Question: With grocery, utilities and public transportation prices climbing, our family is struggling to survive. We have a large family and do grow a small garden, but the bills keep piling up. We’re behind on our rent and income taxes. Our kids attend a charter school that requires uniforms which we can’t afford. We don’t have credit cards or a car and never take vacations. What can we do?
Answer: The economy is affecting everyone. We know that is no consolation to you when you’re struggling. We’ve got to remember that there are always solutions and options. First, find a way to spend less than you earn. Every month. Can your husband find a higher paying job? Do you need to look into cheaper housing in a different part of town? Could you be an apartment manager for a small apartment complex or be a caretaker of a larger property in exchange for free or reduced rent? Are any of your kids old enough to work part-time and contribute some of what they earn to the family? Does the school have a uniform exchange with reduced priced clothing? Is there a thrift store nearby where other families may have donated their used uniforms?
There are other things you can do right now do to improve your situation. They may hurt your pride a bit, but in the long run they will help you get back on your feet. These are:
1) Contact a food bank in your area and get some food for your family.
2) Call the Arizona Department of Economic Security and start the process to participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps.) The number is 602-542-9935 in the Phoenix metro area; 800-352-8401 in the rest of the state. Other states have similar programs.
3) If you are part of a church or religious group, ask help from the leadership.
4) Contact your electric utility for low-income rate-payer assistance.
5) Contact the United Way and ask them to connect you to agencies that can help.
6) Contact the IRS now and start communicating with them about your back taxes.
7) Ask your school if they can scholarship uniform costs.
You may feel beaten down, but you don’t have to be a victim. Do one thing today, follow through and then do another thing in a couple of days. Little by little you'll climb this mountain. As long as your family is together, you’ve got each other and you’ve got hope. We’re cheering for you.