Tuesday 20 March 2018

Charlie Weston's top tips to Beat the Budget

How you can benefit in less time than it took Donohoe to deliver his speech...

Personal finance expert Charlie Weston. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Personal finance expert Charlie Weston. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe's Budget this week delivered puny gains to workers, pensioners and others getting social welfare payments. Many will gain just €5 a week.

Here are 10 quick ways you can quadruple the gains from Tuesday's Budget.

1) Claim your tax reliefs

Up to a third of eligible taxpayers are unaware they can get sizeable tax reliefs to offset some of the cost of nursing home fees, home-care costs and medical expenses.

Tax relief at 40pc is available for those funding nursing home fees.

Tax relief is also available for expenditure incurred by an individual for themselves or family members which have not been fully reimbursed by a private health insurer or local authority. Relief is granted at the 20pc rate.

The home carer tax credit was increased by €100 in the Budget to €1,200. It may be claimed by a couple where one spouse/civil partner cares for one or more children or elderly incapacitated persons.

2) Get a better mortgage rate

Thousands of mortgage holders are overpaying because they are failing to apply for lower rates with their own bank.

In some cases, lower interest rates on home loans are available by simply filling out a form. Customers of Permanent TSB, KBC and Bank of Ireland could all avail of lower rates, but are not asking for them. Some 125,000 variable-rate customers in the three banks are affected. Many lenders have lower fixed rates than their variables.

Banks also have LTV (loan-to-value) rates. This is a rate based on the equity in the home. The more equity you have the lower the rate you pay. You apply to the bank for these rates.

3) Get a better deal on mortgage protection insurance

It is a common misconception that mortgage protection insurance must be bought directly from a mortgage lender, but this isn't the case. Borrowers can shop around for cheaper mortgage protection insurance at the time of their draw-down, or at any stage of their loan term.

Non-smokers who switch mortgage protection insurance will save an estimated €190 a year, according to Mark Whelan of price comparison site Bonkers.ie. Over the course of a 20-year loan, this adds up to a saving of €3,800.

4) Get cheaper health insurance

Corporate plans are often the best value plans in the market.

They are available to all members and normally cover all public and private hospitals, and also include guaranteed refunds on out-patient expenses with no excess to pay first.

Read More: 'I'm worried health funding will vanish down a black hole'

Here are three that are good value, according to Dermot Goode of TotalHealthCover.ie:

n VHI PMI 3513: €1,303 per adult;

n Laya Simply Connect Plus: €1,295 per adult;

n Irish Life Health 4D Health 2: €1,272 per adult.

5) Switch gas and electricity providers

Switching energy suppliers is one of the easiest ways to save money. There are 10 suppliers in the Irish market now, and customers with average consumption can save €348 by switching from a standard plan to a cheap discounted deal.

Energia is offering a 33pc discount to new electricity customers, and Electric Ireland is offering €175 cash back. New supplier Just Energy is offering a market-leading 12-month fixed gas rate and Flogas is offering a 22pc discount.

6) Ditch the TV channels you never watch

More and more people are watching TV online these days, making traditional TV subscriptions less important than they once were.

Telecoms companies still try to sell tripleplay and quadplay bundles to customers, leaving many households paying for bloated TV plans they don't want or need. Consumers can save up to €667 by cancelling their TV package and moving all of their viewing online.

All that is needed is a Chromecast - which allows you to beam the programme on your laptop to your television set - and a good broadband-only deal. Sky is offering 100Mb broadband for €39 a month and Virgin Media is offering 240Mb for €44 a month for the first six months, increasing to €54 after that, according to Bonkers.ie.

7) Get a women's rate on your car insurance

Women tend to have fewer accidents, as they are a better risk for insurers. However, anti-gender discrimination laws mean insurers can't charge a man less than a woman for cover.

Read More: 'Overall farmers happy, but rise in stamp duty was a negative aspect'

But one company that markets mainly to women, who are safer drivers, tends to be more competitive - Its4Women.ie. Under the law Its4women.ie cannot refuse to take on men. But it can offer better rates because most of its customers are lower-risk female drivers.

8) Buy in bulk

Goods that have no best-before date should be bought in bulk. This is especially the case if they are on special offer. A family could save up to €500 a year by buying non-perishables in large volumes when they are on special offer, according to Karl Deeter, co-author of 'This Book Is Worth €25,000'.

9) Haggle

We Irish are smart, but we often forget to haggle. Sellers will often be flexible on the price if you flash the cash. Remember if you are eager to buy something you are a hot sales prospect, so a retailer won't want you to walk away.

This may not work in large retail operations, but you would be surprised how often haggling can be effective. On big ticket items like cars or fridges you should always haggle. Ask the manager or the owner for a deal. Always be mannerly.

10) Get fee-free banking

The main banks all provide ways to either reduce or avoid fees, but each bank has different criteria.

The over-60s generally get free banking, but you may have to apply for it.

For other people, banks offer the option of waiving all fees if you keep a certain amount of money on deposit at all times.

Given that savings accounts' interest rates are so low at the moment it might be worth your while treating your current account like a savings account.

You might not earn interest but you'll save yourself a lot in transaction fees.

Irish Independent

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