You’re being sued. That sucks. Hopefully you have insurance to help cover the cost of the settlement (if that’s what you decide to do). It is unlikely, however, that your insurance will cover the cost of your legal fees and court costs. So where do you find that money when you need it?
Your Emergency Fund
Hopefully you’ve been tucking away money in an emergency fund for just this type of situation. Sure, when you think of “emergency,” you probably think of hospital bills, auto accidents, or a major home repair. Thankfully, the person who decides where your emergency fund should go is you!
Pull up your budget on your favorite budgeting software and play with your numbers for a little bit. You might be amazed at how much wiggle room exists – especially if you’ve been really good about sticking to your budget for a while. Consider the following options:
1. Take 10-15% from your food/personal care budget and apply it to your legal bills. You can buy a lot of things in bulk and make a lot of things from scratch. This will save you a bunch of money so you won’t even miss that reallocated 10-15%.
2. Pay less on your bills for a few months. Don’t go under your minimum amount due – you don’t want to mess up your credit! Still, you can probably afford to pay just a few dollars over the minimum due for a while and put whatever else you were paying toward your legal fees.
3. Cut your entertainment/dining out budget in half and send 50% to your legal bills. Remember – the library is a great place to find books to read, movies to watch, and music to listen to for free!
Can you sell anything to bring in extra money for your legal funds?
1. Go through your house. If you do not use something at least once a year and it doesn’t have a whole bunch of sentimental value (and you won’t get written out of anybody’s will if you get rid of it), sell it! Believe it or not, there really is a market for things like old DVDs, VHS tapes, CDs, books, houseware, etc. Never underestimate the disposable income that collectors like to throw around.
2. Does your family utilize more than one vehicle? Does it need to? Becoming a one-car family can be a fantastic way to shore up your legal fund. Depending on the age/condition of the car you’re selling and your case, you might even be able to pay off your legal bills completely. You can still get around on a bicycle or via public transit – for way less than you were spending on gas every month.
If you own your home and have built up some equity, you can use that equity to secure a good-sized loan (usually called a second mortgage) to help you pay off your legal fees. Tread carefully with this one!
Are you crafty or handy? Why not make things and sell them to help bring in extra money for your legal fund? You can also offer to do small chores and make minor repairs for your friends and neighbors. Get creative! There are lots of ways to earn money both online and off.
Your Friends and Family
Obviously you don’t want to run to your friends or family for loans unless you absolutely have to. Still, if you’ve tried everything else, the worst that can happen is they’ll say no, right?
Have you had to come up with a bunch of money in a small amount of time? What did you do? How did you find the money when you needed it?
Erin Steiner has written extensively about personal finance and other topics for a wide variety of websites.