Consumer Credit Counseling – Right for Me?

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Debt Consolidation vs. Credit Counseling

Debt Consolidation vs. Credit Counseling

Lots of people are struggling to get their debt under control, to create a budget, to save
more money and live more comfortably within their means. If you have been struggling
to make your monthly payments, you might consider Consumer Credit Counseling.

But perhaps you’re wondering, “What is Consumer Credit Counseling? Is it right for me?
How can they help me?”

I interviewed a friend of mine (we’ll call him “Chris” to protect his privacy) who recently
went through Consumer Credit Counseling. Chris was struggling to pay off his credit
card debts, and he decided to go in for Consumer Credit Counseling to see if they could
help improve his financial situation. You can learn from Chris’s experience to decide if
Consumer Credit Counseling is right for you.

Why try Consumer Credit Counseling?

Chris decided to try Consumer Credit Counseling because his job situation changed
and he was suddenly bringing in less money.

“I began to feel the pinch with the first paycheck,” Chris said. “I’d always kind of worked
off of a rough mental budget, but I never had put all the numbers together. So I sat
down and wrote out a budget, and the simple mathematical reality hit me immediately: I
had more monthly expenses than I had income.”

Chris knew that he had to either make more money, reduce his expenses or both. He
had seen ads on TV for Consumer Credit Counseling, and so he decided that this would
be a good place to start.

How can Consumer Credit Counseling help you?

When you go in for Consumer Credit Counseling, you’ll usually be assigned a
counselor who can help you put together a budget and look at the total picture of your
finances. Beyond that, the Consumer Credit Counseling service can offer you a debt
management program to get reduced interest rates on your credit cards.

“My counselor offered me a debt management program with lower interest rates on
my credit cards,” said Chris. “It appeared that each lender has pre-determined rates
that they give to people in a debt management program. The counselor was able to tell
me, ‘This account will drop to X% interest, and this one to X%,’ and so on.”

Depending on each individual person’s situation, Consumer Credit Counseling might
reduce your interest payments, lower your monthly payments or help you get out of debt
“In my case, the debt management program only reduced my monthly minimum
payments by about 10%, but much more of my monthly payments would have been
going towards principal, getting me out of debt faster,” said Chris. “With their program
I would’ve been out of debt in about 5 years, whereas continuing to make minimum
payments would’ve kept me in debt until I die.”

Chris ultimately decided not to go with the Consumer Credit Counseling debt
management program. “In my case, the debt management program didn’t reduce my
expenses enough to fix my budget shortfall and break my dependence upon credit,”
said Chris. “I think their debt management program can help you if you already make
enough money to cover your bills—it will help you get out of debt faster. But if you have
a significant budget shortfall, it isn’t a great help.”

Chris ultimately decided to declare bankruptcy, but going in for Consumer Credit
Counseling helped him clarify his options and understand the full scope of the situation.

How much does Consumer Credit Counseling cost? Is it free?

Chris’s credit counseling sessions were free. Most Consumer Credit Counseling
services will provide a free initial consultation. “To my knowledge, you are only charged
if you enter into their debt management program,” said Chris. “The counseling service is
structured as a non-profit and they actually are paid for mostly by creditors – banks and
credit card companies.”

For more information on Consumer Credit Counseling, check out the National
Foundation for Credit Counseling to find a credit counseling service in your area.

Whether you need to reduce your expenses, increase your income, get out of debt or all of the
above, can help you save more money and increase your net worth. We offer free
personal finance tools and resources to help you create a stronger financial foundation, set a
budget, improve your credit, and save more money.