Plan a route to financial health
Good planning can help you sort out your finances in 2012, says Charlie Weston
THIS year is set to be one of the toughest yet for households. More than a dozen new charges, hikes and tax increases have delivered a succession of savage blows to the finances of families.
All that can be done is to review every major household expenditure, yet again.
Use this supplement as a manual to get your spending down.
Set aside one day this month or next and sit down with your bank statements and review regular outgoing.
Make a list of all your regular debits on your account and work through each one methodically to see if could be getting a better deal, according to financial adviser Liam Ferguson.
Health insurance is one of the big expenses, and again insurers have outdone themselves by hiking prices.
Health insurance expert Dermot Goode advises consumers to consider switching, check out that they are not over-insured, and to look at new plans which may be better value.
Meanwhile, a typical household can save ¿275 a year by getting the best deal on electricity and gas bills, according to energy expert Simon Moynihan.
Other ways to save on energy include reading your own meter, getting an electricity monitor, using a nightsaver meter, and servicing your boiler.
When it comes to the weekly grocery shop the best advice is to double-check promotional offers. You might not necessarily be getting a good deal on what the store says is a special offer.
Make a shopping list, and stick to it. Consider shopping online, which can be a good way to avoid making purchases you do not really need.
And most of us could do more to avoid food waste. It is estimated that between ¿600 and ¿1,200 worth of food is thrown out by the average family every year. Shoppers can also save a packet by opting for supermarkets' own-label products over branded groceries. A recent survey conducted by the Consumers' Association found own-brand product was on average 40pc cheaper than the branded item across 36 products. Some own-labels were up to 70pc cheaper than branded products.
Families can also save up to ¿1,000 a year by getting better deals on motor, household, life, health and other insurance. Many consumers are paying over the odds for home insurance because they have incorrectly insured the value of their building, rather than the rebuilding cost of their home.
When it comes to motor insurance it is not unusual to find differences of up to 40pc between the highest and lowest premiums on offer in the market. Life insurance is hugely competitive with great savings, and special offers, easy to find at the moment.
Every year millions of euro in tax refunds goes unclaimed by workers.
Last month's Budget restricted some of the reliefs taxpayers can claim, but there is still a long list of tax reliefs available to people that could result in savings of hundreds of euro. And you can claim a refund on tax credits for as far back as 2008.
Credit card debt is a pain. Try getting a loan to clear your debt. A credit union is a good option, but many of these community-based lenders are under strain and have been told by regulators to restrict lending.
Another option is to sell a second car, or use your savings to clear the expensive card debt. If your card debt is out of control try and get your credit card provider to stop applying interest and penalties to your account. You might also be wise to cut up the card -- thousands do it every week.
More details on savings for families are available throughout this supplement.