Budget Counselling: Do I Need Help?

Budget / credit counselling services

Knowing when to seek help from "professional budget / credit counsellors" is a very important step towards your finanical recovery.

Are you struggling financially and feel that you need help? It may be worthwhile to meet with a budget / credit counsellor.

What does counselling really mean?

Budget / credit counselling allows you to take control of your finances with the help of a budget / credit counsellor. This service uses their experience and training to help you determine why you are in debt, and to find ways to deal with the problem.

Who qualifies for budget / credit counselling?

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.

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 budget / credit counselling 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 and disadvantages of budget / credit counselling

  • This service is 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.
  • This service will help you determine what aspects of your spending habits are problematic and have serious repercussions on your lifestyle.
  • There are no 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. And the longer you wait, the more difficult it may be for them to help you if you have already fallen far behind in your payments or have been threatened with legal action or service cut-offs.
Budget / credit counselling things to do and to remember…
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 budget / credit counsellor…

Be aware that there are people who appear to be offering their help but they end up taking advantage of your vulnerability. 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, 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)?
  • 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 is this service available?

This type of service is offered by various types of organizations: provincial governments, non-profit and for profit organizations across Canada.