The holidays are always a stressful time of the year.  You need to get presents for your family, friends, fly and/or drive back and forth from family get-togethers and ridiculous ugly sweater parties.  If you’re not doing the family gatherings, you may be simply traveling somewhere for a vacation to “get away from it all.”

Not only are these events stressful but they also cost money.  It all adds up – travel, meals, gifts, vacation and etc.  Some families are using their credit cards to pay for this and letting giving a nice holiday present to their credit card companies as they won’t be able to pay off the balance at the end of the month.  They will pay down the bill over a few months but as they do so, they are paying very high interest rates and their holidays are seemingly even more costly.

One way to save some money this year is to refinance your home.  Some may say to themselves, I can’t refinance because my home is underwater and I can’t refinance an underwater home.   Well, thanks to the Obama administration, there are several government programs aimed at allowing underwater homeowners to refinance their homes.  Such programs include the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) and the FHA and VA Streamline Refinance programs.

Let’s start with HARP.  The HARP Loans program allows underwater homeowners who have loans owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to refinance.  With historic low interest rates and depressed real estate prices, the HARP 2 Program has been a home run for homeowners.  For example, a homeowner who bought in 2008 at the height of the boom probably has a rate around 5.5% and chances are their home value has decreased significantly.  Through this program – aka the Obama Refinance Program – homeowners are reducing their interest rate and saving hundreds each month and in some cases – even thousands!  Just think what you could be doing with this extra cash each month.  I bet the holidays won’t be as stressfulJ.  You can take some more vacations and get better presents for your kids!

The FHA and VA streamline programs are similar to HARP.  These programs are also backed by the government and allow underwater homeowners with loans backed by the FHA or VA to refinance to a lower interest rate.

There is talk of another HARP program that will allow for all homeowners to refinance if they are underwater which is called HARP 3.  This is something the White House is working to enable in 2013, hopefully.  Stay tuned for more information and Happy Holidays!