Making Ends Meet

Making Ends Meet
As the single parent to two boys on the autism spectrum we experience feast or famine on a regular basis due to low income, limited resources, past bankruptcy, poor credit rating and one small credit card that has nothing available. My IHSS income puts us out of range for food stamps.

As is often the case, SSI is currently taking $72 out of Nicholas’s check to cover an overpayment. We were given less than a week notice via mail that this was taking place in June. We have three months on this lowered amount before gaining back that dollar amount each month.

In May a deduction of almost $50 started coming out of my paycheck to cover costs for an AD&D policy and a cancer policy. In April I had the yearly $50 rent increase. I can hardly wait for income tax time to roll around since I can claim the Earned Income Credit (EIC), child tax credit and additional child tax credit.

The following are some ways you can try to stay afloat through the weeks, months or year. This is based on my experience and research.

1. For those that would like to get some of that money now instead of waiting months, there is the W-5 form to fill out and get a small portion in each paycheck. This enables you to get an advance on your 2006 EIC. W-5 is the Earned Income Credit Advance Payment Certificate. This expires on December 31, 2006 with the 2007 W-5 form then available for ordering to submit to your employer to start in 2007, especially after spending your money on the holidays.

I ordered a few copies of the 2005 W-5 and called the State of California to find out where I would send this copy and how much would be added into my check. Since my son is actually my employer this was a difficult task to complete and has not worked out for me. The IHSS clerks had not heard of a W-5 and confused it with the W-4 form. It was finally figured out and submitted to Sacramento, but nothing was ever included in any paychecks. I had started the process in October of 2005 to get some money for the holidays with the result being nothing. I did not want to go through it again with the 2006 W-5 form, so I gave up. The 2006 W-5 states that the employer cannot give you more than $1,648.00 throughout 2006.

To get an advance payment you must have a qualifying child, file an income tax return for the upcoming year and not be filing as married with a separate return.

2. If you have an emergency and cannot pay a bill that is a necessity like gas, electric or rent, there is a not-for-profit organization that helps out those in all states. I first learned of Modest Needs a week ago when watching an afternoon news telecast of a family receiving needed beds. We were faced with an emergency as the minivan died and my paycheck was late with no money for food.

The site does not issue cash to the requestor or anyone for that matter. They pay a bill and need documented proof within three days faxed to them to backup the need for assistance. There is a maximum amount of $1,000 that can be requested. There is a process of pre-screening to see if you qualify and have a valid reason. I joined the site and typed out the form on the screen with the amounts of my income and the emergency reason.

I had read on the site that if you want help with a car repair bill you need to have the estimate in hand before completing the form. Since I had not taken my minivan to Pep Boys yet that was not possible to do. Plus the site states it takes 48-72 hours to get a response and I could not have my vehicle sitting there that long.

I opted instead to request help in paying off a payday loan. My request was quickly denied since these establishments want cash to pay off the balance and I forgot about that aspect of their business. You can check the ledger of requests that have been verified to see what other people are seeking help for. Most of these are for car repairs, rent or mortgage assistance, prescription drug costs, car rental, tuition or college housing costs.

Modest Needs has a system where those that help others out donate certain amounts of money each month and can even assist in specific needs where posted on the ledger. I was so surprised to see this company has been in existence for a few years, yet I had never heard of them. This is something I want to participate in once I get my income tax return, and try to help out others in the same predicament.

There is a resource section at Modest Needs that has over 1300 listed and can be searched by State. I saw organizations I had never heard of before and plan to visit the site again to check more of them out further.

3. Payday loans – I have gone this route for at least a year now. It happens whenever my minivan needs work and then I have no money for food and small bills that are due. The fee is $15 for $100 with the maximum requested being $255 and almost $290 to pay it back. I use Ace Cash Express in Los Angeles. I have never been late, but a few weeks ago due to a holiday and late paycheck I was worried. I went to their office and asked about extending my loan a couple days, which they did at no extra cost. Turned out I received the paycheck late that afternoon and headed over there to pay my advance back.

These are short-term loans with high interest rates. As someone with a bankruptcy and past judgements I know how important these loans are to pay off quickly and try to get out of the cycle of them. In the month of June 2006 I had two car issues to take care of, which cost a total of $807.00, so I have been borrowing for a few weeks now. Just the other day I paid $241 for my car repair and then $253 to pay back my loan. I will be going for another loan sometime next week once I pay the rent with SSI and then cable and phone bills.

The term on the loans is fourteen days. The limits vary according to the state you reside in. The first time you will fill out an application, provide a recent pay stub, copy of latest checking account statement, Driver’s License or state Issued ID, copy of a bill (phone or utility) at your residence to show proof of where you live. These documents are faxed to their headquarters for approval or denial of a loan.

The first time I applied a few years ago at another location I was denied since I used only the SSI funds and then gave the clerk the data on my IHSS income to get qualified. From that point on all you need to do is sign a check where they stamp VOID on it and then sign the forms they print out and pay back the loan within the fourteen day period.

They have coupons printed out to give to friends to get a few dollars off on your loan fee. I have received a few ten-dollar coupons, which made my payment only a few dollars. These loans are to help you make ends meet and carry you until your next paycheck arrives. Ace is currently available in 24 states.

If you have nowhere else to turn, these are a lifesaver. When there is no family, no credit cards and nothing in the bank, this is what I have done. Another one that is not in my immediate area is Check ‘n Go. They even have the option of applying online or calling 1-800-561-cash.

4. Ever see those commercials on television for Cash Call? I did last year and called to get money wired into my account with no collateral. I got turned down, must be that bankruptcy from 2004. I almost called them again this past week, but did not want to bring down my credit score with trying and getting rejected. Try them at 1-866-590-CASH.

They claim it takes five minutes to get a response. It was close to that when I applied a year ago. The amounts are personal loans wired into your checking account in the following denominations - $1,000, $2,600, $5,075, $10,000 and $20,000. There is a one-time fee of $75 for all loans with Cash Call that is deducted from the loan at the beginning. Payments are through electronic debits from your checking account on a monthly basis.

5. Shopping discounts, coupons, sample sites and reward programs – I have been a member panelist for several years now with Shopper's Hotline. I have a scanner that I use to scan every item I purchase and bring home. These get points that are rewarded through certificates. I usually get a few $25 target gift cards each year and one time received a $50 American Express Cheque.

To see if they have any openings for panelist, contact them at 1-800-528-7383. Another company is Shopper’s Voice to receive product samples, coupons and discounts. This is free and just today I got a packet in the mail. You also can go online to Ebay and buy coupons in bulk from sellers. I do this for baby wipes and soymilk containers.

I have also sold many books on ebay when I was strapped for cash. Make sure the buyers use only paypal when you are in dire need of funds and sell it with a buy it now price also. You can use your paypal card like a regular debit card or credit card to earn a few cents interest with every purchase. A ten-dollar sale could mean some items of necessity at the corner store. Now is the time to go through the fall clothing and chapter books to see what you can sell at the end of the summer season.

Join a Coupon train or become a member of a Sampling site. Both Walgreen’s and Rite Aid have monthly offers where you get sent a check for the rebates on items you purchased the prior month. I have no experience with Walgreen’s system, but have been doing Rite Aid for several years and the checks arrive quickly and can be used to pay for merchandise at the store.

6. For California residents and parents of a child with disabilities – The California Association of Family Empowerment Centers through a State grant has established the Family Participation Fund. This provides assistance to families to attend and take part in policy-making meetings and get reimbursed for their time, mileage and expenses to attend such meetings.

There is a maximum of $1,000 per person per year. This is not intended for use to attend conferences, trainings or workshops. There is a limit to two per month with the application (three pages) deadline thirty days from the date of attendance. If you receive a stipend from the agency conducting the meeting you are not eligible for the Family Participation Fund. A half-day meeting will be $50 and a full day is $100. I received checks this past month for both the May and June CAC meetings.

I also submitted paperwork for an IEP meeting, which I had not done before but read it could be done. I will update with the result of that stipend. The treasurer of the Community Advisory Committee (CAC) gathers all the requests and faxes them for the members and attendees. This is for local, regional or statewide meetings. You can download the pdf forms in English or Spanish at the site.

7. Another option for California residents – Each Regional Center has an emergency fund to assist families. This can be a voucher to a store for furniture, food cards or voucher for clothing. This past week I received four food cards to Ralph’s to buy food since we had nothing due power outage, car breakdown and late paycheck arrival in mail. I had to give the Service Coordinator my income breakdown for IHSS and SSI, the reason for the emergency and the need. This was done in a memo and submitted to funding. Months before the holidays let your service coordinator know if your children will be in need of toys or clothing, and if your family could benefit from food certificates. I would suggest by early September to start finding ways to get your family adopted for the holidays.

8. Affiliates for those who have a website – I am signed up for various sites as an affiliate, with amazon being the major one. They pay quarterly and you can track the money you are making daily and gain insights into your reader’s preferences. With Amazon if the cut-off for the quarter is March 30th than you will get your affiliate pay the end of the following month. The options are a check once you reach a certain amount or direct deposit for a set amount. The best option I feel is the gift certificate. They send you the code in an email and can be used immediately with a long expiration date. This is the best way not to have to claim it as income since it is a gift certificate.

Do remember that any money you earn that is over $600 with any one company will generate a W-2 form and be reported to IRS. I make more than that with my reviews on and the reason for the $72 currently being deducted as an overpayment.

There are sites that pay you a small dividend to watch videos and do surveys and earn points. I do not do those sites since all that work for a dollar is not worth it and my computer is very slow on a dial-up connection. I do surveys for an educational site where they pay you via paypal once you have done 3 or 4 and I get about $8-10 every few months.

9. Craigslist – this site is available in most major cities and small towns. There are boards to post for bartering items to get work done in your home, find a babysitter, post a job, look for an apartment or a therapist, etc. You can find part time work here and post about doing work in your home for other families. I have given away lots of toys on this site. Another site where people give away items and post what they are in need of is at Freecycle. I prefer craigslist, but have used both and belong to two local online groups.

10. WIC - For those that are pregnant and/or have a child under the age of five this is a program for Women, Infants and Children that supplies them with milk, cheese, orange juice, peanut butter, carrots, eggs, cereal and beans at no cost. You receive monthly checks to the store of your choosing to utilize throughout the month. This is a program that is in every state and has income guidelines. I used it in New Jersey, Florida and California. My only complaint is that the age cut-off should be later than age five for special needs children.

11. Selling - I have considered over the years doing Avon and Discovery Toys as they both have low start up costs. I am not too fond though of the slow Discovery Toys website and the whole interface is not really user friendly. Another option would be to start a shop at Café Press. I have purchased items through the storefronts and find it an easy process.

12. Miscellaneous - If you live in a major metropolitan city you can be paid to hand out flyers at major visiting attractions, get paid to be an audience member or be a TV extra in a movie. Every August most major cities have their new phonebooks delivered. These type of jobs would be found in a Recycler magazine or the daily newspaper. Hold an impromptu garage sale, lemonade stand with your child dressed in a suit. There is a need in my neighborhood for lawn mowers so that might be something to do in your town if you have the tools. A final thought is to ask an online buddy for a loan via paypal.

13. Writing opportunities - there are sites that pay for writing tips and articles for those with and without experience. Some of the ones I have visited are, Constant Content, Absolute Write, Life Tips, Page Wise, Helium, eHow and Guru. You can apply to be a blogger at

14. Wish Upon a Hero! - this site just launched Sept 10 2007. You can post up to three wishes here per day and see if anyone would grant assistance. FAQs

Feel free to share ways your family makes ends meet in the forum.

Educational Autism Tips for Families 71 page resourceful ebook for families entering the school system with a recent autism diagnosis. Find out what issues take place over the course of a school day and meet these challenges head on.

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