Let’s say you’ve run out of money.

That has actually happened in my home. There was a day in May 2005 when I looked through the kitchen cupboard. I realized we’d be out of groceries in about four days – and the bills that were due would eat up all of my incoming paycheck.

In the circumstances I am relating, Mom and Dad came to the rescue. They knew my husband was out of work. They knew some of my siblings could use money for other reasons. Well, as is our family custom, some of us gathered that weekend at my parents’ home for what was expected to be a routine Sunday dinner … and all of us siblings were given envelopes of money that originated from an inheritance my dad had just settled in probate court.

Now that was a completely unexpected blessing.

This will not happen every time your kitchen pantry is bare.

So, what can you do when you are desperate for groceries, money to pay utility bills, clothes for the kids, etc.?

You can tap into your community resources. Yes, even those of you who earn too much money to qualify for food stamps, welfare checks or reduced-price school lunches can find financial help.

For example, I knew during that tight money week that if I didn’t have any dinner to serve my family on Thursday, we could go to a free community dinner, no questions asked, at a local church. (Since that time, what was a twice-weekly community dinner series has expanded into what Monroe County residents now know as the God Works! soup kitchen.)

And last week, Liz Pulliam Weston at MSN Money posted on Where to turn when you’re desperate. A snippet:

Food banks and housing counselors report an influx of formerly middle-class and even upper-middle-class people who have little idea of what resources may be available to them.

A network of federal, state, local government and nonprofit agencies provide aid to low-income folks who need help paying for, among other things:

  • Food.
  • Shelter.
  • Utilities.
  • Transportation.
  • Medical and dental care.

Many states and some nonprofits also provide cash grants or loans to needy individuals and families. If you’re trying to cope with little or no income and ballooning expenses, read on for details of various programs and when you should consider applying.

Liz then posted a lot of links ranging from a national food pantry database to how to learn about Section 8 housing assistance.

More from Liz:

Bottom line: Sometimes a little bit of cash can go a long way toward solving your problems. If you’re flat broke and qualify, accept the help.

How do Monroe County, Mich., families apply Liz’s recommendations to what’s available right here, right now, for their circumstances?

After you are done reading through Liz’s links, go back to my front page and check out the huge list of links and tips on my blogroll and sidebars. Start with my sidebar Do you need financial assistance? Tips to read first.

Then click on Julie’s List, which has referrals for government and non-profit agencies all over southeast Michigan.

You will find that Julie and I have posted links to the Monroe County food banks, to the Legal Services of Southeast Michigan, budget worksheets, where to get help with transportation needs, frugal recipe sites … any resource or link that she or I can find that would be of interest to area families on tight budgets.

If you are a working-class or middle-class family, you do need to understand that many of the opportunities you can take advantage of to save money or get financial assistance will have a very short turnaround time for taking action – be it a scholarship deadline or a grocery store’s loss leader sale on milk.

You have to be resourceful, organized and willing to do whatever it takes to save cash on expenses that can be cut back … to help pay for the other expenses you can’t do much about.

But you can do it.

And if just a little bit of help is all you need to stay financially independent, you really don’t need to let other people make money off the fact you need money NOW.

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