Nicole helps: get a car repaired with no money

Hi Nicole, I am a single woman aged 53 and due to some health issues, I earn very little as a cleaner working two days a week. I make enough to live on but only have $60 spare dollars each week. I'm lucky - my parents left me their house when they died so I have no accommodation issues or costs. The problem is I have virtually nothing in savings - and the Holy Sh*t fund you talk about is non-existent. I'm writing to you because the mechanic tells me my car is about to need a new gearbox and it's going to cost $1000 for a second hand one. I just don't know what to do. I need it to get to work. - Debra, Wollongong

Dealing with car repairs can be expensive.

Dealing with car repairs can be expensive.

That's a distressing situation Debra - but by no means one without hope. You have your home and you have your $60 spare a week.

Without knowing the details of your income, you also sound like you might be eligible for an interest-free loan from an amazing not-for-profit called Good Shepherd Microfinance. In fact the staff tell me 380,000 Australians could access their loans in situations such as yours, but only 8 per cent of those who are eligible actually have.

Even so, last year 22,400 people were lent some $20 million through the No-Interest Loan Scheme (NILS).

To be eligible, you must earn less than $45,000 after tax and hold a Health Care Card or pension card.

NILS will cover an essential good or service (say a new fridge or medical procedure) or pay an essential bill (a car repair) of up to $1200 and you are able to repay the debt at a manageable rate over the next 12 to 18 months.

You get the loans through more than 600 community organisations around Australia??? the closest to you may be the Bulli Community Centre or Port Kembla Community Centre.

If your car ultimately lets you down, there may also be the option to access the StepUp program, which is offered by Good Shepherd in conjunction with NAB. These loans are for amount of up to $3000 and attract an interest rate of 5.99 per cent. Again with this one you need a Health Care Card/pension card (or be in receipt of Family Tax Benefit A) to qualify. Loans are repaid over three years.

Don't beat yourself up about your situation Debra??? it sounds as though you are really good with money - possibly better than a lot of people who have more of it! And one in three women have no Holy Sh*t fund, according to research by finder.com.

But as soon as you pay back your NILS debt, start putting that spare $60 into a high-interest bank account so you have the capacity to deal with it next time shit happens.

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon is a money educator and consumer advocate: themoneymentorway.com. You can write to her for help solving your money problem, or with a consumer question, at nicolehelps@fairfaxmedia.com.au.

This story Nicole helps: get a car repaired with no money first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.