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Need extra money? Here's how to find it

Re-examining your major expenses can pay off

By Karen Datko Sep 30, 2009 3:53PM

This post comes from Nora Dunn at partner blog Wise Bread.


There are a number of ways to stretch your dollars simply by rearranging your finances. Here are 11 tips to help you find some extra money.


Change your withholding tax. If you typically receive a tax refund each year, ask your employer to reduce the amount of tax withheld from your paychecks. I know, I know. You like getting those fat checks at tax time each year. But in reality it's an interest-free loan to the government. Your money is much better in your own pocket, thank you very much.


Reduce interest rates on your debt. As cited in a previous article, if you ask for a discount by calling your credit card company, you often will receive one.


This also applies to other loans. If you happen to be drowning in your finances, you can call creditors and explain your situation, and they can make concessions for you. If the agent you are talking to can't do it, politely ask for the manager, who has more clout for granting rate discounts.


Refinance your car loan. If your car is less than five years old, and you got your loan through a dealer, you may be able to do better. A Web site like Bankrate.com can help you find the best loan rates in your area, and Kelley Blue Book will give you a dollar value for your car.


Assuming your credit hasn't worsened since you bought the car, and assuming the car is in good condition, you will likely be able to refinance your loan for minimal fees.


Just make sure you don't extend the term of your loan. The idea here is to refinance at a lower interest rate, not reduce your expenses by extending your liability periods.


Consolidate student loans. Wouldn't one monthly payment be nice? You can save up to $150 a month by consolidating your student loans.


Call each lender you have a student loan with and explain your situation and desire to consolidate. Some will offer you rate discounts after you make payments for a certain period of time, or discounts for paying with preauthorized debiting from your bank account.


Get rid of mortgage life insurance and replace it with an individual policy. You will find that more often than not, replacing a mortgage life insurance policy acquired through the bank with an individual term life insurance policy will save you at least a few bucks each month -- not to mention a myriad of other benefits that make this decision a no-brainer.


Eliminate private mortgage insurance. Not to be confused with mortgage life insurance, PMI is required by the bank if you made a down payment of less than 20% of the value of your home. Once you have achieved more than 20% equity, this insurance drops off.


You may not be close to having made enough payments to accrue 20% equity, but your home may have appreciated, and all the appreciation belongs to you.


You will have to pay for an appraisal of the property, which can run in the neighborhood of $350, so it would be best to analyze how much you are paying in mortgage insurance before running out to pay for an appraisal for minimal savings.


Save on utilities. Call your utility company to see if it has programs that allow you to earn discounts. Sometimes use of certain appliances or techniques can reduce your bills.


Change the way you pay for child care. Although this expense rarely changes, you can change how you pay for it. Many employers have a dependent care spending account, which allows you to pay for child care with pretax dollars. This is another way to get your tax refund up front, so if you are also employing Step One from this article, be sure not to reduce your withholding too much or you may end up owing when you file.


Reduce the cost of home and auto insurance. Have you shopped around lately? If you haven't, you may find that rates have changed and you can replace your policy while saving money.


You can also consider increasing the deductible (the amount you have to pay out-of-pocket if you make a claim), which will reduce your premiums. Just make sure you maintain a deductible that your wallet or emergency fund can handle at claim time.


Save on term life insurance. Again, you may find that the rates have changed since you took out your policy. With people living longer, the cost of life insurance is actually going down. A term policy is easily replaced by applying for a new policy with a different company. It is very important that you get your new policy in hand before canceling the old one, just in case something is found in your medical records that leads to higher rates or a refusal of coverage.


Examine your permanent life insurance. Do you have a whole life or universal life insurance policy that is sucking you dry? Chances are that if you need to find money, you can find it here. Call your insurance agent (or the company directly) and look into your options for reducing your premiums. Oftentimes part of your premium goes to the cost of insurance, and the rest goes into an investment account of sorts. You will likely have the ability to reduce the amount going into the investment account. You also might be able to take out a loan against the cash value of the policy if you need a chunk of money right now. Be sure to consult a professional about all the ramifications before choosing this option.


The trick now is to use all of the money you've found constructively. In some cases you have taken on more risk -- increasing your insurance deductibles or reducing your withholding tax -- leaving you vulnerable to possible financial hits later on. Be sure you document the money saved, and apply it directly to other areas of your finances that need it: debt reduction, savings or an emergency fund.


Other articles of interest at Wise Bread:

Published April 17, 2008
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