Millions of American homeowners signed on the dotted line and became the proud owners of adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) over the last several years. Most knew exactly what they were getting into — but it may still be a surprise when you get that first notice of an “adjusted” mortgage payment due. Many through neglect, optimism or simply being too busy are or will be taken completely by surprise when they see their monthly mortgage payment jump after an “adjustment.”Are you as an ARM homeowner prepared for sometimes significantly higher monthly payments on your mortgage? Here are six tips and things you can do to prepare in advance for that first spiked payment under your ARM loan.Pay down your principal while you canHave you thought about adding extra to your monthly payment and telling your servicer to apply the extra to your principal balance? This won’t help you directly when your payment spikes, but it will build equity, which in turn makes it easier to refinance your loan once it adjusts.Make a plan to deal with your revolving debt, and stick to itIf your credit card debt starts getting out of control, you’re going to have less flexibility when it comes time to pay the higher payment on your ARM or refinance to get a better rate. During the one, two, three or five years that your payments are flat, pay some extra to get your credit card and other revolving debt down to a manageable level. This of course is good advice even for non-homeowners.Save your money in anticipation of higher mortgage paymentsWhy shouldn’t you set aside some savings earmarked specifically to help get through at least the first few spiked mortgage payments when your rate adjusts? Planning ahead this way can cushion the blow of a new higher mortgage payment considerably.Become educated on your options for refinancingMany homeowners took out adjustable rate mortgages or even Interest-Only mortgage loans planning on refinancing after the introductory rate or interest-only period was up. If you were one of them, you need to spend time educating yourself on what refinance options are best for you. The last thing you want to do is come to a mortgage broker hat in hand asking for any way out they have available.A divorce, job change, not having as much equity as you thought you would in your home, and so many other factors can influence whether you qualify for an acceptable rate when you refinance. Don’t wait until you’re paying hundreds more a month — consult an expert Realtor and/or mortgage professional in your area before you need a new loan.Reach out to your lenderYour lender definitely knows when your payment is due to change, and you’ll be hearing from them — because they want to keep you as a customer. They don’t want you refinancing with someone else. So don’t be surprised if they’re willing to work with you as your adjusted rate period approaches. If you’ve made your payments on time you’ll likely have a willing partner.Consult a local RealtorIt may be drastic to plan a move simply because your mortgage payments are going up. But many homeowners went for 3/27 or 5/25 ARMs precisely because they didn’t see themselves in the same home three or five years down the road.To know whether selling is a viable option, consult a Realtor in your area with experience listing and representing buyers throughout the current market conditions. Ask how long properties are staying listed, what prices are doing, what’s making homes sell and what’s making them sit there. There is no substitute for the expertise of a local real estate agent when it comes to evaluating your sales options.