Staying south of your budget by going North
It's good to shop local but there are savings to be had on certain items in the six counties, says Sinead Ryan
This Christmas comes with an added bonus for consumers, if not exporters - Brexit.
There's a real temptation to see how far your sterling goes by shopping north of the border, so this week I'm looking at what bargains there are and how to make sure you get the right ones.
While it is obviously a good thing to shop Irish, and local if possible, there's no avoiding the temptation that comes from a British bargain, especially for those living within a couple of hours of the border.
But you do need to be careful with what you buy, as with some goods, prices are just the same here as there. The panel gives some examples of current savings that are available for a range of goods, but it is important to do your research first before setting out on your trip.
This is a win-win. Not only is sterling teetering at around 89/90p against the euro, but booze only carries a 20pc VAT rate and lower excise charges in the UK (€2.85 vs €3.19 per bottle of wine), compared to Ireland, according to the Irish Wine Association. That means double savings.
It makes more sense to shop in volume, for parties or with friends in tow, than just for one or two bottles as you need to factor in time off work, driving, parking etc - and may get extra discounts for bulk buying.
While Britain is still part of the EU, you are allowed to import up to 10 litres of spirits, 20 litres of fortified wines (e.g. sherry, port), 90 litres of wine (but only 60 litres can be sparkling) and 110 litres of beer before attracting the attention of Revenue. Sounds like a great party!
There can be very little in terms of savings on clothes unless you look carefully. Some popular high street stores like Next and Monsoon may offer cheaper sterling prices, but this is because they buy long in advance and have to 'peg' their currency.
Do check prices online before travelling to make sure it's the same item and is worth the trip. Bear in mind, some of these stores, with a presence in the Republic, may not ship items from the UK, but will redirect you locally.
Stores that sell on the internet offer great deals as long as (a) you shop in sterling and (b) they will ship to Ireland. An example is the hugely popular fashion site for Irish shoppers, Asos. They are happy to ship here, at little or no extra cost, but beware - as it allows you choose the currency from the drop-down menu, it's vital you never pick euro! You will be charged an exchange rate over €1.30/£1 which is their internal mark-up to cover currency fluctuations.
The actual exchange rate is about €1.11. Better to shop and pay in sterling and have your bank make the exchange on your credit card. You will be charged a currency conversion fee, but at around 2pc, you're still winning.
In terms of shipping, opening a Parcel Motel or An Post AddressPal account overcomes the issue. It costs an extra €3 to €15 for delivery depending on package size.
It's great to get away for a few days over the festive season. Flying from Belfast Airport instead of Dublin opens up more airlines (EasyJet, Thompson and Jet2 all depart there) and you can pay for package holidays in sterling, which may be easier on the pocket.
If you're buying someone else a trip, bear in mind that hotel vouchers and event tickets (concerts, theatre etc) are specifically excluded from consumer laws for return purposes, so make sure they'll make use of the trip.
Toys are generally priced similarly and probably wouldn't be worth the trip. Branded items like Disney, Lego and other names only carry a small saving, if any.
South/North price comparison
Here are some prices, correct at time going to press, of identical products from Irish and UK stores (rate assume £1/€1.11):
Moet & Chandon Brut (75cl) champagne
Tesco UK £27 (€29.97).
Tesco Ireland €50.
Graham Norton Sauvignon Blanc (75cl x 12)
Tesco UK £48 (€53.28).
SuperValu Ireland €124.
Bombay Sapphire Gin 70cl
Tesco UK £21 (€23.31).
Mitchell & Sons Ireland €31.
Lipsy Black Lace Dress, Next
UK £52 (€57.72). Ireland €60.
Karen Millen Jacquard Blazer
UK £168.75 (€187.31). Ireland €206.24.
Return flights to Malaga Dec 27-Jan 3
EasyJet ex-Belfast: £489.51 (€543.35).
Aer Lingus ex-Dublin: €704.98.
Lego Star Wars Resistance Bomber
Toys R Us, UK £84.99 (€94.34).
Smyths Toys Ireland €104.49.