Sometimes you need help with your finances when you’re strapped for cash. Getting personalized guidance from a financial advisor would be ideal, but there are plenty of free and low-cost alternatives out there, too.

There are many educational resources, volunteer organizations and government-run programs available that offer valuable, unbiased financial advice for free or at a low cost.

These are not substitutes for personalized financial advice, but they could provide useful information that fills in the blanks of your bigger financial picture,

Top ways to get free financial advice

If you want to improve your money know-how but can’t afford to pay a professional quite yet, here are eight ways to find free financial advice.

1. Your bank or credit union

You already trust your bank or credit union with your money, so explore what free resources they offer. All major banks offer educational resources on their websites which can be helpful, but the amount of accessible 1-on-1 advice varies widely from bank to bank.

2. Online brokers

Many online brokers, like Charles Schwab, E-Trade and Fidelity, offer robust educational resources, which can be particularly helpful for new investors. They also tend to offer great research and screener tools if you decide to take a more hands-on approach to your portfolio. The best part: You can easily access these articles, videos, tools and live presentations at no cost through your existing broker account.

3. Budgeting and financial planning apps

Using a budgeting app, like Rocket Money or Mint, can analyze your spending habits and offer recommendations based on your budgeting goals. Some also offer articles, videos and other supplemental material to help you learn about personal finance.

4. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)

The CFPB is a U.S. government agency “dedicated to making sure you are treated fairly by banks, lenders and other financial institutions.” In support of its mission, it provides a host of articles, guides and news reports on the topics of credit cards, debt collection, mortgages and more.

5. Public resources

Many public entities offer free financial classes and seminars. Your local library is one place to look, as well as your community center and county extension office. At the national level, the Department of Labor publishes retirement toolkits and other online materials, and the Federal Trade Commission offers guides for loans, mortgages and credit reports.

6. HUD-approved counselors

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers comprehensive home advice for free or at a low cost. HUD-approved counselors can offer guidance not only on buying a home, but also rental housing services, foreclosure avoidance, credit issues and reverse mortgages. HUD partners with local nonprofit agencies to host seminars, workshops and meet with members of the public.

To find a HUD-approved housing counseling service near you, use this HUD database.

7. Financial Planning Association (FPA)

The FPA offers pro bono financial planning for underserved and at-risk communities. The association has 80 active chapters in states all over the U.S. It also has a list of financial planners providing pro bono financial planning for post-9/11 military veterans and individuals diagnosed with cancer.

8. Savvy Ladies

Savvy Ladies is a nonprofit organization with the goal of promoting the advancement of self-reliant, financially educated women. It offers webinars, panel discussions and articles. Savvy Ladies also runs a free helpline, which can connect you to a volunteer financial professional for one hour of free financial advice.

When should you pay for financial advice?

Free financial resources can make you more money-savvy, but they can’t replace personalized advice in all situations. For more advanced financial planning, it might be worth paying someone instead. If you need help finding an advisor, you can use Bankrate’s free AdvisorMatch to get connected with a certified financial planner in minutes.

This is especially true if you have complex estate planning or tax questions, since these go beyond the scope of free financial advice services. The same is true if you’re starting a business and need help organizing your startup’s finances. In general, volunteer or pro bono services are best for helping with basic, day-to-day financial planning.

Bottom line

If you’re going through a major life change — like finishing college, approaching retirement or getting married— it’s natural to seek out financial advice. But if your budget is tight, there are plenty of free resources out there, though some offer more personalized advice than others. It can be worthwhile to pay a financial professional in some cases. Complex tax and estate planning questions justify a fee – making mistakes here can cost you big and cause long-lasting legal headaches. Starting with free resources is a good idea, but be aware of their limitations.

You can also take advantage of Bankrate’s free course on investing for beginners where we break down the different types of investment options available and how to build a smart portfolio. Or check out this course on budgeting for beginners instead.

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