21, 2014 [5 favorites]

Your location (as well as your credit card debt) is in multiple previous questions so I wouldn't be shy about it here. Either way, make a list of your debts and assets as well as those of your partner's (keep 'em separate) so when you make use of the various resources people suggest here, people smarter than us about relevant laws and opportunities can say authoritatively, "live in different places" or "declare bankruptcy".

As for resources, definitely make use those for abused women and find a way to get to a support group. I'm not saying you're being abused now but if you were in a long term, abusive relationship there is undoubtedly some lingering psychological effects. Those resources will hopefully help you assess your current situation more objectively. They'll make it very clear what sort of patterns of thought and actions and dependency you *could* find yourself in...and then it will be up to you to determine your next steps.

Your partner should explore legal aid or a consultation with his lawyer about how things might change if you were to be living in separate places. And he should also know how marriage would impact his child support obligations. And how you declaring bankruptcy (or he.. or both of you.. however your debt is distributed) would impact all of that. You need to be able to make informed plans and that may take money up front. It sucks but prioritize that over fixing your too expensive, too broke car.

Also have him talk to his health insurance company and find out exactly his max out of pocket and for how long he might have to pay that... $1500 for 1.5 months for the rest of the year or however long "ongoing" is will most likely have him cap out. Find out what is and isn't being covered and if there are ways to have the stuff not covered get covered. (I had an EOB that indicated they weren't going to pay for a particular test because it wasn't necessary but my doc obviously thought it was.. I fought it and it got covered.) Insurance is a pain in the butt to understand to so sit down with your plan docs and EOBs and get at it. Better yet, have your partner do this work because it's his issue and then you can have the car for that second job.

Other questions that might be relevant - you say his job is hard labor for 8 hours a day. Is it so hard he couldn't do 4-6 hours of fast food after? You said you were looking for a second job so maybe you and he could find an area with lots of different places in walking distance of each other and apply to all of them, giving the same availability. You could hopefully carpool and each bring home something extra.
posted by adorap0621 at 5:37 PM on April 21, 2014

It sounds like you would be better off without him. I know that sounds harsh but, imagine yourself in your current situation with children of your own. Is this the life that you would choose for them? His past actions have shown that he is not the sort of man who can provide for his family.

Now, imagine yourself with your own children and a great job, still really, super poor because you are with someone who always has a crisis and always needs you to bail him out and help him make child support payments.

I know when you are in love you see the best part of him but what I am telling you is, look a little closer. Think of your future children. Think of your future happiness. And think of his future happiness as well. He cannot get out from his own money issues and now he has to help you out too? Impossible! Only one of you can be in crisis for a relationship to work for the long term.

If you are on your own, you may qualify for assistance.
posted by myselfasme at 5:55 PM on April 21, 2014

BTW, the askers account is now disabled. Make of this what you will.
posted by fontophilic at 8:13 PM on April 21, 2014

Only you know if your boyfriend is doing everything in his power to improve your situation, only you and he know that. Here's a quick and easy test, though. Does he look like a man on fire? Does he make it his personal business every single day to make, find, and save money? I highly doubt it and this is a serious offense considering your situation. You say you've done it all? Well, you haven't done it all, yet. Trust me.

If your boyfriend is still doing pizza delivery (with no gas reimbursement), he's got to get rid of that job, get a new job and then get an additional job. Gas is too high to not get reimbursed. Finances don't allow it. Absolute bare minimum, both of you need two full time jobs because of the deep hole you are in and your future needs. Work three jobs, four jobs, each. Arrange a different visitation schedule for the time being. Bug the ever loving hell out of people who are in a position to help you, call them every other day of the week to ask for an update. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. You (both) can live in your car to save money (I've done it, other people have done it, you can also do it.) You have to think long ball. Temporary pain for long term gain.

If you really plan on marrying this guy and love the daughter "as your own" then you have to make the hard choices for her future, like a good step-mother would do. Even if it makes you look like shit, even if it makes you feel like shit, even if you're both dead tired and sick as a dog, you still have to do it, because that's what you have to do. Work 80 plus hours a week for a year or two to get yourself where you want to be. Temporary assistance is good when you can get it, but if you can't get it, then you are on your own. Your resources after you've hit the wall is You, Yourself and sheer willpower to do the task.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 8:18 PM on April 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

In case you're still reading:

He's not in a place to support a family-- and I can't believe he has any custody at all with the current arrangement unless the mother is just wanting a free babysitter.

If you're prioritizing relationships with the two of you and his daughter-- well the whole custody arrangement may be fragile anyway. His ex could decide to bring up the living arrangement at any point. You need to better your living situation. Changing the arrangement may feel like a risk, but the is already a large risk in the arrangement you have.

I really like Bardolph's idea that you don't have to be living together to be engaged. If you don't want to break up, then don't, but you need to get out of this living situation.
posted by BibiRose at 7:55 AM on April 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also in case OP is still reading:

Since you apparently have a computer and internet access, it is possible to make money online. You can do freelance work through an online service (two of the big ones: textbroker, elance) or sell creative work (zazzle, cafépress, and etsy come to mind). This is not trivially easy to do so is probably not the magic bullet you are looking for, but might be a path forward given the long list of constraints you have (some apparently self imposed, like staying with a boyfriend who looks to me like far more downside than up).

I say this as someone who also has a long list of constraints, has, in fact, made a smidgeon of money online, found it a lot harder to do than I expected but also found it meaningful to have some additional funds, even if it did not live up to my hopes of a magic bullet solution.
posted by Michele in California at 9:49 AM on April 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

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