Monday 29 December 2014

Seven things that have grown cheaper since austerity began

Published 25/11/2012 | 05:00

Wednesday is the second anniversary of Ireland's €85bn bailout deal. It's been one cutback after another since then, and there's more to come in December's Budget.

But it's not all doom and gloom. With less money in people's pockets, retailers and others have been forced to step up to the plate and cut their prices. As a result, there are seven things we're paying a lot less for than we were when the IMF and EU first came to town.

BROADBAND

You can pick up broadband today for a fraction of the price you would have paid a couple of years ago, according to Simon Moynihan, communications director of personal finance website, bonkers.ie.

"A couple of years ago you would have paid at least €65 a month for broadband," said Mr Moynihan. "Today you can easily pick up a starter broadband package for €40 a month, depending on where you live."

The cost of satellite broadband has halved over the last two years.

"Two or three years ago you would have easily paid about €100 for basic satellite broadband," said Mr Moynihan. "Today you'd get it for €40 a month."

Some mobile phone firms have also reduced the cost of mobile broadband. for example, the price of Vodafone's Performance Pro Plan has fallen from €35 a month to €30 a month over the past two years.

Furthermore, as long as you live somewhere with a good connection, you should be able to get faster broadband for your money today than in late 2010.

"Broadband speeds are going up," said Mr Moynihan. "In some parts of the country you can get speeds of 50Mb or more on a starter package. Speeds like that were unheard of a couple of years ago."

MOBILE PHONE COSTS

Most mobile phone companies offer plans which allow you to call or text any phone you like, as long as you pay a fixed monthly fee and don't go over a certain limit.

You could easily pick up a package that gives you 100 minutes of calls and 100 texts for €20 a month.

Mobile phone operators have recently started to bump up these packages to include all-you-can-eat data which allows you to surf the internet on your mobile phone without worrying about paying extra charges.

For example, if you had a pre-pay phone with Three this time two years ago, you could have got unlimited texts and unlimited weekend calls to any network when you topped up your mobile by €20. Under Three's current pre-pay offer, if you top-up by €20 you get all-you-can-eat data on top of the unlimited texts and unlimited weekend calls. So while the price of this plan hasn't come down, you get more for your money.

Smartphone handsets, too, have come down to about half what they were a couple of years ago.

Eircom's mobile phone service, eMobile, for example, offered starter smartphone handsets for €99.99 back then. "Now we offer smartphone handsets from €49.99," said a spokeswoman.

In November 2010 the main pre-pay smartphone handset available from Three was the Samsung Europa, which was priced at €119. Today, its key pre-pay handset, the Samsung Galaxy Mini, is priced from €69 and has "a much better spec", according to a spokeswoman for Three.

Two years ago the cheapest starter smartphone with Vodafone was the Vodafone 845, priced at €79.99. "Currently, our cheapest entry level smartphone is the Vodafone Smart 2, which is priced at €59.99," said a spokesman for Vodafone. "Smart 2 is cheaper than its equivalent Vodafone 845 and has a better spec."

TVs & LAPTOPS

If you're a couch potato you shouldn't have to work hard to get a cheap TV. Though you'll still pay top dollar for the latest models, the price of some TVs has fallen by a fifth over the past two years, says Declan Ronayne, of Currys and PC World.

For example, a 22-inch LCD TV from LG cost about €230 in Currys two years ago – today you'll pay €180 for the same TV but in the slimmer and more energy-efficient LED model.

Larger screen TVs, as well as plasma TVs, have also come down in price.

Two years ago, Currys charged €360 for the 32-inch Samsung LCD TV. Today you'll pay €300. A 42-inch Samsung plasma TV would cost €500 in Curry's two years ago – today you'll pay €420 for a 43" Samsung plasma TV.

If you're a computer nerd, the price of certain laptops has fallen by as much as a quarter over the past two years. An iCore 3 laptop – a laptop with a standard computer processor – in PC World cost €600 two years ago, according to Mr Ronayne. Today it's €440.

HEALTH

Despite cutbacks and private health insurance price hikes, the price of some drugs has dived.

The price of cholesterol lowering drug Lipator has fallen by 40 per cent over the last few years, according to Cormac Tobin of the DocMorris pharmacy. "In January 2010 you would have paid about €25 for a 28-pack of 10mg Lipator," he said. "By January 2011 the price had fallen to €18. Today you'll pay €15."

The latest CSO figures also show a fall in the price of prescription drugs.

If you're more inclined to down a vitamin drink than a pill, choosing Berocca could save you a few bob. The price of a 30-pack has fallen from €12.99 to €9.99.

CONDOMS

The baby boom that hit this country over the past couple of years suggests we're not using condoms as much as we perhaps should. but you can enjoy your time between the sheets knowing the price of certain condoms has almost halved. Two years ago DocMorris charged €11.95 for a 12-pack of Durex Extra Safe – today you're covered for €7.49.

BREAD AND BUTTER

The price of bread has fallen by about a sixth over the past two years, according to the CSO.

Other groceries which have fallen in price include butter, tea and fruit juice. The price of eggs is down about 7 per cent.

LIFE INSURANCE

The price of life insurance and mortgage protection – which repays the mortgage should you or your partner die before paying it off – has fallen over the past two years, says John Geraghty of online brokers LABrokers.ie.

In certain cases the price of life cover has fallen by as much as a fifth, he says.

Women, however, will start to pay more for their life insurance from late December when new EU rules that will prohibit insurers from charging men more than women for insurance kick in.

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