How to catch up & possibly get ahead financially
April 15, 2015 2:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm working, but not enough, and am seeking new employment. I pay rent weekly, am constantly a week or two behind, and my landlord has informed my that I need to fix this pronto or (understandably) move out. I'm looking for suggestions for how to financially catch up and possibly get my head above water and quickly.

I've had kind of a rough time this past year but am currently living in the most inexpensive place I could find. However, I'm quite underemployed and though I'm looking for additional work I've yet to find it. Some weeks my job doesn't quite vover my rent (let alone food) and this has caused me to fall behind. I pick up any odd jobs or one-off things I can, but relying on public transportation while living in a huge metro area severely limits temporary employment opportunities.

I'm really stressed out about this. I've been on the verge of total homelessness on an off since last summer snd really fear losing the lovely dump where I'm living. Does anybody know of any organizations that help with rent assistance or otherwise can help a single guy catch up and possibly get a little ahead? I'm also definitely open to any other suggestions, as other than picking up the odd job here or there I'm stumped. I'm in the Dallas area, if that helps.
posted by item to Work & Money (28 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
This might sound trite, but the options really boil down to:
  1. Spend less
  2. Earn more
Definitely easier said than done, but I don't think there's a shortcut.

It sounds like you're probably spending as little as you can, so you need to focus on earning more. You mention odd jobs, but can you get a day job that pays more? Get a raise somehow? Maybe if you tell us what kind of skills and experience you have, we can help brainstorm ideas of types of jobs you could do?
posted by primethyme at 2:23 PM on April 15, 2015

I suspect you may have already thought of this, but if this is more of a "casual" rent situation (i.e. you rent from some guy leasing out his own space, not from a company) is there any work you can do for the landlord to buy you some time? I had some upstairs neighbors once who were frequently late with the rent, but did a bunch of upkeep and work around the house. It didn't at all offset the actual $ value of the rent, but it did buy some goodwill with the landlady.
posted by griphus at 2:33 PM on April 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

It sounds like you might qualify for some kind of assistance, like food stamps, that could lower your expenses. It takes a bit of time to do the paperwork for those depending on the state you're in. Hit up local food pantries before you do any grocery shopping while you're waiting for food stamp paperwork to be processed.

If you aren't already doing this, you could also check Craigslist every day for gigs to see if you can make a little extra cash that way.
posted by congen at 2:33 PM on April 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

The Society of St Vincent De Paul has branches in Dallas. I've referred clients to them in the past (here in the UK) and normally they'll get a volunteer to call with you and assess your needs and that can be either in terms of financial assistance or practical help (say furniture or travel costs etc). I don't know if it operates the same over there but maybe worth giving them a try. Over here at least the religious aspect doesn't enter in to the help they offer, as in it's not conditional.
posted by billiebee at 2:34 PM on April 15, 2015

My background is mainly in restaurant and retail management, but I'm happy to work in any field offered. I'm of a very, very slight (skinny) build so as much as I'd like to go pick up, say, a construction day job, it's pretty much out of the question. I've also got an essential tremor that's gotten worse as I've gotten older, and though it's tempered with medication it's still fairly prevalent, making me pretty unsuitable for restaurant work these days.

Unfortunately my landlord has no work to offer me - I've asked.
posted by item at 2:39 PM on April 15, 2015

Google for organizations that are funded for "rapid rehousing" in your county. These funds can be applied to prevent homelessness. Look for agencies that provide rental assistance and homeless prevention services. Try agencies like your local social services (in my state they have rapid rehousing funds right now), Catholic Charities, Salvation Army and any homeless-focused agencies nearby. These guys can help you catch up on rent and hopefully point you toward other services as well.

Volunteer (or seek employment) at a local food bank - they may allow you to take home food. I personally used to dumpster dive a lot at Trader Joes and other places that sell a lot of packaged foods (less likely to be dirty inside package). Any chance you could be a host/pickup site for a CSA? Ours provides a free, weekly produce box to the host. (probably not if you're in an apartment but throwing out all ideas).

I recommend getting YNAB (free trial lasts several weeks) to experiment with paying out of your budget instead of out of your bank account (This program changed my life).

Is it possible to just rent a room in someone's house instead of a private apt? Might be cheaper.

I'm sorry you're going through this. You've had a really rough year and the housing world is getting harder and harder. It's not your fault - it's the system. But nevertheless, people do improve their financial situations.
posted by latkes at 2:49 PM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

Here is my website: San Diego Homeless Survival Guide. Click on "Money" in the main menu at the top and it will get you links to, for example, a page on Casual Income and also some rewards programs I use that get me an extra $5 here and there in the form of gift cards (to fast food places, usually).

I do freelance work online. There are a number of sites where you can get work. If you have consistent access to the Internet, that's one option. Some are listed on the casual income page of my site. There are a lot more out there.

Dallas is one of the 19 cities where Task Rabbit is available. You could look into signing up with them to get small jobs more regularly.

There is also a link on my Money page to a forum on Reddit called "Beer money". I have never used it. It is another casual income avenue, or so I understand.

I will also suggest that if you have not done so, you look for hot meal sites and food pantries in your area. Dallas does have a Catholic Charities. Here is their local site. They have a food pantry. I have been a client of Catholic Charities in San Diego County. They were one of the better organizations that helped me.

Look also to local churches. They sometimes offer, for example, a free meal once a week and there is typically less paperwork than with a lot of government programs.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 2:56 PM on April 15, 2015 [13 favorites]

If your tremor prevents you from working, or from working more than a certain # of hours, are you a candidate for SSDI? I gather the process is a pain in the ass, but if it's right for you it might be worth finding a local service that can help you apply. Such a service might also have support in the meantime.
posted by nat at 2:56 PM on April 15, 2015 [3 favorites]

I've also got an essential tremor that's gotten worse as I've gotten older, and though it's tempered with medication it's still fairly prevalent, making me pretty unsuitable for restaurant work these days.

Have you looked into disability benefits yet? They take time so it won't be an immediate relief but you have to start somewhere, right? To start, I would call the Social Security Administration, your doctor, and connect with local support groups.

Also contact the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services asap: 855-937-2372. They will have a list of resources while you wait for disability to (hopefully) kick in.
posted by rada at 2:59 PM on April 15, 2015

Thanks, latkes. I was unfamiliar with the term "rapid rehousing", and though it might not be able to help me in this immediate time of need it is something that I'm going to look into.

I applied for SDDI last year and was turned down. I need to reapply.
posted by item at 3:03 PM on April 15, 2015

I applied for SDDI last year and was turned down. I need to reapply.

Do you take medication? Stop taking it before your evaluation (only if you doctor is ok with that, of course). It may help the social worker see the extent of the problem.
posted by rada at 3:07 PM on April 15, 2015

Definitely file an appeal for your SSDI denial; they deny most people's first application.

Just off the top of my head, these are some of the non-restaurant jobs my friends and I have held during periods of prolonged underemployment, just to put food on the table:
- CSR/call center employee
- gas station clerk
- car wash attendant
- mall, sporting event, and/or concert venue security guard (burliness not required, you do literally nothing like 90% of the time)
- mall, day care, or hospital janitor
- movie theater ticket taker
- hotel front desk clerk
- accounts receivable/medical debt collections agency gig (NB this, imo, is the worst job imaginable... squeezing money out of folks who are just as poor as you... but for as long as you can stand it, hey, it's a paycheck)
- check cashing store clerk (ditto)
- shameless product shiller (Red Bull, Five Hour Energy, something like that -- basically you just walk or drive around a dumb-looking company car and give random people free shit)
- entry-level assembler or warehouse employee (think you can operate a forklift and move pallets around? it's fun and EZ)
- Walmart/Target/other box store cashier or stocker
- bakery cashier (horrible early AM hours, but you get hella free bread)

Looking for overnight and third shift positions will be your best bet, for better or worse... I'm not sure how late the transit runs in Dallas, but that may be a deciding factor. If you haven't signed up for all the various and sundry office/light industrial-oriented temp agencies in town (Kelly, Adecco, etc.) as well as Textbroker and the like, try those out as well. Good luck!
posted by divined by radio at 3:10 PM on April 15, 2015 [6 favorites]

How are you with typing and office work? Have you signed up with local temp agencies? You often have to stay on their radar by checking in frequently. How did the intake tests go, and could you improve? So many of my friends have gotten experience and temporary-to-full positions though temp agencies. Once they got the temp position they worked their asses off to learn as much as they could and be as eager to help as possible. Have you had any luck with that route at all?

Other casual work like hotel desk staff at smaller hotels and motels, nursing homes and rehab facilities, sub shops etc. are often hiring for various steady positions.
posted by barnone at 3:15 PM on April 15, 2015

I've been going for every position in my area - gas stations and hotels included. I was able to find one job (albeit a part time one) and am absolutely certain I will be able to secure another one sometime soon. Right now, however, it's ridding myself of the constant and crushing stress associated with being behind on rent. I realize that being behind on rent is better than not being able to pay rent at all / not having anywhere to pay rent to, at least as far as I'm concerned, but living like this is really taking a toll. I'm not even looking for room to breathe - I just want to get caught up so I can relieve some of the worry.

For the record, I'm just a few credits shy of a college degree I started working on a few years ago. As soon as things are stabilized I want nothing more than to finish it and move onwards. It's a really exciting proposition that was unfortunately put on hold last year.

Okay, sorry for the rant. This is all very frustrating.
posted by item at 3:33 PM on April 15, 2015

You should definitely look into SNAP benefits (food stamps). In PA, where I live, there is a website where you can apply simultaneously for all welfare benefits and it's not that time-intensive. I receive SNAP benefits and it's an enormous help- food is probably a big part of your expenses. There's also cash assistance which you may qualify for.
posted by bearette at 3:38 PM on April 15, 2015

Also, my advice is to never go carless in a city the size of Dallas. It severely limits employment opportunities. I was turned down for a decent job yesterday because the employer apparently had little trust in public transportation to get me to work on time.
posted by item at 3:39 PM on April 15, 2015

Since it sounds like you are at risk of homelessness, you may qualify for fast-track SSDI services through the SOAR program. Based on the information listed on the SOAR website, it looks like the MDHA is an organization in Dallas that may be able to refer you into the SOAR program and/or refer you to additional resources to help with getting caught up on your rent.

Also, an attorney may be interested in taking an SSDI appeal as a contingency fee case, especially if you are unable to get assistance from the SOAR program - information about how to find an attorney and free or low-cost legal assistance is available at the MeFi Wiki Get a lawyer page.
posted by Little Dawn at 4:13 PM on April 15, 2015 [2 favorites]

Is there something about your living situation you can change? Take a roommate, move to a boarding house until things stabilize, use fewer utilities? I second all suggestions to make sure you are getting any and all benefits which are appropriate for you.

It sounds like you can't quite afford your place. If I were in your shoes, I would track every penny I spent for a few months to figure out where money could shift. You may also see, doing this, that you are not making enough in an average month to afford this place. Painful as that is, it is better to know than to guess. Good luck!
posted by Riverine at 4:25 PM on April 15, 2015

I have heard great things about the improving bikeability in Dallas. If riding a bike is an option for you, it might be worth considering. It can provide you with some independence from the public transit system.
posted by aniola at 4:25 PM on April 15, 2015

Have you checked out Modest Needs? It's a charity whose mission is helping those who "are living one or two lost paychecks away from the kind of financial catastrophe that eventually leads to homelessness."

I'm not sure if you meet their eligibility requirements but it's worth a try.
posted by paperback version at 5:07 PM on April 15, 2015 [1 favorite]

I came to suggest Modest Needs, too - how much is weekly rent?
posted by ersatzkat at 5:45 PM on April 15, 2015

Do you have a computer with internet access? There's company called Leapforce I've seen mentioned here a few times as a work-from-home flexible-hours thing, though I have no personal experience with it. According to the glassdoor reviews it's not bad, although it can take 2-3 weeks to get hired and there's an exam to pass. There are also links on glassdoor to similar companies like Lionbridge and Workforce.

Is it possible at all to move to another city?

The kind of stress you're describing really can be crushing. Even if there's a limit to how much you can change your situation right now, it's definitely worth finding ways to cope with that stress directly. I know it's easier said than done, but it's also true that the universe doesn't seem to reward you for stressing. From personal experience, it can however eventually make it harder to function. So it's worth finding finding ways to limit your stress (maybe let yourself worry about things only at a specific hour each day) and make sure you're letting yourself breathe.
posted by egg drop at 7:28 PM on April 15, 2015

If you are physically able, what about putting up a flyer around your local neighbourhood for small services... say dog walking, grocery deliveries, odd house jobs, house cleaning, school pickups or nannying (maybe a bit more complex), computer servicing or cleanups, hiring of any valuable equipment you own? Or just anything do-able that you are skilled in?
posted by Under the Sea at 7:57 PM on April 15, 2015

I came to suggest Modest Needs, too - how much is weekly rent?

I pay $90 weekly and am behind by almost 200. Seems like such a small amount.
posted by item at 6:28 AM on April 16, 2015

...and thanks for the suggestions, folks. Definitely keep them coming.
posted by item at 6:30 AM on April 16, 2015

I'd get a lawyer for SSDI. They can and do work on contingency.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:33 AM on April 16, 2015

I know this isn't exactly the answer you're looking for, but if you are in desperate need of cash ASAP you can sell off some personal possessions that you can live without. Entertainment stuff like DVDs etc etc and clothes I don't wear are first to go here, and I've been in that boat a few times myself. It's less than desirable but an option for quick cash.
posted by atinna at 8:12 PM on April 16, 2015

Also have you considered donating plasma if you can? I saw you mentioned a tremor so I don't know if that is out of the question. Here you get paid $50 for each of your first five donations, which is an easy $250 in a matter of 2.5 weeks. It's less after that.
posted by atinna at 8:14 PM on April 16, 2015

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