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few years. By refinancing at a lower rate, you will save yourself a lot of money in interest payments. Also, when refinancing, try to reduce or eliminate any money you would pay on points or fees. Be sure to shop around at a few banks to see what the best rate you can get is.

Many banks now will give you an ATM or debit card when you have a checking or savings account with them. This can be a helpful tool in addition to your credit cards. Because the card is directly tied to your bank account, your spending limit is the amount of money you have in the account. Many stores and restaurants accept these cards as if they were regular charge cards. They also function as debit cards at some stores, enabling you to get cash back if you are short on actual cash. For example, you spend $25.52 at a retail store. By using your ATM card as a debit card, you can increase that total amount to $40.52. You will then receive the other $15 from the cashier as cash. Be careful, though, that you don’t spend so much that you deplete your bank account, and make sure you know what fraud protection comes with the card since policies aren’t the same as credit cards.

Every month when your mortgage or car payment comes due, see if you can pay more than the minimum amount due. By doing this, you will (over time) significantly reduce the total amount paid because the interest due will be lower. Plus, you will also reduce the amount of time you are paying on your house or vehicle. Just because you have taken out a 30-year mortgage doesn’t mean that you have to be paying for the next 30 years.

If you find that you can’t seem to get out of the debt cycle, and you have equity in your home, consider taking out a home equity loan. Although I generally don’t recommend this, it may help. By taking out a loan on your house, you could use the money to pay off your credit card debt and any other outstanding debt you have. Again, as with refinancing, try to reduce or avoid any fees or points. Check with your CPA to make sure the interest on the loan repayments is tax deductible. This way, you will be replacing your non-tax-deductible debt with tax-deductible debt. However, be sure that you don’t bor- row more than your house is worth. There are some companies who will let you borrow up to 125 percent of what your home is worth. This is a bad idea and could lead to more trouble.

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