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Get help managing debt and finding resources | Dollars and Sense

Relying on credit cards to get by during the pandemic? Credit counseling could help people stay on top of things and ease their burden.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The COVID-19 pandemic has led some people to lean on their credit cards just to stay afloat. Given the choice between putting groceries on a credit card or not having food for their family, most people likely would put it on their card. 

While using plastic can be unavoidable at times, staying on top of your debt is still a must.

For those struggling to keep up, Kate Bulger, Director of Money Management International, a non-profit credit counseling service, says it’s best to do something before they can’t make the minimum payment.

"The earlier you act, the better your options are," said Bulger. "Every day that you're waiting, doors can start to close on what we can do and what options are available for you."

Bulger says a good first step is to prioritize your expenses to make sure that you are paying things in the order that they are most important to you. 

"What you really want to do is protect as much of your income and resources as you can. You don't want to be sacrificing something that's very important just because the bill for something that's less important came up earlier in the month," she told ABC10.

A HUD-certified credit counseling service also can connect you to other resources that may help, whether you’re having credit card issues--or trouble paying your mortgage or rent.

"In the beginning of the pandemic, we saw a lot of homeowners who were in need, but right now the overwhelming number of folks in need are renters," said Bulger. "If there's assistance in their area, we help them figure out what It is and get them so they can apply for it."

Bulger says help is out there and you shouldn't be afraid to look for it. "You're not alone. And reach out for help right away."

"Look for someone who specializes in financial counseling and education. Make sure they're someone that's not charging you for that service if you're looking for just basic budgeting, and credit health or housing assistance. If you're looking for a housing issue, make sure that you're working with a HUD-certified agency. You can find those on the HUD website."

And be sure to do your research. "Check the Better Business Bureau. It's a great place to look to see make sure that they have a good rating, you know, that there's not complaints against them," said Bulger.

At ABC10, we stand for you and work to find answers to your money questions every day. Text your questions and story ideas to our Dollars and Sense team at 916.321.3310.

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If you have a financial question or concern, text the 'Dollars and Sense' team at 916-321-3310.