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by Abigail Van Buren

Couple Feeling Financial Strain Receives Many Helpful Ideas

DEAR ABBY: "Holding on in Arkansas" (Feb. 27) asked where to go for free counseling. You suggested she call her local mental health department for counseling options for her marriage and money issues. Another resource would be her local church.

Pastors often offer counseling to couples. Many churches also have support groups for parents to connect with each other. I have seen churches save marriages and get couples back on the right track emotionally and financially. -- PASSING IT ON IN TENNESSEE

DEAR PASSING IT ON: Your suggestion was mentioned by a number of other readers. They, too, felt that solving her financial problems would lessen or eliminate the marital discord "Holding" and her husband are experiencing. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: One of the largest contributors to our national charitable network -- United Way -- offers many helpful services. The Consumer Credit Counseling Service may also be a resource, if credit cards are part of the problem.

If there is a choice between paying a bill or buying groceries, the bill should come first. There are many food pantries. The family can also apply for food stamps.

Asking for help can be difficult or embarrassing, but knowing your kids won't be hungry makes it worth it. -- BEEN THERE, DONE THAT, TOO

DEAR ABBY: "Holding" should contact her bank about refinancing her mortgage. If she can't pay her electric bill, she should see if she qualifies for a reduced rate for her income level. As for the kids, if they're in school, they probably meet the criteria for the reduced-cost lunch program. -- FULL OF IDEAS IN WASHINGTON

DEAR ABBY: "Holding" should seek help from the school counselor. He/she can recommend mental health support within the family's financial means, and connect them with additional community resources to lessen some of the stresses of daily life. With many families struggling in many ways, encouraging this woman to seek out available help is crucial. -- SCHOOL COUNSELOR-IN-TRAINING

DEAR ABBY: Does her employer or her husband's have an Employee Assistance Program? These services offer a wide range of help, including dealing with mental health and financial issues, and may be paid for as part of the employer's contract with the EAP organization. -- JUST MY TWO CENTS

DEAR ABBY: If the woman's county doesn't have a mental health department, her region should have a department of public health. Or she could be guided by the school nurse at her children's school. School nurses are often the first responders to families in crisis or in need of counseling. -- NEW ENGLAND NURSE

DEAR ABBY: It is human nature to want the best for one's family, but a lot of the couples suffering this kind of stress have brought it on themselves.

There won't be enough money for food and monthly bills if they are paying for new cars, a house they can't afford, ordering takeout instead of cooking, subscribing to the deluxe cable TV package, going on expensive vacations and paying for activities the kids "have to do" just because their friends are. Couples' financial problems could be greatly improved if they would only make better choices. -- LIVING WITHIN MY MEANS DOWN SOUTH

Read more in: Money | Marriage & Divorce | Mental Health

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