You'll have been driven half-mad this week with dour advice on ways to cut back to make up for the €1,500 or so your household loses in the Budget.
There's the usual stuff: switch insurers, change savings accounts and so on. But did you realise that rethinking your loo roll choice could save you hundreds? No? For this and more nifty ways to save a grand or more, read on. . .
Discount codes sites
The image of a slightly eccentric pensioner clipping 10 per cent off Bovril vouchers out of Woman's Way can be banished, couponing is now a very up-to-date, online activity.
Discount code sites giving double-digit money off big retailers like Vodafone, Dell and Debenhams have become almost a national obsession in Britain and are growing in popularity here.
"One of the best known, fatcheese.ie, has seen massive growth," said Patrick Campbell, of Tradedoubler, a company that arranges code deals on discount sites for clients like Tesco, Apple and Nike. "The sites are paid commission by these brands to give consumers discounts."
It works like this: you sign up with fatcheese.ie, promotionalcodes.ie, discountcodes.ie or myvouchercodes.ie. You click into the offers that appeal to you and get a discount code. When you get to checkout stage with your online purchase, you put in the code and get money off your buy. With fatcheese.ie, you also get 3-5 per cent money back in addition to the coded discount.
Discounts vary between a puny 3 per cent up to 25 per cent, or €30-€50 off all sorts of goods. It's a bit of a scavenger hunt, but perseverance will get you good, cheap deals. Some 'discounts' are just click-throughs to the retailer's website, but you'll quickly recognise and dodge them.
The best offers on the day we browsed last week: 25 per cent off clothes at Coast plus 5 per cent cash back, €75 off boots at Karen Millen plus 5 per cent cash back, and €40 cash back from Vodafone Ireland -- all through fatcheese.ie; 15 per cent off Dell computers on promotionalcodes.ie; up to 50 per cent off at Hotels.com and 10 per cent off at ebookers.ie; 60 per cent off shopping at Debenhams; and 25 per cent off at Oasis codes from discountcodes.ie.
Potential savings: on an average family Christmas shop spend of €923, save €90-€230.
Has it come to this, you might well ask. But just think what you could do with the yearly €200 you save by forgoing the luxury quilted Andrex nine-roll at €6.49 for the discount brand Spring Force nine-roll at €2.69. That's a month's worth of petrol money right there. Branded toiletries in general are a big cost on a weekly shop budget. Go generic and you could halve your spending.
Relax smokers -- we're not going to suggest you give up fags; this Budget is bad enough without you having to face it in nicotine-deprived frenzy. But you could switch brands, saving up to €475 a year. Benson & Hedges and Silk Cut cost €8.85 a pack, but Pall Mall Red with a similar nicotine hit costs just €7.55 per pack (and both to cost even more when the VAT kicks in in January). For a 20-a-day puffer that's a big difference, almost €40 a month.
No, we're not going to tell you to cut down on your drinking, now of all times. But you could change your choice of poison. If you're a Guinness drinker, opting for Beamish instead costs far less. A Guinness costs between €4 and €4.50 depending on where you're drinking, but Beamish costs up to 50c less. There's a difference of a good few cent between several well-known lagers also. On your 20 units a week over a year of stout drinking, save €260. That's one college registration fee hike.
Turn down the dial
Adjust the central heating thermostat down two degrees and cut your heating bill by about 20 per cent. So a four-bed semi-d costs around €100 a year less to heat. By leaving your TV on standby, you add an extra €30 a year to your leccy bill, so turn it off. The same goes for microwaves and mobile phone chargers. Swap eight regular bulbs to CFL to save about €20 a year. That's your household tax and more paid for.
If you're paying per lift, leave those bins out less and save. It depends who's providing your service and what part of the country you live in, but, for example, in Galway city the two main providers charge a lift fee of about €2 for three bin types. Halve the number of times you leave out the bins and save €25 a year. If you're in Dublin, you can cut your bin charge by up to €100 this way.
Eircom Phonewatch's monitored alarm basic package starts at €699. Competitors such as Securiguard have similar products starting at €400. A big €300 difference.
Get rid of your landline
If you have broadband and a decent mobile package, save €360 a year by ditching the landline. For dialling abroad, Skype is free when phoning other Skype users, and super cheap for dialling non-Skypers. That'll help with the up to €1,000 hike in health insurance that the tax changes may cause.
Visa debit cards
Don't spend money that you don't have on a credit card. Hard as you might try to always pay off the full balance on time, the truth is most of us don't and that's why plastic is ker-ching for the banks. A Visa debit card has most of the same advantages as a credit card but it doesn't extend you credit. Most AIB and Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank customers have them automatically for ages and Bank of Ireland says it is -- finally -- introducing its debit card in January.
Claim cash back
Thousands of us never claim tax relief we're entitled to. You can still get back unclaimed relief on medical expenses, tuition fees, rent relief and more for the last three years as long as you do it before the end of the year. "Claims for 2007 should be made before December 31, 2011, so it is important to act fast so taxpayers don't miss out," warns Andrea McDonnell of taxback.com.
If your health insurance plan gives money off doctor visits, prescriptions, physiotherapy, etc, claim it. Again, you can go back a few years for that as well.