Personal Financial Help

It can be tricky to manage your finances, make a budget, and find help with common money questions. Here are some resources that can make it easier.

Looking for help with taxes? Visit our tax resources page for free tax assistance options and links to Illinois and federal tax forms.

Immediate Assistance

If you find yourself in a sudden financial emergency, here are some options for help. The Niles Township Social Services Office and Village of Skokie Human Services Division will provide assistance and referrals to other organizations based on your situation and are always a good place to start. 

If you require legal assistance, call the CARPLS Cook County Legal Hotline at 312-738-9200 for free advice from attorneys. If you do not have a phone, you can use one at the library. Illinois Legal Aid Online also has resources and a free online referral service.

Housing and Utilities

Food Assistance

There are a number of local food pantries and resources locally available, some with eligibility requirements, such as residency. 

  • The Niles Township Food Pantry is open to residents of Niles Township (which includes Skokie). View hours and more information
  • The Hillside Food Pantry and the CityLine Bible Church Food Pantry are open to anyone, regardless of residency or income. Call Hillside at 847-328-7182 and CityLine at 847-920-7496 for information about how to get food.
  • Vineyard Christian Church Food Pantry is located in Evanston and serves Illinois residents. Call 847-328-4544 for more information.
  • Rahmah Interfaith Food Pantry provides halal food and is open to everyone. Call them at 773-501-4479.
  • Seniors can sign up for meal deliveries through Meals on Wheels Northeastern Illinois. Visit their website or call them at 847-332-2678.
  • You can also call the National Hunger Hotline at 866-348-6479 for English or 877-842-6273 for Spanish.
  • The Greater Chicago Food Depository collects a database of Chicago-area food pantries. Search their network.

Federal assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) may be available to you based on your income. In Illinois, these are administered by the Department of Human Services. Information about applying for these programs is available on the Application for Benefits Eligibility website, and you can call 800-843-6154 to ask questions or to apply over the phone.

Unemployment Benefits and Jobs

You can file for Unemployment Benefits online at the Illinois Department of Employment Security. View a list of information you need to file an online Illinois Unemployment Insurance claim. The Illinois Department of Employment Security can also be reached by calling 800-526-0844.

If you or someone you know needs help finding a job, visit our Job Seekers page for resources, including a list of local organizations that will provide career coaching.

Budgeting and Financial Coaching 

Budgeting can help you manage your financial decisions, avoid excessive debt, and plan for the future. If you’re having difficulties or want some help getting started, there are local nonprofits that will coach you on financial planning.

Financial counseling services: 

You may also consider an online tool for budgeting and expense tracking:

The Skokie Public Library also has books on budgeting.

Saving and Investing

Learn to spend, borrow, save, and invest wisely. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Savings Fitness A Guide to Your Money and Financial Future contains a good overview of sound financial practices and avoiding common pitfalls, and the Illinois Financial Wellness Hub has brief courses on banking and going beyond checking and savings accounts. For up-to-date information and evaluations of banks, savings accounts, and credit unions, check Bankrate and Investopedia. Also see resources about banks from Illinois Legal Aid.

If you want to invest your money, there are a number of helpful resources available on the internet and from the library.

Understanding Credit

Make sense of credit so that you can build a clean financial history, avoid scams, and take steps to prevent fraud and identity theft. 

Credit Reports and Credit Scores

Credit reports and credit scores are different. A credit report has information from the past decade or so about all of your credit activity—loans, mortgages, credit cards—and public records like bankruptcies. A credit score is simply a three-digit number meant to evaluate how likely you are to repay credit you receive. Credit scores are based on information in your credit report, so errors in your credit report can affect your credit score. For more information about the differences between credit reports and credit scores, read these articles from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or take this course from the Illinois Financial Wellness Hub.

You can receive a free credit report every week from each of the major consumer reporting companies. Visit their website to access free online credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and Transunion.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends routinely checking credit reports and disputing inaccurate information. Learn more about refuting inaccurate information with a credit reporting agency. If you have trouble correcting inaccurate information, you can submit a complaint with the CFPB. For more information about credit, try these resources from Illinois Legal Aid Online.

Improving Your Credit Score

Having a good credit score can have a large impact on your life in many ways, from lower interest rates to approval for renting property. InCharge Debt Solutions and Forbes both have articles on the benefits of good credit, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has tips on how to get and keep a good credit score. Illinois Legal Aid Online also has an article on improving a credit score, if yours is low. If you don’t know what your credit score is, there are several ways to find out.

The Illinois Financial Wellness Hub has a brief online course on optimizing your credit score, and you can take classes and receive one-on-one coaching on how to improve your credit score from Working Credit, a non-profit organization. There is also information available from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau about how to select, screen, and contact a reputable credit counselor, if you would like additional assistance. The Skokie Public Library also has books about credit.

Debt Collection

Debt collectors are not allowed to use unfair practices to collect debts. Debt collectors might harass you or otherwise violate the law when contacting you, expecting you to be unaware. Know your rights and learn best practices to use when contacting creditors and debt collectors to discuss debts and negotiating repayment plans. Illinois Legal Aid Online has public resources available if you are being sued or being otherwise pursued for your debt.

If you need legal assistance or advice, call the CARPLS Cook County Legal Hotline at 312-738-9200 or get a referral online from Illinois Legal Aid Online. Both resources will provide referrals or legal advice to you free of charge.

Protecting Yourself

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission have tips to identify, avoid and prevent scammers, fraudsters, and bad actors intent on identity theft and other types of scams. To protect your personal financial information, the FTC provides information about online privacy. Illinois Legal Aid Online also has advice for avoiding identity theft, along with first steps for recovering if your identity has been stolen.

If you have already been a victim of identity theft, start by going to, a website maintained by the Federal Trade Commission. You can report the theft or simply review a full list of next steps.


Learn more about what's involved in borrowing money for things like school, a home purchase, or a car. 

Getting and Repaying Student Loans

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) helps students find scholarships, select a college, navigate the financial aid process, and more. They have college planning and financial aid events, and you can contact nearby members for free one-on-one assistance.

Visit the ISAC financial aid toolbox for additional resources or go directly to the website of the Federal Student Aid Office to learn about types of financial aid sources and the financial aid application process. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also offers information about paying for college.

If you are a current student loan holder and are having trouble with your loan payments, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau also has advice for managing repayment. If you have federal loans, you may be eligible for student loan forgiveness or income-driven repayment. Find more information about specific different income-driven repayment and forgiveness programs.

Read more about understanding student loan repayment and tips for managing student loan debt. The Skokie Public Library also has books about paying for college.

Buying a Home

If you are considering buying a home, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has tools and resources for homebuyers to help you navigate the buying process. has an online mortgage calculator to estimate monthly payment costs. Most resources assume that you will be buying alone or with a spouse who shares your bank account—if you’re thinking about buying property with friends instead, take a look at these articles from Investopedia and US News.

If you are struggling to buy a home or to qualify for a loan, there are local resources that may be able to help you.

Check out books from the library about buying your home and about mortgages.

Auto Loans

Before you take out a loan to pay for your next vehicle, read the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau guide to understanding and comparing auto loans. Or read about costly misconceptions about car loans to avoid taking out a loan you may not be able to afford. Illinois Legal Aid has an overview of car loans as well as one on buying a used car. If you do not repay an auto loan, the car may be repossessed. If this has happened to you, try these additional resources.

Check out books from the library about buying a car.

Retirement and Estate Planning

Learn more about how to manage your finances to retire, as well as how to plan for leaving your estate behind.


Many organizations offer tools to help you plan, save, and invest for retirement. Kiplinger and AARP have easy-to-use retirement calculators to figure out your retirement, social security benefits, and health care costs. The Social Security Administration’s retirement benefits page also has useful tools and resources. Use FINRA's resources to manage retirement income, or take a retirement plan course from LinkedIn Learning or the Illinois Financial Wellness Hub.

Check out books at the library about planning for retirement.

Estate Planning

Estate planning is considering how your assets will be managed and distributed after you die or become incapacitated. It usually includes making a will or trust, naming an executor and beneficiaries of your assets, and even setting up funeral arrangements. Find basic guides to understanding estate planning in the Illinois State Bar Association Guide to Estate Planning, on Investopedia, or the Illinois Financial Wellness Hub. Nolo also has a comprehensive overview, and books are available at the library.


A will is a legal document detailing how your property should be handled after your death. Illinois Legal Aid Online has basic information and answers to questions you may have. If you have minor children, a will can have instructions for their custody and care. Not having a will before you die is known as intestate. In these cases, state laws will determine how decisions are made.

You may write a will with or without a lawyer’s assistance, but it’s extremely useful to do research first either way. Nolo has an overview of useful starting information, as well as resources for making your own will. Illinois Legal Aid Online has additional resources, and the library has books for more in-depth research. If you would like to work with a lawyer, the Illinois State Bar Association has a search tool.