Have you ever found yourself in a pinch when it feels like your financial world is crashing down around you? Maybe you got hurt and had to take some unpaid time off work, which put you behind a month on bills, then your car breaks down and at the same time the refrigerator dies. You find yourself wondering if you broke a mirror or walked under a ladder without noticing!
Each of these things on their own are stressful, although you can typically bounce back after a couple months of frugal living and scrimping. But when they pile on and make you feel like the whole world is against you? That’s when you need to go in to survival mode and try to minimize the long-term fall-out while staying afloat — you need cash and you need cash NOW.
Here are the options, along with their pros and cons, in order of preference:
Sell things you own: Whether it’s something valuable around your house or the stock you’ve accumulated in your stock purchase plan at work (or any stocks or mutual funds you hold outside of a retirement account), this is definitely a place to look for quick cash.
- Nothing to pay back
- Can help with de-cluttering
- Could be the least painful option
- May have to sell item for less than it’s actually worth
- Might be something you wanted to keep
- Capital gains taxes if you sell for more than you paid
Check with your community: Many churches, synagogues, mosques and other communities maintain funds to help out members in need, so check there as well to see if you qualify for assistance.
- Typically no payback required
- Often comes with emotional support as well
- Application process could be in-depth and feel intrusive
- There may be restrictions that require funds be paid directly to providers like car mechanics, landlords, medical facility, etc.
Borrow from family or friends: You have to be careful not to take advantage of loved ones who may be too generous for their own good, and I highly advise signing an agreement to keep things on the up-and-up, but asking around in your inner circle could be the relief you need.
- No credit check
- Lower or no interest
- Possible flexibility with re-payment
- Could put important relationships at risk — be careful about any extravagant spending if you haven’t yet paid the money back to avoid possible resentment
Get a side gig that pays tips: Waiting tables, bartending, washing cars, delivering pizzas — there are lots of ways in today’s world where you can work a shift and take home cash without having to wait until payday. Be creative and ask around in your community.
- You don’t have to give up anything but your time
- The harder you work, the more you make
- It may take awhile to accumulate the amount of cash you need right now
- Time is limited — if you have kids who need care while you’re working, it may not be worth it
401(k) loan: Depending on your plan, you can sometimes get a check in hand within a day or two.
- Pay yourself back
- No credit check
- Relatively low interest rate
- Need to have enough in your account to borrow (you’re typically limited to 50% of your balance up to $50,000)
- May have to pay back lump sum if you lose your job or quit, or risk possible tax issues
- Could compromise your retirement
Credit card cash advance: Not the best option, but worth exploring if you’re desperate. Ideally you’d only use this if you had a card with a low or 0% promo rate.
- No credit check, assuming the card is already open
- Can often write a check
- Super high fees and often high interest
- Could have a negative effect on your credit score if you’re maxing out
Payday loan: I don’t even really want to include this as a viable option because these are so toxic to people’s financial well-being, but I have to so that I can spell out how very bad they can be.
- I honestly can’t think of one good thing besides the fact that you can get cash quickly
- High fees and interest rates bordering on criminal
- Can quickly snowball out of control
- Little to no flexibility with payback
- One of the main reasons people end up in bankruptcy
If you’re not sure which of these options is best for you or how to facilitate, try checking with your employer to see if you have a financial wellness benefit or access to financial guidance through your EAP (employee assistance program). They won’t be able to write you a check, but you may find it helpful to brainstorm ideas with the help of a professional who will also be able to help you re-establish your finances once you get through the dip in the roller coaster of life.