Consumers falling into the credit trap generally don't have a budget and don't keep track of their spending. Some questions to ask yourself:
*Are your expenses growing faster than your income?
*Do you post-date checks or send checks to creditors without signing them, to gain extra time?
*Do you have less than three months' take-home pay put away for an emergency?
*Are you taking money from savings to pay for credit charges?
*Are you taking out new installment loans before the old ones are paid off?
*Are you paying bills in 45 or 60 days rather than on time?
*Are you taking cash advances on your credit card to cover regular living expenses?
*Are you working overtime to cover credit charges?
*Do your installment loan payments equal more than 20 percent of your monthly take-home pay?
*Are you making only minimum repayments on your installment charges and continuing to charge new items?
*Are you perilously close to the debt limit on all your charge cards?
If you find yourself answering yes to more than one of those questions, chances are you could use some help. Among nonprofit places to begin:
*The National Foundation for Consumer Credit Inc., Suite 601, 8701 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, Md. 20910. This parent organization of the 256 CCC&ES offices across the country can refer you to the appropriate CCC&ES branch and also serves as a clearinghouse for credit information.
*The Consumer Credit Counseling and Educational Service of Greater Washington Inc., 11426 Rockville Pike, Suite 105, Rockville, Md. 20852. (301) 231-5833. Three branch offices: 1120 G St. NW, Suite B175, Washington, D.C. 20005, (202) 638-6996; 801 N. Pitt St., Suite 101, Alexandria, Va. 22314, (703) 836-8772; 3541 Chain Bridge Rd., Suite 3A, Fairfax, Va. 22030, (703) 591-9020. There are no counseling fees and contributions for debt-management assistance are voluntary.
*Debtors Anonymous, patterned after the Alcoholics Anonymous program, has five regular meetings in the Greater Washington area. For more information, call (301) 369-1535, or write Debtors Anonymous, General Service Board, P.O. Box 20322, New York, N.Y. 10025-9992.
Anyone considering going to a for-profit credit counseling service is advised to first check on them with your consumer affairs office or the Better Business Bureau.