Smart Consumer: Five ways to save money at home this autumn
The weather has turned and the kids are once again facing into evenings of homework, but they shouldn't be the only ones.
Take the time to do your own homework by assessing all your home policies and accounts. The reward for your hard work will be better deals and money saved.
Here are five to get working on straight away:
If you haven't already done so, you should investigate switching your gas and electricity suppliers. If you moved last year, then check to see if it's worth switching again because you may be on a higher rate now than what was offered to new 'switchers'.
Bear in mind that while gas rates will not rise in October, we will be paying more for electricity. The best rates are offered when you pay by direct debit and by ebill.
The cheapest rates for electricity are Bord Gais at 14% lower than ESB (if you're an existing gas customer) and Airtricity at 13% less than ESB. For gas, Flogas offers the best rate at 11% lower than Bord Gais.
2. Mobile phone
The biggest mistake is to buy a package for too many minutes or for too few.
Either way you will pay more, so the key to getting the best deal is to analyse your bill to work out how many calls you make in a month, the number of texts, to what networks, how many to landlines or abroad and so on. It's only then that you will know what package best suits your needs.
It can be difficult to compare, but start with callcosts.ie, where you can input your usage data and the best deals will be suggested to you.
If you use pre-pay, don't rule out moving to bill pay as you may be able to do better, especially if you find yourself constantly topping-up because, in general, pre-pay suits low users best.
3. Landline and broadband
The same criteria apply when deciding which phone provider to buy your landline package from.
Most rates absorb the line-rental fee, so you should be paying a flat monthly rate that covers most or all of your national and local calls, plus some mobile or international calls depending on the deal.
It can make sense to bundle your phone account with your broadband and TV; it depends on your usage pattern.
More than two-thirds of TV owners subscribe to a paid digital TV service but there is less than €3 difference in the cost between basic digital packages at Sky and UPC.
To save money you have three options: stick to national channels only, ditch the sport or movie channels, or get a free-to-air satellite dish installed.
You can buy a generic dish for around €100 and tune it yourself or pay around €300 for the dish and installation from one of the many companies offering the service. These are one-off fees, there will be no monthly subscription and you will get between 100 and 200 channels.
However, the free-to-air service is UK-based, operated by the BBC and ITV, so you'll need an aerial to get the Irish channels, but the installer can also provide this.
If you renew your various policies without checking for better deals, get them all out, read them and start shopping around.
For home insurance, premiums can vary by up to €200 according to a survey by itsyourmoney.ie. You should also check that the rebuild cost is accurate and up to date (and that it is not the sale value). If it's too high your premium will increase but you won't get more money if the worst happens.
If you're a young driver, the premiums offered can vary by more than €1,000 and even older drivers can still find differences of €200, so start making calls.
When it comes to health insurance you probably know what you're covered for, but compare the excess that's charged by different providers.
For example, if you are a couple with no children and are on a family policy, your excess will be much higher than for individual policies, so work out which is best value for your needs.
And if you've given up the fags, be sure to tell your life- insurance provider. A 50-year-old smoker can pay up to €2,040 a year more than a non-smoker, so make sure you're not paying extra for nothing.