Better manage your personal finances thanks to the Associations coopératives d’économie familiale (ACEF)

By: Alexandre Haslin, Maria Rigas

While inflation is hitting record highs across the country, many people are finding it increasingly difficult to live comfortably. That is why it is more important than ever to review your personal finances in order to avoid accumulating debt. Unknown by the general public, the Associations coopératives d'économie familiale (ACEF) can assist you in various ways to manage your budget. Here is an overview of the services offered by these organizations.

Better budget and debt management

ACEF provides free budget consultations. With the help of a consultant, you can take stock of your income, expenses and debts and shed a light on a potential unbalanced budget. This analysis will then enable you to find solutions towards a more balanced budget. This may be done by cutting certain expenses, but also by increasing your income, for example, by applying for certain social security benefits. In fact, depending on their situation, many people are eligible for benefits that they do not even know about. This could be the case for you!

Needs that evolve with inflation

Budget consultations are our «most popular service» explains Julie Brissette, Budget Consultant at ACEF de l’Est de Montréal, who in fact has noticed that needs have evolved. «Low-income people that have already been here come back under much more difficult circumstances. They were still able to meet their needs then, but now, not at all. » And that is not all. «We are also seeing people working full time, who used to able to make ends meet, that are now finding it difficult to do so with rising costs. »


« These consultations can be beneficial for everyone. »

Budget consultations provided by ACEF are entirely free and no income criteria are required. Furthermore, no matter the budget, «these consultations can be beneficial for everyone » adds Mrs. Brissette.

Take stock of your budget on your own!

Wish to take stock of your budget by yourself? You can use one of the budget templates designed by various ACEF that will enable you to get a clearer picture of your financial situation, including your debts and assets. Many ACEF make available their own templates such as, ACEF de l’Est de Montréal, ACEF de Lanaudière as well as Option Consommateurs.

Please note that a follow-up may be offered to ensure that strategies that were put in place are still working in the long run. Such is the case with ACEF de l’Est de Montréal. «We can set up meetings over a few months. » explains Mrs. Brissette. «A consultant is assigned to the person and ensures follow-up, thus establishing a relationship of trust. »

Difficulty paying your Hydro-Québec bills?

Electricity may represent a significant part of the budget in certain households. To the point that they are sometimes unable to pay the bills. By analyzing your income, a consultant can assist you in negotiating a payment schedule with Hydro-Québec.


Help in defending your rights

ACEF also helps in the defense of consumer rights, for example, in the case of a conflict with a merchant. In fact, in Québec, the Consumer Protection Act provides a certain amount of protection to citizens. This is often unknown, which is why it is useful to get information from an ACEF to better know your rights and recourses. Many situations can lead to conflict between consumer and merchant: the purchase of a defective product, overcharging by an internet provider, false advertising, etc. If you are experiencing such problems, do not hesitate to contact the ACEF in your area for help.

Better safe than sorry: that is why certain ACEF websites are full of information allowing you to better understand your rights in order to make informed choices regarding your consumption. Such is the case with Option consommateurs who offer a series of informational folders and advice on subjects as diverse as pre-paid cards, online shopping, itinerant merchants, price accuracy policies and even exchanges and refunds.


Planning life's important milestones

Certain stages in life require special preparation. That is why ACEF de Lanaudière provides various resources and tools for:

  • young people (financing studies, first apartment, first job...);
  • seniors (retirement planning, choosing a residence for elderly);
  • families (two people managing a budget, getting a Canada Learning Bond for the children);
  • self-employed workers.

You will find information, advice, tips, and other resources and tools best suited to your situation. Please visit the ACEF Lanaudière website for more information.


Needing an emergency loan to deal with an unexpected event

Certain ACEF can give you access to Desjardins' Mutual Assistance Fund, a program that aims at helping meet one-time essential and urgent needs. «Many people are excluded from the traditional lending system» explains Julie Brissette. «If their fridge breaks down or if they need emergency dental work, they cannot afford it. » Thus, the Mutual Assistance Fund can lend around 500$ while offering advice on how to get out of this difficult situation. You must meet certain criteria to benefit from this program, mainly being able to pay back the loan. Since its creation 2001, more than 100 000 people have been helped by this program.


Many other resources

The services presented above are just an overview of the resources provided by ACEF. By contacting the ACEF in your area, or by visiting each of their websites, you will find other tools and tips including:

  • How-to guides
  • Information and education workshops
  • Tax clinics
  • Videos
  • Podcasts
  • Useful links
  • Etc.
Please note: the services offered may vary from one ACEF to another. Don't hesitate to contact the ACEF in your region to find out about its services.


To learn more, you can also watch the following video (French only) from the Union des consommateurs, an organization of 14 groups that defend consumers' rights.





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