Charlie Weston: From heating the home to mortgages and broadband - nine ways to beat the budget
1. Get better value health insurance
As many as two out of three may be overpaying for cover and large numbers of people are still insured on dated, overly expensive schemes. Corporate plans are best value plans.
Here are three that are good value, according to Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie:
:: VHI Company Plan Plus Level 1.3 at €1,128;
:: Laya Simply Connect at €1,100;
:: Irish Life Health 4D Health 1 at €1,045 (no day-to-day cover).
2. Switch your energy provider
A number of electricity and gas providers have now increased their prices twice this year. Switching suppliers is one of the easiest ways to save money.
There are 10 in the Irish market and customers with average consumption can save €300 by switching from a standard plan to a cheap, discounted deal. Bord Gáis Energy is offering a 24pc electricity discount to new customers who sign up via Bonkers.ie. If you decide to switch dual fuel, Bord Gáis Energy is offering a 21pc electricity discount and a 21pc gas discount.
The deals are only available to new customers so if you are already with Bord Gáis you will need to look elsewhere. The good news is that Energia is offering a 30pc discount on electricity prices for new customers, and Flogas is offering a 22pc new customer discount on gas.
3. New broadband deal could save hundreds
According to Switcher.ie, there are currently discounts of more than €350 available on broadband bundles. If you have broadband, TV, home phone and a mobile phone, see if you can get a discount by buying two or more from the same provider, known as bundling. Generally, providers will offer a discount if you bundle products and you will also only have to deal with one provider - and one monthly bill - instead of several.
4. Save by streaming your favourite shows
Two-thirds of us actually watch less than a quarter of the channels we pay for, according to Switcher.ie research.
If you spend most of your viewing time streaming content via the likes of Netflix, NOW TV or Amazon Prime, you could just ditch your traditional TV plan altogether and switch to a broadband-only plan. Broadband-only plans are available from just €25 per month.
5. Try a SIM-only plan for your phone
According to Switcher.ie, you will save a packet by switching to a SIM-only deal.
Generally, if you get a phone as part of your plan, your contract will be for between 18 and 24 months and providers build in the cost of you paying back the phone over the course of the contract. Unlimited SIM-only deals are available from just €15 per month - switching to one of these could save you more than €500 per year.
6. Switch your mortgage protection plan
You can easily shave €5 or €10 a month off your premium by shopping around. And remember, smokers pay far higher rates than non-smokers. So if you have quit the ciggies for more than a year, you can re-apply for insurance at far cheaper, non-smoker rates.
7. Switch your mortgage payments
According to Switcher.ie, mortgage holders on a standard variable rate of 4.5pc for a €250,000 mortgage, with at least 20pc equity in the home, can save almost €300 a month by switching to the best rate which is currently 2.3pc fixed over two years from Ulster Bank. Someone with a similar mortgage could save €268 a month by opting for KBC's one-year fixed rate of 2.5pc.
.8 Don't be afraid to claim all your tax reliefs
You can claim relief as a tax credit for medical expenses paid for yourself or for others, even non-relatives. The tax credit is 20pc of the amount of medical expenses. If you are improving your home, you may be entitled to an income tax credit of 13.5pc of the money you spend on painting and decorating. This scheme is due to go at the end of the year.
9. Rent out a room in your home
You can rent out a room and earn up to €14,000 per annum without being taxed. It's one of the biggest tax-free giveaways in the country.