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alternatives to payday loans by Pete Low

Alternatives to payday loans are out there: car title loans, bad-credit installment loans, pawn shops, those kind of things. They're about the same price as payday loans, too. But if you need some cash right now, or at least by your next payday, here are four free ways to get it.

If you're really hurting for money, these alternatives to payday loans can keep you from being evicted or having your electric shut off, or buy basic necessities like groceries. By free, I mean there's either no interest or fee to get the money, or there's no need to pay the money back at all.

Decrease your Withholding Tax

Did you know you can change how much tax is withheld from your paycheck? If you're receiving a refund each year, you don't have to wait until next spring to get that money. Give yourself an instant raise. Use the IRS withholding calculator to figure out how much to have withheld. Or see this page at the IRS site for more information.

If you got a refund of everything last year because you had no tax liability, or if you think that will happen this year, you don't need to have any tax withheld at all. Otherwise, you can have them withhold just barely enough to cover your taxes.

They'll still withhold the same Social Security tax and stuff like that, but here's how you control how much IRS income tax is withheld. Talk to human resources or the payroll department of your employer and ask to fill out a new W4 form. It's not a big deal; they're used to it, or they should be.

You'll still have to pay whatever taxes you owe at the end of the year, and you can get a penalty for not withholding enough, so don't go overboard with this.

But there's no point in loaning the government money all year and then waiting for a refund, when you could be using that money yourself.

Get Help Paying Utility Bills with LIHEAP

Contact your state's LIHEAP office to see about emergency help paying utility bills. The money is distributed by state offices, so every one is a little different, but in general, it can help if you're at risk of being without heat in the winter, either because you can't pay your bill or can't afford to repair your furnace.

Ask for Emergency Food Stamps

Food stamps take a while to start coming, though they're good in the long run, but if you're in a bad situation, ask your local SNAP office about emergency or expedited food stamps. If you're eligible, you should be able to get money for groceries within a few days. Make sure you mention that you're looking for the emergency food stamps, so they don't just say, okayfine we'll get back to you in a couple weeks. You can also apply online in some states.

Contact your Community Action Association

Search online for "Community Action Association" and your state or use the Community Action Partnership site to search. Every Community Action is a little different, but many of them offer small emergency grants or interest-free loans for people who don't have enough money for current food or housing. They're also a general clearinghouse for information on other free or cheap grants or loans that are available in your state. Ask them about other programs they know of, such as Eviction Prevention Programs or other housing help through HUD, or food pantries, or programs to prevent utilities from being shut off.

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10:09 p.m. March 5
Don't forget very local charities such as churches that may have emergency funds.


10:21 p.m. March 5
There's also the Salvation Army.


10:55 p.m. March 5
Utility programs sometimes have special funds too to help people in need, electric, gas, heating oil, water, etc. Try contacting them directly.


11:08 p.m. March 5
what r the income and stuff?


11:11 p.m. March 5
It depends. Usually around poverty level or close to it for your state, though some programs like through Community Action are targeted for senior citizens, disabled, families with children, etc. so you can be eligible in those categories for things that you wouldn't be otherwise. As far as assets, some programs won't count a home or 401K, some will. Unlike a payday loan, they also have the advantage that you don't need a regular paycheck to get them.

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Four Free Alternatives to Payday Loans
March 5