11 ways to save money now

Don't let this recession keep you down. Grab the opportunity to build a stronger portfolio, cut the fat from your budget, and give yourself a head-to-toe fiscal makeover.

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5. Juice your credit score an extra 20 points
Now that lenders are demanding to see what shape your credit is really in, the standards for good scores have changed.

While a FICO of around 720 used to give you a shot at the lowest mortgage rates, today you'll need a 740 or higher to qualify for the best terms.

How can you bridge the gap? First, make sure mistakes on your credit reports aren't dragging you down. Go to annualcreditreport.com and get a free report from the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Next, goose your score by lowering your debt-to-credit ratio. If you owe $2,000 but can borrow as much as $15,000, your ratio would be about 13%. Pay off enough debt to "get your overall utilization down below 10%, and you will see your score improve," says score expert Gerri Detweiler of Credit.com.

Another trick: Avoid using your cards in the month or so before applying for a loan. Even if you pay off your balances at the end of the month, there's a chance a lender might "pull" your score the day before those payments are recorded, making it look as though you're tapping your credit.

And ask issuers to raise the limits on your existing accounts. "For all the news that card issuers are cutting credit, they are also selectively offering more credit to their best clients," says Craig Watts of FICO.

NEXT: Go cold turkey on monthly services...
Last updated May 08 2009: 10:58 AM ET
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