The best tip about borrowing money is simple: don't. If you think of it this way, credit cards can add up to 20% interest to all of you normal expenses, so if you avoided paying all that money to interest, it would be like getting an extra 20% raise. There are benefits from credit cards, like extended warrantees, dividend programs, air miles, purchase protection, and establishing a strong credit rating, but the best approach is to make sure you pay your balance in full every month. This can be a benefit in purchasing in cash by giving you small benefits plus allowing you a few extra days to pay your balance in full. Having said that, there are some purchases or situations where you will need to borrow money, and there are always better approaches in how to borrow.
One major tip is to shop around on interest rates. Banks are often very competitive on rates to get customers, so you may be able to drop an interest rate by a percent or more with the cost of spending a few extra minutes or hours talking with a few more banks. Remember - they do want your business and at the end of the end of the day, you are the customer with control over who you do business with. Many banks rely on the consumer feeling intimidated and ‘at the mercy' of the big banks and the dictated terms and rates.
There are also different ways of approaching loans that may help not only from a financial point of view, but also by streamlining your finances. For example, if you have a number of loans and credit cards with balances, it may be convenient to arrange for a consolidation loan with the bank. This will does extend the term of the loan past what some of the smaller debts may have had, but it simplifies the payments and you can often end up with an overall reduction in interest payments, thus saving you money in the long run.
If you're looking at large purchase or expenses, such as home renovations, another common borrowing approach is to tap into the equity in your home, commonly referred to as a home equity loan or a second mortgage. This allows you to leverage the money you've already paid against your mortgage and uses the value of your home as collateral against the larger loans, which traditionally require some form of security to ensure the loans are repaid.
Lines of credit are also often used for these larger expenses, and are different from standard loans in that they have more flexibility. You can draw on them as if they are a bank account, and only pay interest on the outstanding balance. These can be helpful to set up in an emergency as they cost nothing, and can help fund additional purchases when needed. To get an even better interest rate, you can get a secured line of credit using your home or other assets as collateral - they will help fund larger lines of credit for the bigger renovations or other larger expenses.