When it comes to tightening the purse strings and this is the season for purse string tightening, we all know the first steps to take – and the first things to go. No more afternoon lattés; volunteering as designated driver on nights out; planning staycations instead of going abroad. But sometimes, it’s the things that are a little less obvious that can make the biggest difference – the creature comforts we’re so used to having, we couldn’t imagine being without…here are some top tips from John Lowe of MoneyDoctors.ie
Don’t worry: I’m not advocating trading in electricity for candlelight – but there’s a lot to be said for re-examining your utilities providers at least once a year. Many people enjoy the ease of sourcing their gas and electricity from the same provider – but you could save literally hundreds of euro by switching from a dual-fuel bundle to separate providers. For example, a customer in an urban area, with average consumption on the Smart Choice Dual Fuel tariff, could save over €430 by moving their electricity to Bord Gáis Energy and their gas to Flogas.
Just remember – if you switch before the end of your contract, you could face a charge of up to €100, depending on provider. So it pays – literally! – to keep a list of your contracts, be they for gas, electricity, mobile phone, internet, TV or anything else, along with their end dates on your laptop, ipad or phone.
Then, set an alarm the month before your contracts are up and do a bit of market research in good time to change. Remember, your current provider may offer you a discount just to keep you on their books! In the meantime, the rule is switch off and plug out when not in use.
Internet and entertainment
With fibre-power broadband now out across the country, it is an excellent time to compare internet providers. There are huge variations in offers available from Eir, Sky, Vodafone and Virgin Media; and if you can bear the hassle of getting a dish installed from one company when you’re using to having an aerial from another, it can be really worth it.
Top tip? While almost all offers are available to buy online, try to make the effort to phone the company you’re interested in joining – if you can get through. A deal can often look perfect, until you find out that the broadband speed is slower than what you currently have; or you might have seen something that looks just right, apart from the 160 extra channels you don’t need. And do you need ALL those movie channels ? Did you also know the new Sky Glass offering has no facility to record ! Where possible, speak to a human – and remember, your money matters, so don’t be afraid to push for the best deal.
Like I always say, your bank will not reward you for loyalty, so never be afraid to shop around. Because your banking is so often tied up in the biggest outgoings in your household budget – mortgage, car loan, college loan – look at the interest rate you are being charged and find out if there better options even within your own bank. This is really the best place to start when you’re trying to save money. The same goes for life and health products. There are enormous savings to be made simply by shopping around.
If you’re already saving, take a good look at the rate you’re getting; many banks offer less than 0.25% AER and that is for regular saver accounts. If you have substantial funds at negligible deposit rates, try prize bonds – you cannot withdraw for the first 3 months but then only need 7 days’ notice to withdraw all… but you are in the draw from day 1
It’s also a good idea to think about how you pay for things on a daily basis. If you use your debit card a lot, consider switching to An Post Money’s new current account or Revolut: the latter is a prepaid card operated through VISA.
It works in just the same way as a debit card with a traditional bank, except you can top it up from your main bank account via an app on your phone. Spending is free, no matter how many purchases you make; and ATM withdrawals are free up to €200/month, after which a 2% fee applies. Currency-exchange transactions are free up to £/€5,000/month, after which you will be charged 0.5% per transaction but their exchange rates are the best in Ireland. N26 is another online bank worth looking at.
Writing a financial plan
Last but not least: this is the single most important step when it comes to saving money. While everything listed above can help with choices already made, a financial plan will guide you in choices yet to come followed closely by completion of an indepth budget plan. If you’re intimidated by the idea, haven’t made one previously, or just need some expert advice, email me for a free budget planner spread sheet template – firstname.lastname@example.org or call Dublin 278 5555..