What to do when there's no money left for home repairs
Can't Afford Home Repair
Keeping Household Repairs Under Control
Can't Afford Housing Repairs
How to Prioritize Home Repair Maintenance
Nothing Left for Repairs
We are a low-income family needing a lot of help with home repairs. I am a stay-at-home mom of three children, ages 11, 6, and 3. It seems that all of the money my husband makes goes for food or the kids with nothing left for repairs. Can anyone offer any suggestions?
If you own your home (not rent), you may be able to qualify for help from Habitat for Humanity or Homeworks, Inc. Check in the business section or yellow pages to see if either is in your area. Or go to their websites for more information. You might also be able to get some home repair help from the HUD housing association in your area.
If you rent your home and cannot get the landlord to make necessary repairs, try locating your local mediation group (look for info from HUD or your local lawyer referral service).
Try Freecycle (tm)
To get items to repair your home for free, try www.freecycle.org. People are constantly refurbishing their homes and throwing out perfectly good light fixtures, paint, rollers, faucets, etc. Chances are, a request on your local freecycle will turn up more items than you can use.
Barter for Repairs
Look in your church, neighborhood, and PTA for individuals capable of making repairs. If they have children, you can trade babysitting for repairs. You might be able to trade your skills, too.
Carol in South Carolina
Another Barter Advocate
If you have no cash for repairs, you have two options left: do-it-yourself or bartering. I'm taking it for granted that if you could do it yourself, you already would have by now.
As a stay-at-home mom, you are in a good position for bartering. Almost everyone who has children needs daycare at least some of the time. Where to start looking? Try church first. If you do not go to church, a local church may be a good resource anyway. In the area where I live, many stores and supermarkets have bulletin boards where you can post a flier for free. There are also newspapers, from the local regular dailies to free weeklies, where ads can be placed for services wanted, services available, or sometimes they have an area for exchanges.
It would be a good idea to do some research and discover how much daycare costs in your area so that you know what your services will be worth. You may also need to check with a tax advisor as your work may be considered income for tax purposes, even if you never receive cash in return.
GG in CA
Contact Local Churches
In our area, there is a local Christian men's group that are called Craftsmen For Christ. They are willing to help with home repairs at no charge. Maybe you can contact local churches and they might be able to let you know of any organizations such as this in your area!
Sandi in Yuba City, CA
Maximize the Repair Budget
Kerry does not say whether she and her husband make repairs themselves or hire others, but I certainly hope they do all they can themselves. Here are a few ideas to maximize the repair budget:
- Take advantage of any public benefits available to you. These may include food stamps (which will help you have money left for household repairs), energy assistance, and/or home weatherization (which will fix or improve energy wasting windows, doors, faucets, etc.). In many states, these benefits are available for low-income working people.
- If you are not especially handy, ask friends for help. You might trade some of your skills for some of theirs and teach each other.
- You can take free classes at local home-improvement stores. They will teach you to lay tile, faux paint, do simple plumbing repairs and many other projects.
- Read the directions first. I have found that I can do many things I never thought I could simply by following the directions.
- Check for home improvement books at your local library.
- If there is a Habitat for Humanity group in your area, check to see whether they have a thrift shop. If they do, you may find many building materials they could not use at greatly reduced prices.
- Join your local Freecycle.org group. If you do not have a computer, you can do this at the library. People frequently give away doors, windows, sinks, etc., when they upgrade their homes. You can give whatever you don't need, such as children's outgrown clothing.
- Put the kids on a budget. Limit what you spend on non-essentials for the children. Find free activities in your area, etc. Apply for reduced or free school lunches if you qualify.
Barbara in Wallingford, CT
I subscribe to The Family Handyman magazine. If you can't afford a subscription, you can visit their website at www.familyhandyman.com or find it at your local library. This has saved me tons of money on repairs and maintenance. They provide step-by-step instructions on a variety of improvements. The articles are easy to follow and they even provide pictures for additional help. I was amazed at how easy home improvement/repair can be, and I owe it all to The Family Handyman.
Seek out Social Service Aid
There are two agencies that I can think of that assist with home repair for low-income families. One is Community Development (or Rural Development in rural areas), which offers home repair grants for large repairs. The other is Commission on Economic Opportunity (CEO). They do minor repairs, but you must purchase the material. Most of home repair cost is in the labor, so if the materials aren't too much, you may be able use this program. CEO also offers weatherization (no cost) and financial assistance for utility bills in danger of being shut off. Depending on your area, these organizations might go by different names. Check your phone book under Social Services.
Have a Plan
You didn't mention what type of home repairs you need done. Some are more important than others are. For example, if your roof is leaking, it should be fixed as soon as you can. The reason for this is that water damage can cause all types of problems from mold to loose floorboards. Leaking water pipes also need to be attended to quickly. If your screen door squeaks when you open and close it, so what. It won't hurt anything.
First, make a list of your repairs in order of their importance. When you have some money left over, you can buy some supplies and do the work yourselves.
Also, check the local high schools and colleges. Some of them have classes that teach the students to do home repairs but they need a home on which to work. An instructor supervises the work, and you might also get the supplies furnished to you free of charge by the school. Also, check the exchange board at your local college. If you have a talent like sewing or typing, maybe you could exchange typing a student's term paper for the student that is fixing your leaking water pipe. Just make sure that the student is capable of doing the job before you enter into an agreement.
Another place to go to is your local house authority. They have programs that assist people in your situation. They know of people willing to do the work and they offer low-interest loans.
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