6 Secret Ways Anyone Can Get Financial Advice Without Blowing Wads of Cash

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What does it cost to give your finances a checkup?

If you’re going through a major life change — a new career, a new relationship, maybe you’ve got a new baby on the way — you might feel compelled to seek financial advice. But even the most basic plans from certified financial planners can cost anywhere from a few hundred bucks to a few thousand.

If you want to be more money-savvy but aren’t necessarily ready to work with one of the pros, here are a few ways to organize your finances for success without spending a ton of cash.

1. Use a Personal Finance App or Budget Tool

If you’ve just started to think about your spending and saving habits, a budgeting app can help you get a bird’s-eye view of what you’re working with. Personal accounting systems — many of them are available in desktop and mobile forms — can analyze your spending habits and give you recommendations based on the budgeting goals you set.

Using a budgeting tool or tracking your spending habits by hand can help you think about your relationship with money and questions you may want to ask a professional.

2. Work With a Credit Counselor

If you feel like you’re drowning in debt, start by working with a credit counselor who’s certified by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

A credit counselor will meet with you by phone or in person to ask about your debt and other aspects of your financial situation. The counselor can help you evaluate potential steps to reduce your debt and prevent further debt.

Most certified credit counselors offer services at no cost or charge nominal fees.

3. Attend a Community Class

Check your local library, senior center or community center calendar for free or low-fee workshops covering a variety of personal finance topics. The Financial Clinic offers financial coaching via community partners in California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.

4. Seek Financial Counseling

Members of the Association for Financial Counseling & Planning Education (AFCPE) can help you with money management and other financial basics. An accredited financial counselor can help you address your financial roadblocks and plan for the future but isn’t permitted to sell you any products.

Rates for counseling typically start at about $75 per hour, according to member counselors’ websites listed in the AFCPE directory. Counselors in your area may also lead workshops or classes for the public.

5. Attend a Financial Planning Day Event

Certified financial planners volunteer their time each autumn to lead workshops or host one-on-one sessions during Financial Planning Day events across the country. The planners who take part aren’t allowed to sell you anything — they’re not even allowed to hand you a business card. It’s 100% no-strings-attached financial advice.

You can find local events, register and find out how to prepare for an event on the Financial Planning Day website.

6. Pay a Certified Financial Planner for a la Carte Services

Looking for advice on a specific aspect of your finances? You may be able to work with a certified financial planner on an hourly or package rate. If you’re researching financial planners, ask about specialty or a la carte services.

“I always tell younger consumers that it’s never too early to start engaging with an adviser,” says Geof Brown, CEO at National Association of Personal Financial Advisors. “There’s someone out there who has services and a fee structure that will meet your needs.”

Lisa Rowan is a writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder.