Refinancing your mortgage to decrease your payment or lock in a low fixed rate also might be a smart move in 2012.
"If you have a variable mortgage, absolutely try to make it fixed," Rogoszinski says. "If that's the only thing you do in the new year, then right there, you've done yourself a favor."
Refinancing an adjustable-rate loan can make sense even if you end up with a higher payment. That's because a fixed rate will protect you from interest rate risk.
Consider: The monthly principal and interest add up to $898 on a $200,000 mortgage with a 30-year term with a variable rate starting at 3.5 percent. Refinancing that loan with a fixed rate of 5 percent raises the principal and interest payment to $1,073, an additional $175 a month. But if the variable rate jumped to, say, 7.5 percent, the payment would increase to $1,389, an additional $491 per month. Locking in the extra $175 in 2012 might be difficult, but paying that extra $491 further in the future could be much harder still.
"Don't give up just because one bank says no to you," Rogoszinski says. "Keep looking for that one bank that will say yes."