Create an effective family budget

January 19, 2009 4:23:46 PM PST
Get out of debt and create an effective family budget. Chris Lombardo, with ClearPoint Financial Solutions, has some advice.

Top 10 Financial Survival Tips
By Chris Lombardo, Certified Financial Specialist

  1. Get help. You can't do this all alone. There are experienced professionals here to help you. Contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling or your local Better Business Bureau for a non-profit Credit Counseling Agency, like ClearPoint Financial Solutions.
  2. Stop using credit cards, payday loans, cash advances and finance company loans. Getting deeper and deeper into debt is not the way out. Put them away for true emergencies.
  3. Develop a spending plan. Know how much is coming in and where it's going. Take a hard look at what you and your family need vs. what you want.
  4. Save. Work to save 3-6 months worth of living expenses.
  5. Work together. Involve the entire household so that everyone has the opportunity to participate in the success of the plan. Teach your children that stability is more important than status.
  6. Get creative. Think of new sources of income, everything from babysitting, to yard work, to using your hobbies and skills (crafts, small appliance repair, and woodworking, for example.) Try a garage sale or use an online auction.
  7. Dream Big. Identify your short and long term goals, be realistic and write them down to help you stay focused. Put them on the kitchen refrigerator, the bathroom mirror or anyplace else you'll see them every day.
  8. Think small. Little changes to everyday spending habits can add up quickly. Besides once you see that you can make progress with little changes you'll be more confident to make the bigger changes.
  9. Start NOW! Don't wait. Start working on building a better financial future for you and your family today.
  10. DON'T PANIC! When we respond emotionally instead of rationally we tend to make rash and impulsive decisions. Don't take any action without thoroughly reviewing all of the benefits and potential consequences. Slow down, take a deep breath and try to relax.
Q: What is "Credit Counseling"?

A: A reputable credit counseling organization can advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and usually offer free educational materials and workshops. Their counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, money and debt management, and budgeting. Counselors should review your entire financial situation with you, discuss what options you have, and help you develop a personalized action plan to solve your money problems. An initial counseling session typically lasts an hour, with an offer of follow-up sessions if needed. Most non-profit credit counseling agencies, like ClearPoint Financial Solutions, will offer free credit and budget counseling.

Q: Who needs Credit Counseling?

A: Everyone! But seriously, who couldn't benefit from talking to an objective, professional credit counselor. It's just like talking to a nutritionist or personal trainer. A certified credit counselor can help you see what things you're already doing right, validate and encourage you to do some of the things you've thought about doing and they can offer some suggestions you may not have thought about.

Q: What sort of person comes to your agency for credit counseling?

A: ClearPoint's clients come from every walk of life you can imagine.

Q: When should someone contact a credit counseling agency?

A: Before they start experiencing real money troubles. We hear it all the time "I wish I had called sooner and gotten help."

Q: Where can our viewers go to find out more information about credit counseling?

A: Anyone who would like learn more about credit counseling, read stories about other people in debt, or share their experience can log on to and if they would like to talk to a certified credit counselor they can call 1-800-737-2933.

Finding a Consumer Credit Counseling Services Agency
The right consumer credit counseling service can be a lifesaver to those swimming in debt. A reliable, non-profit agency can advise you on smart uses of credit, guide you in creating an effective household budget, and help structure solid debt management and repayment.

What To Look For in a Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) Agency

  • For referrals to reliable non-profit consumer credit counseling services, contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling ( Agencies like ClearPoint Financial Solutions who are members of the NFCC follow specific standards of conduct, employ certified credit counselors, and adhere to a strict privacy policy. Also, check with your local Better Business Bureau. ClearPoint Credit Counseling Solutions has a system wide membership in good standing.

  • Professional consumer credit counseling services should always provide information on services that could best fit a consumer's needs, detailed information on payment plans, a projected time frame for debt payoff, written confirmation of any verbal guarantees, and contact information including the name of a personalized credit counselor.

  • For services provided via telephone, a reliable consumer credit counseling services agency doesn't just offer general advice, but should also takes the time to evaluate your whole situation. You may talk with the credit counselor at length before a specific plan is suggested that best fits your needs. The credit counselor will also discuss the importance of ongoing communication, including regular follow up sessions, balance updates, and account maintenance.

  • Look for agencies where counselors do not receive incentives, and will provide a credit counseling session custom-fit to your individual situation. Information and educational materials should be provided for free.

  • If you enroll in a Debt Management Program, some agencies may ask you to pay a setup fee and monthly fees to cover the cost of account maintenance. These fees should be relatively low in respect to the benefits being provided, and at a reliable non-profit agency like ClearPoint Financial Solutions; you will never be refused help just because you cannot afford to pay a fee.
About Chris Lombardo
Chris Lombardo is the Western Region Director of ClearPoint Financial Solutions, a non-profit consumer credit counseling agency. He is certified as a credit counselor by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) and has been helping consumers understand and resolve their credit issues for over 12 years.

Based out of ClearPoint's Seattle, Washington, office, Chris works in partnership with a broad range of businesses, community and non-profit organizations to provide educational workshops on budgeting, using credit wisely and understanding credit reports.

Chris currently serves as Co-Chair of the Snohomish County Financial Asset Development Coalition, he is a member of the Seattle-King County Asset Building Collaborative and Financial Educators Network, and has been a designated representative to the Washington State Asset Building Coalition.

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