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It is not necessary to spend a lot of time and effort preparing before talking with a counselor. In fact, for many people, making the call is the first and most important step to improving their financial situation. Rest assured that counselors are well trained and are more than happy to help you through the entire counseling process. That being said, if you do have the time to start thinking about some aspects of your finances before speaking with a counselor, it may help to streamline the process.   

Consider your sources of income

First, consider all of your sources for income. Sources of income might include money received from paychecks, rent, Social Security, and child support. Think about the amount of income you can expect to earn in the future. If your income fluctuates, you will want to be sure and tell your counselor so he or she can help you manage the changing circumstances.

Who and how much do you owe?

Next, identify who you owe and how much you owe. Pulling copies of your latest statements can help with this process. You can also request free copies of your credit reports annually from AnnualCreditReport.com. Don’t worry if you do not have recent copies of your statements or your reports, your counselor can assist you with the identification process.

Consider your expenses

Next, think about where your money is going. It might be helpful to consider that there are three main types of expenses:

  1. Variable expenses are those that vary from month to month, such as clothing and food.
  2. Fixed expenses are those that do not vary from month to month. Examples of fixed expenses include car payments and mortgage or rent payments.
  3. Periodic expenses are those that are not paid on a regular monthly basis. For example, both holiday and tax debts are periodic, meaning they are not part of regular monthly expenditures.
Identify your financial goals

Finally, think about your financial goals. Identifying where you want to be in the future will help you and your counselor develop a plan of action. Remember to set goals that are realistic and flexible.  

If the process of preparing for an appointment seems overwhelming then don’t do it! The best thing you can do is to take that first step by talking to a counselor—the appointment is free, so you have nothing to lose.