Budget Counselling – Seeking Help From the "Pros"
Are you struggling financially and feel that you need help? It may be worthwhile to meet with a budget/credit counsellor.
What is Budget/Credit Counselling?
Budget/credit counselling allows you to take control of your finances with the help of a professional budget/credit counsellor. These professionals use their experience and training to help you determine why you are in debt, and to find ways to deal with the problem.
Anyone can use a budget/credit counselling service. Counselling will help you establish a realistic plan for managing your money. The budget counsellor can also help you find other options if budgeting alone can't solve your financial problems.
Note: You can use budget/credit counselling services even if you do not currently have any problems with debt. These organizations are there to help you with financial strategies to address your current financial situation and to avoid trouble in the future. Don't wait until it is too late to consult them.
How Much Does it Cost?
Most community organizations offer this service free of charge. In other cases, while there are fees attached to some services, non-profit organizations generally try to offer low cost service options. Private organizations that provide this type of service may also charge a fee. Before making an appointment, find out how much the organization you are considering charges for its services.
Advantages of Budget/Credit Counselling
- These services are confidential and you do not have to worry that your bank or your creditors will be notified or will find out about your financial situation.
- These services will help you determine what aspects of your spending habits are problematic and have serious repercussions on your lifestyle.
Note: There are no real disadvantages to using budget/credit counselling services. However, since some of these services are offered free of charge, you may have to wait some time before getting an appointment. The longer you wait, the more difficult it may be for them to help you if you have already fallen behind in your payments, or have been threatened with legal action or service cut-offs.
Things to Do and to Remember…
- To receive budget/credit counselling, you must make an appointment with an organization that offers this service. Several meetings may be necessary in order to set up your budget and get you back on track.
- Do not delay, since you may have to wait a long time before getting an appointment with organizations that offer these services for free; during this time, your financial situation may deteriorate.
- It is up to you to work with your counsellor to develop a solid plan that allows you to manage your money wisely. Once a financial plan is in place, you must be disciplined and follow it. If, however, you notice that your situation is not improving and you need further help, it is usually possible to set up additional meetings with your counsellor.
Before You Decide to Meet with A Counsellor
Be aware that there are people who appear to be offering their help but they may end up taking advantage of your vulnerability. Always double check before signing anything and be sure to ask questions, notably with respect to fees:
- Is the first consultation free?
- What about the costs for any other subsequent consultations?
And, if a debt consolidation or debt management plan/program is proposed to you, always double-check before signing anything.
- What will be the total costs (they may be built into your overall monthly payment)?
- What is the length of the program that you are committing to, and what are the terms and conditions (for example, if you want to opt out)?
Note: Be wary also of any counsellor that pressures you to sign up for such plans/programs, without first taking the time to fully evaluate your situation and discuss options.
Be sure that you understand all the implications of the plan/program (for example, what are your roles and responsibilities, if and how the creditors will be informed, what are the impacts on your credit report, can you use credit cards, are you protected from certain legal actions, what is the payment schedule, etc).
Where Are These Services Available?
Budget and credit counselling services are offered by various types of organizations including: provincial governments, non-profit organizations and for profit companies across Canada.
Debtor Assistance Program
This program is provided by Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.
Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations
Toll free: 1-800-670-4357
SNSMR's Debtor Assistance Program Website
Provincial Mediation Board
Offered by the Saskatchewan Justice Department, this Board provides budgeting advice and counselling services.
Toll free: 1-877-787-5408
Toll free: 1-888-215-2222
Ontario Association of Credit Counselling Services (OACCS)
OACCS is a registered charity that represents a membership network of not-for-profit credit counselling agencies.
Tel.: 1-888-7-IN DEBT
Union des consommateurs
Union is a consumer organization made up of 10 ACEFs (Association coopérative d'économie familiale) as members.
Outside Montreal: 1-888-521-6820
Union des consommateurs's Website
(in French only)
Coalition des associations de consommateurs du Québec
The CACQ is a national group of consumer associations of which, 22 organizations that provide credit counselling services are members.
(in French only)
For All Other Provinces and Territories
Credit Counselling Canada (CCC)
CCC is a national association of not-for-profit credit counselling agencies which includes members that serve all provinces and territories. To find the agency nearest you, visit Credit Counselling Canada's Website.
Information on other non-profit organizations and for-profit companies that provide credit counselling services can be found in your local phone book.
You can also call your consumer protection association, the ministry that oversees consumer protection in your province or territory, or the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against the person or company you are planning to deal with.
Warning Signs of Debt | Ways to Reduce Your Debt | "Last Resort" Options | Information on Collection Agencies | Credit and Credit Repair | Loans and Co-signing | Special Debts | Additional Resources on Personal Finances and Debt | Glossary of Terms
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