Saturday 23 September 2017

30 ways to switch - how clever switching can make a real difference to your pockets

Saving isn't necessarily about deprivation. See how switching from shower gel to soap, from gym membership to pay-as-you-go and more can make a massive difference

Claire O'Mahony

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow. While we're all aware of the tenets of budgeting and saving money, sometimes it's easier to effect small changes that will make a real difference than it is to get rid of your credit card or cancel your TV subscription.

Cut enough financial corners and the cents really do begin to add up - if you saved €2 everyday for the next year, which is the price of a coffee, you'd have €730 to play with. It's all about making some well-informed switches.

GROOMING

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1 A wash and blow-dry to a dry cut

If you're extremely thrifty, you could always consider taking barber trips out of the equation altogether and invest in a good quality hair clippers instead. If you'd rather leave your locks in the hands of a professional, you can still reduce costs.

The price difference between a dry cut, and a haircut with a shampoo and blow-dry varies between salons but at The Grooming Rooms on Dublin's South William Street, you can save yourself €10 by opting for a dry cut instead of the haircut and finish.

2 Buying something for a big event to renting

Ideally, if you have an occasion to get spruced up for, you'll recycle something that you already have with some clever accessorising. But if you really need something new, renting it is the way to go.

Men are already clued into it, as they're far more likely to rent a suit for their wedding as opposed to their brides who generally purchase their dresses.

Companies such as Covet (covet.ie) allow you to rent creations from designers like Alexander McQueen and Stella McCartney with a three-day rental costing from €165 for three days.

3 Multiple make-up products to a multitasking one

A good quality cream stick foundation also works as a concealer and a soft brown eyeliner can be turned into a cream shadow if you smudge it well.

4 Shower gel to soap

Shower gels have become the norm but a soap bar does the job of de-griming just as efficiently and at considerably less expense.

There can be a lot of waste using a bottle of shower gel and even a supermarket variety can cost up to €6. Soap lasts longer even if it doesn't have same 'luxe' factor and you can pick up a four-bar pack for under €1.50.

5 Conditioner and body lotion to coconut oil

Buy a €6.99 200g jar of cold pressed organic coconut oil, available from health stores, and you get an impressive amount of bang for your buck.

Use it as a deep conditioning treatment for hair or a very small amount of the oil as a daily detangler. Because coconut oil has anti-fungal properties, it can also be used as an anti-dandruff treatment. Try it to soothe cracked lips, remove make-up and soften hard skin on feet.

6 Expensive oils to a homemade bath soak

Make like Gwyneth Paltrow and Victoria Beckham by discovering the health and beauty benefits of an Epsom salts bath. A natural exfoliant and anti-inflammatory, it can be used to treat dry skin, sore muscles and small wounds.

Add it to a warm bath and soak it for 12 minutes up to three times a week to see the benefits. You don't have to worry about being sparing with it because a 1kg bag costs €3.24 from Boots.

FOOD AND DRINK

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7 Fresh vegetables to frozen

Not across the board, but it makes more sense to buy certain vegetables frozen. Peas are better for you nutritionally frozen as opposed to fresh because they begin to lose vitamins once they've been picked, while a bag of frozen spinach is a more cost-effective thing to have in the freezer than a bag of fresh spinach in the fridge.

Levels of vitamin C and carotene are better in frozen sweetcorn than fresh.

8 Chicken fillets to the whole bird

It's the busy person's go-to dinner solution, but what chicken fillets save you in terms of labour, you lose in money and arguably flavour.

Currently on Tesco's website, you can buy a Moy Park whole chicken (1.5kg) for €5 while the same brand's fillets (450g) costs €4. Roast chicken leftovers can be transformed throughout the week into risottos, salads and soups and the bones can make stock, if you're so inclined.

9 Crisps to pita bread chips

According to a Bord Bia report published last year, we snack 2.55 times a day, and spend an average of €2.31 per snack so it's not an inexpensive habit.

When salty snack cravings strike, slice up some pita breads (there are currently two packs of 6 pita breads in Dunnes Stores for €1.50), sprinkle them with olive oil, sea salt and black pepper and toast for 10 minutes in the oven at 200°C/gas mark 7. Cheaper, and healthier too.

10 Perusing the wine list to BYOB

Typically, a wine costing €12 in an off-licence will set you back €25 in a restaurant. If you want to drink a fine wine with your dinner without the exorbitant price tag, it's worth checking out places with a BYOB policy and a quick Google search will help you out here.

Some places charge corkage fees, which could be up to €6 but many don't. Bear in mind that the same policy may not apply to beer.

11 Coffee-buying to investing in a travel mug

The latte factor is the notion that if we added up the cost of our daily caffeine habit and saved it or invested it, we'd be a lot better off. Of course we would.

A really nice spill-proof, stylish looking travel mug from Bodum costs €14.90 and a bag of fresh coffee comes in at under a fiver. Compare that to your two-latte a day expenditure, which can cost you in the region of €6.

12 Restaurants charging for sparkling water to ones that bottle their own

Sparkling water isn't generally the heftiest part of a restaurant bill but it can still add up, with some restaurants charging up to €5 for a 750ml bottle.

One recent and welcome trend is for restaurants to start bottling their own and charging a small fee for that.

Take for example Péarla na Mara in Oranmore, Co Galway, where you can have as much of their filtered sparkling or still water as you want for €1.

13 Getting your takeaway delivered to picking it up yourself

A report from Bord Bia last year found that casual dining, food-to-go options and takeaways account for 38pc of consumers' food spend. If you are going to order in, skip the delivery charge (which can be between €2 and €4) and the tip, by picking it up yourself.

The effort of having to do so may also have you thinking twice about ordering it in the first place.

14 Small bottles of water to big ones

We know the importance of hydration but if you're paying €1.20 for a bottle of water each day, it's an expensive healthy habit and it's bad for the environment.

If you have a water cooler at work, use that to refill and if not, buy large bottles of water in the supermarket and refill your small bottle with those. Just don't keep using the same small bottle endlessly. It can be a breeding ground for bacteria so wash thoroughly between refills.

15 Readymade meals to slow cooked ones

Cost effective slow cookers only use the same amount of energy as a lightbulb and they also allow you to use cheaper ingredients like lamb shanks and chicken thighs, which benefit from long hours of cooking.

Some prep work is required the night before but the overall money savings are impressive, especially considering you can pick up a slow cooker from Argos for under €30.

FITNESS

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16 From the treadmill to outdoor running

Quite simply, running is one of the cheapest activities you can do to get fit because all that's needed is a good pair of trainers. Running outdoors is a lot more interesting and varied than the monotony of a treadmill, plus it's a nice dose of escapism away from the demands of a computer.

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17 Gym membership to pay-as-you-go

If you've already ponied up this year's fees, there's not much you can do about that. If you haven't however, there are some ways around expensive gym memberships.

Avail of the free trials that many gyms offer and don't select one until you really feel that it's a good fit for you.

If your gym attendance is more aspirational than actual, look at ones that are pay-as-you-go (Dublin City Council's eight public gyms all have this option) whereby you only pay for what you actually use.

HOME

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18 Household cleaner to vinegar

Why shell out for cleaning products when there's a natural and effective alternative? Mix one part vinegar (plain white is best) to one part water and this can be used as a disinfectant in kitchens and bathrooms; to clean windows without smears; to get a shine on wood and to prevent mildew when sprayed on shower walls and curtains.

Don't worry about the vinegary smell because this will soon disappear.

19 Paper towels to reusable microfibre ones

Going paperless in the kitchen saves your money and it's greener too. Microfibre towels can do almost anything that paper towels can, they're more effective at trapping dust and you can throw them into the wash and happily use again and again.

They're obviously not good for absorbing grease off food but you can re-use a brown paper bag for this.

20 Bought wrapping paper to DIY creations

Alternative and clever DIY wrapping ideas are pages out of fashion magazines; old maps; vintage wallpaper and presents wrapped in cloth - in Japan this is known as furoshiki. The options are limitless and the end result will look far more impressive and thoughtful than if you'd spent €4 on a gift bag from a shop.

21 Linen spray to homemade air fresheners

A fresh smelling house is a wonderful thing but you don't have to invest in costly home fragrances. The bonus of making your own is that it won't contain any unpleasant chemicals, as well as saving you money.

One easy and delicious smelling one is to use lemon peels and infuse them overnight in a tablespoon of vodka, which will cause the peels to release their oils. The next day pour the peels and the vodka into 200ml spray bottle and top with distilled water.

The result is a zesty, refreshing scent.

22 Buying cookbooks to using online recipe organisers

The average person will only ever cook two to three recipes from any cookbook that they buy, making the internet every cook's friend in terms of the sheer breadth of free recipes available.

The challenge is collating all the information there in a way that you can actually use but naturally, there's an app for that.

Big Oven is one with over 250,000 recipes in its library and you can also import your own. Paprika is another where you can download recipes anywhere from the web and store them.

23 Getting clothes dry-cleaned to washing them at home

Strictly speaking, professional dry cleaning may not always be required. Read the label.

If it says 'Dry clean' this is a recommendation, and you can try washing it on delicate cycle or a cold wash.

If it categorically says 'Dry clean only', it's best to obey this. Cotton, linen, cashmere, acrylic, and nylon can usually be washed at home. Silk, acetate, velvet, wool, and taffeta should be brought to the cleaners. But always dry the garment flat on a white towel and never use the dryer.

DAY-TO-DAY

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24 Shopping solo to bulk-buying with a friend

Buying in bulk is a standard piece of advice when it comes to money saving. Buying large quantities does tend to be cheaper but it's a false economy if what you buy is going to go off before you can use it. Buddying up for your bulk buy with a like-minded friend saves you money as well as storage space, while also meaning that you can avail of bargains on perishable items that you'd have to pass over if you were just shopping for you and your family.

25 Your daily ATM withdrawals to a weekly one

When you're constantly making trips to the ATM - a €20 here and a €50 there - it can make it difficult to track exactly how much you are spending. Do one big withdrawal at the beginning of the week, and then leave all your cards at home, forcing you to stick to your planned budget. It helps you spend your money more wisely as it also eliminates the possibility of any random, impulse purchases.

26 Impulse buys to following the 30-day rule

The 30-day rule is a great way of controlling your spending whenever the urge to splurge strikes. It's surprisingly effective: you get a piece of paper, write down what it was you want to buy, how much it is, the price and the date. Put the paper somewhere like beside your computer and on your fridge and think about if for the next 30 days. At the end of that period, if you still want it, buy it, but you may have found that you've talked yourself out of it.

27 Big name brands to generic ones

It's an obvious one but it's also easy to forget when you're whizzing around the supermarket and getting distracted by the packaging and household names your recognise, as opposed to the less attention-grabbing, own name brands. Cleaning products, cereals, dried pastas, condiments, fruit juices, milk and jams are all safe bets and your savings will be considerable. Compare 500g of Tesco Everyday Value spaghetti, which costs 49c in comparison with a branded one of the same size which costs €1.

ENTERTAINMENT

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28 Buying popcorn at the cinema to bringing your own nibbles

Just to be clear, most cinemas will not permit you to bring hot food into the theatre but you can bring your own snacks - although it's probably worth checking with their websites beforehand. Popcorn is expensive; in 2013 RTE's Consumer Show reported that according to the findings of its survey, Irish cinemas were charging a 700pc mark-up on the snack, although in some cases this included refills. Bringing your own nibbles saves on the cost as well as giving you the opportunity to plump for healthier options like fruit and nuts.

29 Buying books and magazines to using a library card

If it's been a number of years since you've visited your local library, you might be surprised at how cool it is. You can surf the net, pick up the latest best-sellers and read magazines and newspapers, including speciality ones. Most are free to join although some libraries have a small membership fee. If you're looking for something in particular, it's worth visiting the Borrow Books website (www.borrowbooks.ie) where you can search online catalogues and websites of all Irish public libraries and request books and DVDs via inter-library loan.

30 Staying in Hotels to AirBNB

The website that allows you to rent somebody's apartment, home or room has been a runway success with one million people renting a property on Airbnb every month. The properties are a fraction of the cost of hotel rooms and if you rent somewhere with a kitchen, you can cut down on food bills and eat 'at home'. One of the best things is that you won't have an 11am check out time as you do in hotels.

Irish Independent

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