A New Year's resolution worth making any year is to stop wasting money. There are many rip-offs out there that could burn a hole in your pocket -- here are my top five pet financial hates.
In my experience, expensive chains of creches don't deliver better childcare than small, local creches do. Yet they can charge as much as 40 per cent more.
When I had my first child a few years ago, I wanted the best for her. I sent her to a well-known creche chain for about a year. The monthly fees for a full-time place came to €1,076 -- more than my mortgage at the time. When I had my second child, I simply could not afford to send my two children to the same creche. A full-time place for both came to more than €2,000 a month. I enquired about the cost of a three-day week for two children. They quoted €1,468 a month.
I found a small, local creche, which charged €1,040 a month for a three-day week for both my children. That creche was recommended by a local public health nurse. I saved myself more than €5,000 a year in childcare fees by switching. The savings would be more were I sending my children to a creche full-time. More importantly, my children are extremely happy.
There were wonderful childcare workers in the chain I sent my daughter to -- but the same can be said about my small, local creche. Was the chain worth the 40 per cent extra fees? I'm not convinced.
You don't have to go with the most expensive creche to get the best childcare -- save yourself several grand by shopping around. Ask a working mum for a recommendation.
Most of us feel like we've lost our left arm if we find ourselves out and about without our mobile phone. But that's no reason to sign up to useless insurance. Mobile phone insurance could set you back as much as €144 a year. Furthermore, the excess -- the first part of a claim that you must pay yourself -- could work out more than the cost of repairing or replacing your phone. The excess could be as high as €50, and if you make more than one claim a year, the excess could be €125. You could also find that the small print in your mobile phone policy means you've no hope of making a successful claim. For example, if your mobile phone is damaged or lost after you left it unattended in a public place, you're unlikely to be covered. Neither will you be covered if your phone is stolen from an unlocked car.
Don't buy mobile phone insurance -- simply make sure not to lose or damage your phone. Avoid buying expensive handsets -- you'll be able to afford a replacement should your phone be stolen.
If you use credit cards to fund your lifestyle, you'll pay a fortune in interest -- and spend years clearing the debt.
You could pay as much as 22.7 per cent interest on your credit card, more than 90 times the main European Central Bank rate and more than 20 times the interest that some homeowners are paying on their tracker mortgage.
If the interest rate on your credit card is 22.7 per cent and you've run up a bill of €2,000, you could be six-and-a-half years repaying that €2,000 -- assuming you can only afford to repay €50 a month off your bill.
Don't use your credit card to borrow money. If you have a credit card, repay the bill in full each month.
I got my gutters cleaned recently and needed a loose bracket repaired at the same time. I arranged for some handymen to quote me for the job. One tradesman quoted about €800 -- an expense he justified because he said scaffolding would need to be hired. A local tradesman quoted €80 and used a ladder.
If you're renovating your home or have a few odd jobs that need doing, you'll be fleeced if you're not careful about the handyman you hire.
Shop around. Choose a tradesman who is registered with a reputable association or ask your local community hall to recommend someone.
If you have any 2006 pay slips hanging around, check what your take-home pay was back then. Chances are your take-home pay was a lot higher in 2006 -- even if you've got a raise since. The tax hikes of the last five years have crucified workers and devoured their disposable income.
Avoid spending your disposable income on goods or services that are highly taxed. For example, if you cycle or walk everywhere, you could do without a car -- and avoid motor and fuel tax. Choose tax-efficient or tax-free investments. Claim any tax reliefs you're entitled to, particularly for medical bills or house renovations.