12 ways to save instead of splurge
Broke? Don't be. Gillian Fitzpatrick has some nifty money-saving tips that you haven't tried yet
You never seem to have any cash - and there always seems to be an expected expense lurking around the corner. But are you spending without realising it? And how can you maximise your income? Here, we map the best ways to save instead of splurge...
1 Recycle your old phones
Even a basic mobile phone from a few years ago could pick you up €5 or €10 - it may not sound like much, but having an unused phone lying around in a drawer is still bad for the environment as well as your pocket. And if you have an old smart phone, even if it's damaged, the return could be significant: envirophone.ie, which says it's dealt with more than four million customers in Ireland, offers close to €50 for a 16GB working iPhone 5, while the same sized iPhone 4 gets €20.
SAVING: Once-off payment of up to €50 for a working smart-phone
2Switch credit cards
This year, the CSO's inaugural Household Finance & Consumption Survey found that more than half of all households in this country have debts of sorts. And after mortgage debt, credit cards notch up the biggest tallies: €1,400 on average. Interest rates of 13-23pc make those debts tough to clear, so take advantage of offers which give interest-free periods if you switch your balance to another credit card company. KBC, Permanent TSB, and Tesco Finance all currently have switch-and-save promotions, while consumerhelp.ie also offers a handy calculator to work out when you'll clear your credit card bill.
SAVING: €160 on a €1,400 debt over six months
3Wave bye-bye to the gym
Be realistic - and seriously consider cancelling your gym membership if you're regularly skipping sessions. Your alternative? Get out in the open air and start jogging, or invest in a set of free weights or dumbbells (prices from €25; argos.ie) and follow a free online programme from sites like YouTube. Alternatively, take the €40-plus euro you're spending monthly and invest it more wisely in pay-as-you-go exercise classes such as yoga, Pilates, spin or Zumba. If you just can't be parted from your gym, at least search for a contractless company that allows you to cancel at any time - flyefit.ie has five locations in Dublin and is expanding.
SAVING: Up to €40 a month
4Rent a dress
From birthdays, to weddings and days at the races, many women feel pressure to turn up in a new outfit for every milestone event. But forking out each time for a never-seen-before piece can be seriously pricey - even when you're shopping on the high street. Ask to swap with a friend, or consider renting a dress for 48hours: starla.ie, and frocknfabulous.ie are just two of the outlets that rent out head-turning designer attire. Have a rarely worn standout dress in your own wardrobe? Stick it up on rentmydress.ie - where prices start from just €10 - and make it earn some cash.
SAVING: €200 per event
5Speaking of dresses... go to Oxfam
You may not have thousands of euro to splash out on wedding attire - but even if you do, not every bride is eager to part with four-figure sums for one dress. Oxfam Bridal on Dublin's George's Street attracts brides-to-be from all over Ireland. Nine out of 10 of the dresses are brand new too (the stock is donated to the charity by boutiques and designers), with prices starting from €50 and going up to around €400. And for women who already have their dream gown, the outlet has a wealth of competitively priced accessories including shoes, veils, and bridesmaid dresses. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
SAVING: Around €2,000
6Monthly household budgets
Making the most of your household's income is key to managing your family's finances and staying on top of expenses. Childcare and mortgage costs are probably the biggest outlays and school-related expenses such as books, uniforms and shoes can quickly mount. Then there are medical expenses, holidays, and gifts to consider. Get started by totting up your wages and benefits, and then refer to bank statements and bills to map your outgoings. Divide annual payments such as car tax and the TV licence by 12 to get a monthly figure. Don't forget about coffees and lunches too. And refer to consumerhelp.ie, which has a free household budget calculator.
SAVING: €100 a month
7Get rid of your second car
According to the AA, it costs €1,000 a month to run a typical car. Petrol, insurance, tax and NCT all mount to create serious outgoings. So sit down and explore any avenue that would allow you to scrap your household's second vehicle: car-pooling, public transport, or alternative working hours. Also look at the likes of GoCar.ie, which operates in Dublin and Cork and allows you to rent cars for as little as 15 minutes with rates from just €2.50 an hour off-peak. Similar schemes in Amsterdam, London and Berlin are hugely successful and are part-and-parcel of those cities' public transport systems.
SAVING: €500 a month
8Stop drinking so much
It's easy to let an occasional habit become routine - and with alcohol cheaper than ever, popping a couple of mid-week bottles of wine into your supermarket trolley is increasingly common. But even cheap booze costing less than a tenner all adds up. Indeed, despite the recent recession, our spend on alcohol is on the rise: in 2014, the average adult drank 11-and-a-half litres of pure alcohol annually - a habit which collectively hits our pockets to the tune of €6.4bn. Keeping alcohol for special occasions or every second weekend will go a long way to saving serious cash.
SAVING: €250 monthly
9Rent a spare room
With rents still spiralling, you could offer a spare room in your home to a private tenant, earning up to €12,000 tax-free per annum in the process. Even a year or two of rental income could go a long way to clearing credit card debt, making mortgage payments, or saving for, say, a wedding. If you don't fancy putting up a full-time lodger, language schools regularly look for short-term let rooms for their adult and teenage students - you'd be looking at a weekly payment of €150-€200 for bed, breakfast and an evening meal. See citizensinformation.ie for more information.
10Rediscover your local library
Many libraries in Ireland have been hit with decreased opening hours and more limited resources in recent years, but they are still a treasure trove of books, magazines, DVDs, and audio books, as well as language resources, community information, free talks and educational seminars. And we still make 14 million visits to our country's 360 libraries and 30 mobile units every year. Online services also allow you to renew items online - which means there's no excuse for notching up late fines. See environ.ie for details of your nearest branch and opening hours.
SAVING: €50 a month by swapping a paid activity such as the cinema for the library
11Use your freezer
Food wastage is a big issue in Ireland. Recent estimates suggest that a third of everything we buy - especially fruit, veg and dairy - ends up in the bin. Indeed, Tesco says 68pc of bagged salads will be thrown out. If you know something in the fridge is on its last legs, however, whip up a soup, sauce or casserole and pop it in the freezer. Try to clear out your cupboards too before being tempted to hit the supermarket again. Get inventive and experiment with ways to use leftovers and scraps. Be aware of your eating habits and see stopfoodwaste.ie for tips.
SAVING: €100 monthly
12Learn to just say no
Hen and stag parties, weekends away, spa breaks, weddings, and even the latest gadgets - added extras can easily amount to hundreds of euro every month. And while no one wants to feel like they're missing out, learning to say no - and sticking to it - is important when it comes to staying on budget. Be firm but polite, offer your apologies for not being able to attend, and send a card or small gift in lieu. If you can't skip, say, a big family wedding then at least bring the car and stick to tap water: you'll save on bar and accommodation costs.
SAVING: €2,000 over the course of the year