• Liquidate your life insurance policy: If you have been paying premiums for at least five years on a whole (or permanent) life insurance policy, you can tap the cash value (the portion that has been funded by your premiums). Just be sure to replace the insurance with a more inexpensive term life policy so you don’t leave yourself with too little coverage.
• Cash in a CD early: Yes, the idea of a certificate of deposit is to lock up your cash, but in reality you don’t lose much by withdrawing ahead of the maturity date. Although you’re typically penalized about six months of interest for tapping the funds, the recent rate on a five-year CD was only about 1.5 percent. That means you’d forfeit only $75 on an early withdrawal of a $10,000 CD.
• Return items you aren’t using: Those sweaters you got at Christmas still sitting unworn in the closet? Kohl’s and L.L. Bean are famous for taking back any item, anytime—and those are just two of many big stores that do, so don’t hesitate to ask. An increasing number of retailers also keep electronic receipts, so you can return items even if you’ve lost the paper copy.