If you're unemployed and cash is tight, you might be tempted to shell out a few hundred bucks to help you find a job or dig yourself out of debt. June Walbert, a financial planner with USAA Financial Planning Services, says consumers must be careful if they're considering spending money on career or debt advisers. Here's how to get the most for your money: Finding a new job: Walbert says job hunters should consider spending money on improving their resumes. The average person makes many simple mistakes, such as crafting resumes that are too long or highlighting the wrong work experience. Those missteps aren't looked upon favorably by potential employers. Working with a resume expert can cost $150 or more, but Walbert says it's worth it. "A resume is a first snapshot that a potential, and hopefully future, employer will have of you," she says. "You need to make it a quick, accurate and compelling picture." If your new resume gets you in the door, a day-long interview course could help you make the best impression when you meet with potential employers. These workshops will teach you how to answer common interview questions and improve your conversation skills. "This type of training can help you shorten your answers and give them more impact," Walbert says. She recommends avoiding recruiting and job placement firms that charge fees upfront. Instead, tap your network of friends and former colleagues. Web sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook make it easy to reconnect with old co-workers. As you spread the word about your job search, be specific about the kinds of jobs you're looking for and where you're willing to work, Walbert says.
Getting out of debt: Walbert advises against calling debt consolidation companies that advertise online and on late-night television. These firms often charge hundreds or thousands of dollars for their services. Even if they reduce your debt, any settled amounts will be treated as income when you file your taxes, possibly forcing you to pay more. A debt settlement also leaves a black mark on your credit report, which might make it difficult to borrow later. Walbert recommends taking a do-it-yourself approach to paying debt, using resources available on the Internet. One place to look: The nonprofit National Foundation for Credit Counseling, which can help you find a reputable credit counselor. The foundation and its counselors might charge a small fee, but it will be far less than those imposed by private firms, she says.