10 small steps to make some big household savings
THERE are so many ways to reduce costs in our day-to-day lives, but the trick is planning them and sticking with them.
Really, good habits begin with small steps and as you conquer the smaller, simpler little tasks, you'll find that as your confidence grows, you'll be ready for even greater ones.
Here are some simple steps to saving money from Frank Conway, the founder of the Irish Financial Review and MoneyWhizz.org.
1 Make a list before going shopping
This is intended for all types of shopping, whether it is the groceries or DIY shopping. Having a list really does make a difference.
Impulse purchases can be so overpowering that when added up over the course of a year, they come to a multiple of the cost of a home insurance policy.
So lists will help keep your spending in control. Another benefit is they can help cut down on the number of car trips you need to make to the shop for the stuff you forgot, Mr Conway says.
2 Consolidate bank accounts and avoid monthly fees
A few years ago when we weren't so sure of the health of the banks, some people may have opened up several bank accounts to ensure their cash was safe.
But things have improved on that front so if you still have multiple bank accounts (or credit union accounts), you may want to rethink the strategy, especially if you are being hit with high bank fees.
This is specially the case if your average monthly balance is consistently below the various thresholds, Mr Conway says.
Check out what your bank's fee policies are, and check out the competition also.
Some banks have lower balance requirements in order to avoid fees and if you can do better somewhere else, switch.
And if you can get a better deal on lower fees by holding higher average balances, consolidate and switch.
Mr Conway says: "Remember, be loyal to your bank balance and not your bank."
3 Take a lunch to work
Eating lunch out is expensive, full stop. If you have a common eating area at work, bring lunch to work. This is a great way of cutting down costs and it even doubles up as a good in-office networking exercise.
4 Consolidate and pay off high interest debt as soon as possible
If you carry any debt, focus on paying off the most expensive first. Small balances on credit cards for example can spiral out of control as the interest charges compound and are added to the capital amount owed.
If you have to borrow to pay off high interest bills, look to lower the limit on your card to a minimum that you can work with.
5 Use online tools to shop for best car fuel deals
You can reduce car fuel costs significantly simply by planning a journey and shopping around.
There are online tools that allow you to check out the best deals on diesel and petrol which is updated with the latest prices.
6 Question that landline
Unless you absolutely need one, most of us have come to use landlines less and less.
This means you need to bring it into the financial review as a highly questionable expense.
Unless you have an iron-clad reason for keeping it, dump it and save yourself some euro.
7 Bottle it... Your own water that is
Water is great for you but does it really have to be purchased from a brand that just sells water?
Anyway, now that we are paying for the stuff, there is little point paying twice. Best to use the stuff that comes from the kitchen tap.
8 Bike and use public transport to work
The good news here is that both are cheaper ways of getting around and the Government actually offers an incentive.
Check out citizensinformation.ie and taxsaver.ie for all the details on how the tax saver deal for public transport works and the tax relief scheme for buying a bike for work.
9 Get the cinema early bird specials
Who doesn't like the feeling of a cinema to catch the latest big release? But if you want to get the best money deal, don't pack in with the crowd, wait and see it when there is a price reduction. Good news is if you have the time, you may have to wait a few days. . . just steer clear of your friends to avoid the spoiler.
10 Regulate your electricity use
When not in use, unplug electric appliances.
According to various case studies, you can rack up the savings by unplugging the TV and other appliances (not the fridge freezer) as opposed to just turning it off.
You should also invest in a BER (building energy rating).
Personal money management is as much a frame of mind as it is a discipline
The trick in getting into a habit of asking "how much" and having a plan also, Mr Conway says.
Lots of families run into personal finance difficulties for reasons beyond their control but even more do so because of lack of control.
Having a simple personal finance plan involves little more than having a simple A4 sheet of paper and using it to track expenses on a month-by-month basis.
When it comes to shopping, a shopping list is a self-control tool that forces families to ask whether or not they really need to spend that extra cash on something that they may not really need now or need at all.
Of course, in addition to structure, one also need discipline, especially at the start of a budgeting process, and as time passes and the budgeting process becomes embedded, the whole personal budgeting thing will become second nature, and families will reap the financial benefits in the long term.