THEY say it ain't easy being green. Whatever about that, it sure ain't easy being a saver at the moment.
Savers are suffering from a triple whammy of rock-bottom interest rates, high tax on any gains and new charges such as those demanded from Irish Water, which are spoiling the incentive to provide for that rainy day.
Last month it was revealed that the first bank is set to cut its interest rate on two of its accounts to 0pc. South African bank Investec will pay nothing on two of its deposit products from early January.
Already most mainstream banks pay just 0.01pc on demand deposit accounts.
This means a before-tax return of just 10 cents for lodging €1,000 for a year.
In the summer the European Central Bank slashed its main lending rate to just 0.05pc, after it put through more than a dozen cuts since 2008.
Banks have used the fact that the ECB rate is almost zero as an excuse for a new round of reductions in the rates they pay their savers.
Households have around €92bn in savings in banks. On top of this they have close to €19bn into the State savings schemes. They are sold by An Post, but issued by the National Treasury Management Agency.
Traditionally State savings schemes were regarded as good value as they paid high interest, with no tax on many of them. But the interest paid on these has been continually slashed also.
Deposit interest retention tax went up to 41pc in the last Budget. And from last January savers, who are in the PAYE system, will have to pay an extra tax on any interest on savings. PRSI (pay-related social insurance) of 4pc is due on deposit interest.
Banks may have continuously cut interest rates but there are still big differences in the interest rates being paid by the various banks.
The interest you can earn on €10,000 in savings varies from just €1 after a year, to €220.
So it is worth your while moving your money to somewhere it will earn more for you.
Instant access: When it comes to getting a decent rate in this low-interest rates environment, and getting immediate access to your cash, then Permanent TSB, KBC Bank and RaboDirect have the best rates.
All three have Online Instant Access Accounts paying 1.75pc interest a year. This means if you save €10,000 you will get €200 gross in interest at the end of a year.
With KBC Bank you have to have at least €3,000 in this account to get the 1.75pc rate.
In contrast, Bank of Ireland has a demand deposit account with an interest rate of just 0.01pc.
When it comes to notice accounts, which have a variable interest rate but you must give notice to withdraw money, there is little choice.
AIB is the only deposit-taker to pop up in a price comparison survey by the National Consumer Agency. The State-owned bank offers 1.05pc on its Online Notice Deposit 7 account. If the balance on this account is over €10,000, a combined rate is applied.
Balances up to €10,000 earn 1.05pc and the remaining balance above €10,000 earns 0.75pc.
Fixed term: The longer you are prepared to leave your money on deposit the better the savings rate you will get. The best rate is from Nationwide UK (Ireland) which pays an annual equivalent rate (AER) rate of 2.2pc for money deposited for three years.
The next best is offered by Permanent TSB and KBC Bank, which both have rates of 2.05pc a year for money deposited for five years.
This is a three-year product. The interest is now 0.83pc annual equivalent rate (AER). Expressed over the three-year term of the bonds, the return is 2.5pc. The big plus is that you did not have to pay DIRT tax.
This means that someone investing €10,000 in the State savings bonds will now get a return of just €83 a year, down from €132 for those who bought savings bonds issued before today.
The interest being paid on the State savings bonds is now four times lower than it was less than two years ago. If you cash in the bonds before the full three-year term the interest rate you get will be lower. The minimum purchase is €50, and the maximum is €120,000. Put €10,000 into this product and you will come out with €10,250 after three yeras.
Just like the bonds, the interest you earn on savings certificates is tax free. This product has a five-and-a-half-year term.
The interest rate is now 1.24pc a year on new certs, which works out at 7pc over the full term. This means that if you encash the certs before the full term, the interest you get will be lower. The minimum purchase is €50, and the maximum is €120,000.
Put €10,000 into this product, and you will get back €10,700 after five and a half years.
Saving is not easy. It takes commitment and some homework, especially as the interest being paid by banks is so low. Here are some suggestions from financial economist at Dublin City University Dr Michael Dowling:
1) Put money into a savings account that is not linked to your current account.
2) Set up automated savings transfers for every month, with money going from your current account to your dedicated savings account.
3) Try a social savings approach - tell friends what you want to have saved for in the next year. Studies show this to be surprisingly effective. This is one of the main principles behind the success of weight-loss programs such as WeightWatchers.
4) Think about a Save More Tomorrow type of arrangement. This is where you set aside a portion of your next pay rise to go to increased savings.
5) Finally, you might look into the hard commitment route and see if the "no pain, no gain" approach would work for you.