How to Prepare for Your Credit Counseling Session

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.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.
  • The National Council of Higher Education Resources (NCHER) is the nation’s oldest and largest higher education finance trade association. NCHER’s membership includes state, nonprofit, and for-profit higher education service organizations, including lenders, servicers, guaranty agencies, collection agencies, financial literacy providers, and schools, interested and involved in increasing college access and success. It assists its members in shaping policies governing federal and private student loan and state grant programs on behalf of students, parents, borrowers, and families.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.