Drive a better bargain and cut down your commuting costs
Have you noticed that running the family car has become dearer? It's €10 a month dearer, according to AA Ireland, and the rise comes after the VAT increase and is made worse by hikes in European prices for petrol and diesel.
Plus, if you're a motorway user, tolls on parts of the M1, M8, M6, Limerick tunnel, M3, M4 and M7 rose by 10 cent at the start of the year.
So, is 2012 the year to ditch the car, or the second car if you have one? And if you opt for public transport instead, where are the best deals on tickets?
Admittedly, depending on where you live or how much you need to use your car, you may not have much choice at all.
But if you're in Dublin or Cork, one alternative is to hire a car by the hour, for those trips that require your own four wheels. GoCar operates in both cities with tariffs ranging from €2.75 an hour at night to €5.75 on weekdays and €6.25 per hour at weekends.
Gocar says you will save money if you drive less than 8,000km in a year, and all you have to do is register, book a car at least an hour in advance, pick it up from one of a number of locations and drive off. You are provided with a GoCard, which operates as a key for all the vehicles.
Car sharing is a smart alternative, whether for commuting or for one-off, cross-country trips. Take a look at getthere.ie or swiftcommute.ie if you're looking or offering and if you tweet use that as a forum, too.
If you're thinking of cycling to work instead, don't forget the cycle-to-work scheme so you can buy a bike for less. This allows your employer to give you up to €1,000 of your wages before tax is paid, so that you can buy a bike from a participating bike shop. That way you won't pay tax, PRSI or USC on the amount and your employer saves on PRSI for the amount.
When it comes to public transport, you'd be forgiven for wondering if price hikes will never end, what with the price of Dublin Bus, DART and commuter services rising in January, Irish Rail intercity prices rising a couple of weeks ago, and Dublin Bus pre-paid tickets rising from this Sunday.
If you live in the greater Dublin area but don't get the bus, Luas or DART every day, then get a Leap Card to save when you do use one of those services.
The Leap Card, which you 'top up' with cash, costs €5 (a refundable deposit) but fares are up to 17pc less on the Luas and up to 18pc less on the DART.
To give you an example of Dublin Bus fares using the Leap Card, a €2.15 fare will cost you €1.95, a €1.90 fare is €1.70 and the €2.65 fare costs €2.40, so the savings should add up.
The Leap Card is a new system, and is yet to be developed to include more areas and multiple journeys to the system, so keep an eye on progress to see if it will become a better option for you.
Despite the price hikes to come in pre-paid, multi-journey tickets used by everyday commuters, they should still work out better than forking out each day. And if you do buy a monthly, part-yearly (Bus Éireann only) or yearly ticket, one thing you have to do is make sure your employer joins the Tax Saver Scheme.
This way your employer purchases the ticket for you before tax, PRSI and USC is taken from your wages. So you pay up to 52pc less and your employer saves on PRSI too.
Intercity rail services haven't been immune to fare increases. Fare structures have been simplified but it means that while 66 fare bands have decreased in price, 143 fares have gone up.
Irish Rail says that these relate to booking-office fares and that web fares may differ, adding that single fares are "always lower online" and that web promotions will continue. So the web appears to be the place to go.
But given that some people have found it difficult to get online promo-tional fares in the past, and some-times found better fares at the station booking office, let's watch that space.
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