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Consumer Watch: Couples can get free help to climb out of debt

Apr. 3, 2010 - 01:02PM   |   Last Updated: Apr. 3, 2010 - 01:02PM  |  
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If there weren't already enough reasons to turn to Military OneSource for help, here's one more: Service members and spouses can get up to 12 free face-to-face financial counseling sessions per year with a nearby counselor.

Military OneSource will arrange for meetings with financial consultants through its partnership with the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. The nonprofit NFCC offers financial education and counseling services at hundreds of locations nationwide.

Military OneSource is a service paid for by the Defense Department that augments installation support services. OneSource offers help on everything from finding child care to dealing with wartime stress, deployments and relocation.

The financial counseling sessions are designed for those who may be experiencing a financial setback, such as dealing with a specific debt problem. The consultant can help analyze a service member's individual situation and develop a plan for debt management.

The counseling sessions are confidential, said Bob Tahler, senior director of partnerships for the foundation, which has been providing these services to the public since 1951.

This partnership points service members and their families to reputable financial counselors, he said, and helps them avoid going to some advertised credit counselors who may end up costing them money without giving them the help they need.

The sessions are available to active-duty, National Guard and reserve members and families based in the continental U.S.

If a financial counselor is not available in your area, or you can't attend the counseling sessions in person, Military OneSource will provide telephone consultations.

While Military OneSource is not available to Coast Guard members and their families, the NFCC also has an agreement with the Coast Guard's Work-Life Program to provide financial counseling.

Take some time to browse">the Web site. There are other free financial tools, including tip sheets, calculators, CDs and DVDs.

To arrange for a session, call 800-342-9647.

Coupon rules

Reader Eunice Kyle asked why the Army and Air Force Exchange Service does not accept Internet coupons that are downloaded and printed on home computers.

It's because of increasing fraudulent coupons being created on computers, AAFES spokesman Chris Ward said. So if it doesn't come from a coupon pad or newspaper insert, AAFES won't accept it.

However, Navy and Marine Corps exchanges, as well as commissaries, do accept Internet coupons. But at least one company, Procter & Gamble, does not authorize Internet coupons for any of its products, according to commissary officials, so they can't accept those because the commissary agency won't be reimbursed for the coupon.

Make sure the coupons you use are valid. Here are some tips from commissary officials:

Coupons must have a typical barcode and Product Identification Number or GSI DataBar.

Commissaries can sell items only at cost, so they have no margin to absorb the cost of fraudulent coupons.

Do your part on the front end to make sure you're not costing your stores money.

Questions? Comments? E-mail staff writer from reader">Karen Jowers at">

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