So What Do I Do?

Okay, here’s my situation:

I have roughly $100 in my bank account (It would be more, but the bank saw fit to screw me out of the rest of it. Yes, I’m changing banks, and no, I can’t get the money back, I’ve tried.) and I got word today that it’s going to cost well over $500 to get my 1984 Honda Accord running (this repair bill does not include fixing the transmission which is going out). The car is obviously not worth shelling out that kind of money to repair (in addition to the transmission going out, the car has no heat, and the electrical system is slowly dying).

My income only slightly exceeds my expenditures (I’m working two jobs and going to school part time and am averaging 4 to 6 hours of sleep a day if I’m lucky, so picking up more hours at one of my jobs is a no go.) and there is NO public transportation that I can utilize to get around. Nor can I cut expenses (I’m not going to find rent that’s any cheaper than what I’m paying now, I’ve no home phone [I’ve got a prepaid cellphone, and the price of cable, plus a cable modem is cheaper than phone service and a decent ISP in this area]).

I have to have a car to get to school and I don’t have the money to pay for one. (If I drop out of school, I have to start paying back my student loans [which, if I could afford to pay, I could afford to get a car]). I can’t bum rides to school since my work schedule at my primary job is variable and I have no idea when I’ll be leaving. Nor can I ask for a raise since I’m topped out.

As for changing my primary job, that’s out too. You see, it’s related to what I’m going to school for, and it’s well nigh impossible to get a job in the field without experience, so I can’t quit it and hope to get a better paying one in the field any time soon. Pawning my meager possessions isn’t really an option, either as I sold most of everything when I was unemployed a year ago. What I do have left, I could sell, but I’ve no idea when I could replace it.

I need a car, and have no idea of how to get one on my income. I’m asking around at work, to see if anyone knows where I can pick up one fairly cheap, but so far I’ve had no luck.

Been there, done that.

Maybe you could try asking for a payday advance from your employer. Perhaps he/she could stretch it our over a few weeks for you.

Look at ebay motors for cheap cars. I was looking for one just last night and I saw a jeep with a starting bid of $25.00. It wasn’t the greatest thing, but the seller said it did run.

You could try talking to your mechanic to see if he/she would fix the car and allow you to make payments to him. We once did that.

Are you handy ? You could buy a Chilton auto repair book and try to fix it yourself. You’d be suprised at how quickly you can learn if you haven’t got a choice.

Look at a junkyard for a car. It might not be good over the long term, but for now, it might be your best thing.

I really feel for you. Good luck.

Let me add something to dragongirl’s post. Certainly by all means try to fix the car yourself. The car repair manuals are very good and the library should have one to fit you requirements. However, pick a very long weekend to do it, because even small repairs can take many hours. Got a space heater and a garage? If not, ask to borrow one, maybe from parents, because I don’t know what it’s like in TN right now, but up here it is NOT car-working weather. There is nothing more miserable than working on a car with freezing rain dripping into your collar.

If you have someone you know that is interested in working with you, enlist them because it is always useful to have an extra pair of hands no matter how inexperienced. They can always hold the light or start the motor while you peer under the hood.

If you are thinking about trashing this car anyway, what can you lose?

You can try moving closer to school, maybe even within walking distance. This my be cheaper than you think, and you may even save money. Just look at it as an option. Believe me, it is better to be late a couple times to work than it is to miss classes.

If you have a short drive to work and school, try looking at mopeds. Yeah, it’s getting cold, but you can always bundle up.

Student loans are a good thing, too. In my school you can talk to the financial aid office and they will increase your student loans to cover the cost of car repair. Give them a call, they can help.

Dude, can you borrow from your folks? Or a sibling? Sometimes it’s hard, but that’s what family is for. This sounds like a true emergency. Maybe you and your friends could hold a fund-raiser party. I had a friend whose leg was cut off in a boating accident, and his friends threw him a party. They charged admission and offered X number of brewskis per person, and a cash bar or something to raise money for him. As long as you’re up front about what you’re doing, it could be a great way to get the cash you need to stay afloat.

If you’ve been with the same mechanic for a long time, try working out a payment arrangement with them. An established shop will often do that for a regular customer.

The eBay option is OK - I got a hell of a deal on a vehicle on eBay - but it only works out well if the car you want is located near you.

And yes, junkyards will often have crappy-looking but well-running cars that they sell for a few hundred bucks. But if you’re already so tight you can’t afford $500 to have the Honda fixed, you’re not in the position to spend a few beans on another car, plus the registration fees, etc.

If you qualify for public assistance, take it. Texas allows a $1000.00 emergency grant for families is crisis which could be used for repairs or another vehicle , and there are other benefits too, like food stamps and medical insurance.

Normally I wouldn’t suggest this to a student, but if all other options are truly out and you can’t borrow the money from anyone, I would put the repair on a credit card.

A student with 2 jobs shouldn’t have any trouble getting a card if you don’t already have one.


Always an option. And even in winter you’d be surprised how much you warm up when pedaling.

Okay, let me add some more details to everything. I cannot move, period. I own (well the bank does) the trailer that I live in and rent the lot it sits on, the combined lot rent and trailer payment is roughly one week’s income. To sell the trailer, I’d have to do some repairs on the place (paint, new carpet, new floor in the kitchen), if I had the money to do that, then I could afford to get a car. IAC, no matter what the condition of the trailer was, I’d take a loss on selling it, so I’d have to come up with the difference somehow. (Again, if I could afford to do that…)

Both my jobs are within walking distance (well, my primary job’s about 4 miles away), school, however is 35 miles from here. I can’t transfer to a closer school because there isn’t one in this town that teaches what I’m studying. (Not to mention, my instructor’s aware of what’s going on in my life, so he gives me a bit of break when it comes to my attendance.)

Me fixing the car is possible, but it’s going to be difficult for me to find the time or the place to work on it. The valves are bent, and until the head’s pulled, I won’t know if that’s okay or not. I’m not allowed to do major repairs on my car in the trailer park, so I can’t fix it here, if I have it to towed to my parents’ house, I’ll have to listen to endless hours of lectures about what a failure I am and how I’m wasting my time on the car. I’m hoping that I can haul it to a friends place and work on it there (It’ll be an outdoor repair job and the temps should be around a sweltering 35 F.), but I don’t know if that’s going to be possible or not. He’s sick as a dog at the moment, so I haven’t approached him with the idea as of yet.

Increasing my debt is also not an option. I can barely afford my debt load as it is, adding more debt, and I might as well just sell everything and move into a cardboard box.

As for the mechanic, this is the first time I’ve used him. He’s on the way to work, whereas my regular mechanic is in the next town over.

And perversely I do not qualify for public assistance (though being a never married male, with no dependants, in his mid-thirties certainly makes me a minority of some sort), so that’s out.

It won’t help with fixing your car, but can you find another poor person to share your place and help with the housing cost?

How’s the pay at your second job? Can you swap it for a better-paying one? Do you have a skill at which you could make more money jobbing yourself out (and maybe save on travel time and costs)? Is there a way that you can make work come to you? (Computer repair, giving some sort of lessons, clerical work . . .)

Can you get any sort of assistance from the school? Not necessarily money, but maybe they can help you find a more reasonable second job, or hook you up with some other sort of resources?

Sucks. But hang in there.

Ah, yes, I tried that recently. Now I need new carpet, new paint, new floor in the kitchen…


$7/hr working in a Stop-N-Rob. As long as I show up, wear the stupid shirt, and don’t steal from the till, they don’t care too much about what I do. Handy for those days when I haven’t had very much sleep (which is most of them). **

Oh yes, I’ve got lots of ideas of ways to make extra money. Unfortunately, they all involve things that I don’t have like time, or a little bit of money. If I quit my secondary job without walking into another one that pays better immediately, then I’m screwed at getting myself out of this mess. I’ve got a couple of things I could sell on eBay that I don’t want, however, I simply don’t have the energy or the time to dig up the bastards (one item weighs 70 lbs), take photos of them, put it up for bid,(and assuming someone buys it) haul it to the UPS Store and ship it off. Of course, once those items are gone (again, assuming they’re bought, and assuming that I get a decent amount of cash from them), then I’m SOL for cash, since I’ll have had to take time off from work to do this. (Lest everyone think that I’m a lazy weenie, let me elaborate a bit. My primary job is in a foundry [I’m going to school to be a machinist], I spend a good portion of my workday [which can be anywhere from 5 to 16 hours depending on what needs to be done] grinding castings. When I’m not grinding castings, I’m handling a ladle filled with 50+ pounds of molten metal, usually at temps around 3000 degrees, I come home from work exhausted, smelly, and filthier than you can possibly imagine. I don’t want to do anything but sleep. The fact that I’m able to drag myself into the shower, drive to school, work on a project, drive myself home at around 9 PM or later, then drag my carcass out of bed at 6 AM to do it all again the next day is a bit of a miracle. The rare times [and there’s days when I don’t post] I post to the Dope, it takes considerable effort on my part to muster up the energy to write anything [this post has taken me something like 20 or more minutes to compose, so far], and my posts are generally quite short [this thread and a Pit thread I started, contain the longest posts of mine made during a weekday in ages]. The internet is my only source of recreation [other than watching The Simpsons at the Stop-N-Rob when I work, and taped episodes of The Family Guy and Futurama {I tend to nap when I watch those, forcing myself awake if I haven’t seen an episode, and I usually only watch them on Friday’s, as that’s the day when I work the least (no more than 11 hours at the foundry, no school, and only 2 hours at the Stop-N-Rob)}.] I don’t even IM folks as I’m tired and cranky, and it’s too much effort.)


There’s not much they can do as far as job placement goes, they’ve not had too many jobs listed the times I’ve checked. In theory, I could haul my car up there and let the autoshop guys fix it, and I mentioned doing that to my instructor once, and he related how they had his car for a year and didn’t get it running again (didn’t even look at it), so I think that even in my exhausted state I stand a better chance of getting the thing running (I can always take a weekend off from my second job, ya know?).


Well, it’s not like I have any other choice, ya know?

Having nagging parents myself I know exactly how annoying this is. But, there’s a time when you just have to suck it up, throw on a pair of headphones, and ask for their help. You’ve hit on hard times at this moment, but that doesn’t make you a failure, and when you get on your feet again, you can repay them for troubling them for their help when you were down. Unless there are some problems that goes beyond lectures and nagging, you should seriously consider asking for help, no matter how much nagging is anticipated.

I’m sorry I don’t have more advice other than this. I hope things work out for you though. Good luck.

Nagging doesn’t even begin to describe my parents. I’m currently using my father’s pick up to get around (he’s retired, BTW) and the other day he was all “What I worry about is that you don’t have a safe vehicle to drive.” today when he called me he was all “Why aren’t you driving something else?” No doubt he’s been into the booze, and that’s what’s causing this, but if I have to listen to him berate me while I’m attempting a serious car repair, I’ll kill him. I’m not kidding, I’ll pick up the nearest blunt object (preferrably the car) and kill him with it.

Hey Tucker, here’s an option that may or may not work out. Do you have First Charter Bank near you? I opened an account here in NC, and after 30 days they gave me a $500 overdraft line (check protect). It costs $30/use, but if you need it you can draw out all $500 and pay it back monthly in even payments (like $50). Not a fantastic option, but not a credit card either, and not too awful a payment/month. Also, my credit is miserable so apparently they don’t use that as a guage for whether or not you get the line extended to you. The bank lady told me they just look at your account in the first 30 days of use, and if all is well they automatically extend it to you unless you opt out.

I opened my account with $50, which I was allowed to take out the very next day if I wanted to- no minimum balance required. If you don’t have a First Charter, call around to a few other banks and see if they offer a similar thing.

Are there any mechanic-savvy and charitable Dopers in your area that can help you fix the car? I know that car repairs seem like an insurmountable problem to someone who can’t fix them.

Another option is to find a friend or acquaintance with a car that can help you out for a couple weeks or so, until you get back on your feet, so to speak. Offer them money for the hassle. You can post a request for rides at your school bulletin board as well, you may find another student in your area who would appreciate the company and gas money.

Don’t let anyone bring you down. You won’t be a failure if you don’t believe it.

Didja ever look into getting one of those Tuckers? :wink:

Do either of your jobs have leave accrual? If so, you may be able to cash it out.

I don’t know why your parents think you’re such a bum when you’re working like a Jamaican. I would suggest swallowing your pride for the sake of expediency, and borrowing $ 1000 from your parents or another relative with an reasonable one or two year repayment plan outlined that includes a slightly above market interest rate for them (say 10%). The old car is a widening money sink you really need to get away from it. Some relative or friend might have a car they’re not using much that you could buy from them over time.

IE relative or workmate Joe has a nice, used car worth 2,000 - 3,000. Tell Joe you will buy his car for $ 2,500 if he will agree to hold a note at 10% over 12-24 months, and you will have the option to pay off the remaining principal at any time. Older relatives with an extra beatermobile might be a especially good
place to start.

See the Car payment calculator

2500 @ 10% x 24 = 115.36 per month - 2 year repay

2500 @ 10% x 12 = 219.79 per month - 1 year repay

If you’re going to do this do not set an ambitious repayment figure that is a stretch for you. Nothing in this world pisses people off more than being jammed after they’ve made a deal in good faith.

The bottom line is that for people to do this they have to like you and trust you. If you have a good grade transcript it might be useful to make a few copies and use it as evidence of your serious intent and dependability. Some used car dealers will even make unsecured loans on their more hard to sell beaters based on a good grade transcript.

Zette, I’ll check into that, but I seriously doubt that anyone around here offers anything like that.

Steelerphan, the only Doper who lives in town is hillbilly queen, and I’m fairly certain that car repair isn’t one of her strong points (she’s a very nice person from what I’ve been able to tell, so no diss). None of my friends who live in this town are able to help me beyond giving me a ride to work if I need it. Ride sharing to school is impossible for me. There’s no one in this area who goes to that school, and even if there were, I never know what time I’m going to be able to leave work. (When the metal’s ready, it’s got to be poured, and we supply several defense contractors with components, so people’s lives depend upon us getting the stuff to them in time.)

Chefguy, nope, and I’ve only been working at them for 4 months, so it’s not like I’d have any at this point.

astro, my father thinks I’m a bum because I didn’t follow in his footsteps and become a salesman. It’s not pride that’s keeping me from asking my father for the money, it’s that there’s NO point in it. He won’t pony up the cash no matter what kind of proposal I pitch at him. Two years ago, when I was unemployed, the starter on my car went out, I didn’t have the money to buy a replacement starter, and my dad wouldn’t shell out the $40 for me to buy one from a scrap yard. Getting him to loan me a grand or so (nevermind that he pays cash for a new car every couple of years or so) is so far out there as to be an impossible task. My mother can’t afford to give me the money (my parents are divorced), since she’s also retired. None of my other relatives are willing or able to loan me money.

The only good news I’ve gotten is that they’re going to be having us work 7 days at the foundry, so I can cut back slightly on my hours at the Stop-N-Rob and still bring home more money. The other immediate possibility I just realized is that one of my regular customers at the Stop-N-Rob works for a used car dealer, so he might be able to help me out. Of course, he hasn’t been in since this happened, so I haven’t been able to ask him about it. Also, at the foundry they gave us a $35 Wal-Mart giftcard for a Thanksgiving bonus, so I can use that to buy food with and sock a little more money back.

You’ve gotten a boatload of advice regarding the social issues, so I’ll stick with the car. You say valves bent-did you lose the timing belt, and have valves tickled pistons? If only the valves are damaged, the head can be rebuilt, or you can install a salvage yard head.

You also mentioned that Mr. Trans wishes to check out of town. Have you done the basics, as in fluid change and sump screen filter? I’m not up on Honda automatics, so I don’t know if they have adjustable bands or not. If the tranny is toast, you might want to consider a low mileage wreck and take engine/transaxle as a unit and do the swapperino.

Many tools-yes. Engine hoist-yes. Ugly to do outdoors-yes. Are you up to the task-don’t know. I’ve no clue what your resources are, personally, parts wise, tools wise, and so forth.

My tendency is to fix what you have-you know the problems. With something else, you have different problems. Good luck.

If you drop out of school, as far as I know in regards to my student loan, you don’t have to begin paying back until 6 months later. Perhaps you can drop out for this semester and resume in the next one? If, during the 6 months you return to school, the payments are defered again. What ever you do, check first! My financial aid people may work differently from yours!

Best of luck to you. I hope things work out.