Smart Consumer: Save a fortune by making the most of online deals
Most of us have less money these days and so are worried about spending on our social life.
But if you're smart, you can enjoy yourself and make your cash stretch an awful lot further, thanks to the many money-saving websites out there.
Here are some that will definitely help keep your bank balance in the black.
Deals of the day
Do you want to get your hair done or eat out but can't afford the full price? If so, there are now three websites that sell a heavily discounted 'deal of the day'.
Subscribe for free, and receive an email each day about that day's featured deal. If enough people participatel, it's yours.
Probably the most talked about is UK-based citydeal.ie. Their deals are mainly for beauty treatments, eating out and hotel breaks.
I recently bought a €13 deal (instead of €29.20) for a main dish, side and cocktail at the Exchequer Gastro Pub in Dublin. Last week, you could pay €25 instead of €72 for a waxing package and the examples go on and on.
Goodbuy.ie also offers a deal of the day. Last week you could pay €70 instead of €180 for an eight-week bootcamp course.
The latest to the Irish market is US-based livingsocial.com. They launched their deals last Thursday with a €30 voucher for the Buenos Aires Grill in Dublin that you could buy for €12.
So far, all deals are heavily focused on Dublin and Cork, but it's advisable to subscribe to them all so you don't miss out.
Special offers and discounts
You'll have to subscribe to, or at least spend time browsing, more sites if you want to know where the special offers are.
Onoffer.ie gives the lowdown on deals from electronics, hotels and fashion to beauty and restaurants. Some offers are exclusive to them.
Savvyshopper.ie focuses on discounts for lifestyle-related purchases, as does feelingfrugal.ie, while dealsoftheweek.ie concentrates on hotels.
For food look at cheapeats.ie, which covers all areas of food, including supermarket special offers. For restaurants and cafes only, check out menupages.ie, diningtreats.com and mylunch.ie.
For a complete listing of supermarket prices you'll have to pay €11.99 for an annual subscription to smartshopper.i.e. For that, you can create your own shopping list and see how much each item costs across all the big stores.
There are three cashback sites operating in Ireland now and the premise is simple. If you're buying something online, then instead of going direct to the retailer's website, click through from a cashback site and you'll get money back, paid directly to your bank or PayPal account.
Examples of cashback offers include 12% back on bookings with hotels.com from bethrifty.ie, 5% back on House of Fraser purchases with fatcheese.ie, and €30 back on a pay monthly subscription with O2 from cashbackireland.com.
Selling, swapping and buying second-hand
Chances are you've tried eBay, but don't forget about gumtree.ie and buyandsell.ie.
A more recent site, which specialises in swapping items, is swapbunny.ie, while the newest kid, or should that be baby, on the block is babybay.ie.
Launched in July by Irish mum Mandy O'Rorke, babybay.ie is a forum for selling on your old baby stuff and buying for your tot second-hand.
You'll find maternity wear as well as baby clothes and buggies, so if you can't get hand-me-downs from friends or family who have already been through the expensive process, this is a smart place to shop.
If you're interested in reading articles and tips about saving and spending wisely, take a look at saveafewbob.ie and valueireland.ie.
You'll find practical tips on everything from making your own beauty products to making your own fuel on saveafew bob.ie, while valueireland.ie provides news and views on everything consumer-related or join the discussion forum that is askaboutmoney.com.
Price comparison websites haven't developed as much here as in the UK, but check out uchoose.ie and bonkers.ie for comparisons on electronics, electricity and most stuff in between.
For price comparison surveys on insurance products try out itsyourmoney.ie, a site run by the National Consumer Agency. The Health Insurance Authority has recently updated and improved their website hia.ie and you'll find health insurance cost comparisons there.
For the difficult-to-compare services that are mobile, landline and broadband, go to callcosts.ie, run by the Commission for Communications Regulation, and make sure you have your usage details to hand, so you'll get accurate suggestions on the best deals for you.