Thursday December 30 2010
The tree is still up, Santa's gifts are still being played with and the turkey sandwiches may still be doing the rounds, but with two days to go, it's time to start thinking about New Year resolutions.
Getting fit and being a "better person" aside, 2011 has got to be the year where you make sure your euro stretches as far as it can.
Make January your month of sorting out your finances, switching accounts and start shopping in a way that will save you money.
You can always turn your thermostat down -- lowering it by just one degree will knock 10% off your bill!
But you'll want to make sure you're paying the least possible for your energy supply.
Or mix your suppliers by opting for electricity from Airtricty at 13% less than ESB prices and gas from Flogas at 15% less than Bord Gais prices, with no fixed contracts.
However, expect prices to change as soon as the energy regulator ceases to regulate ESB's electricity prices in a few months time and by April they will have a new name -- ElectricIreland.
They will then be able to set their own prices and compete on the market, plus they are planning on entering the domestic gas market.
When this happens, you'll need to switch again to the new best deal, so keep your ears open. In the meantime check out uchoose.ie and bonkers.ie for electricity price comparisons and seai.ie for energy-saving tips.
Admittedly you could chat less but the fact is you may be paying over the odds if you don't have a mobile-phone package that suits your needs.
If you are a bill-pay customer, go through the bill to count up how many minutes you use, texts you send and to what network.
Only then will you know if you are using more minutes or text than your package allows or if you're using too little. If either is the case, you need to change to a more suitable deal.
If you use pay-as-you-go, add up how much money you spend a month and see if you can do better for the same amount of calls on bill-pay.
Comparing is a minefield so start by going to callcosts.ie to carry out your research.
Landline, broadband and TV
When it comes to your landline, you should be paying a flat monthly rate that covers line rental, unlimited 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. So, you could pay €39.99 a month for unlimited phone calls and broadband with Digiweb for example.
You could also bundle your phone and broadband with TV, (from €60 a month with UPC), and check what deal you get with the phone, ie unlimited calls, or just off-peak calls.
Every year you should check all your policies and then see if you can do better, by either asking your existing policy provider for a better deal or switching.
When it comes to comparing health insurance policies and prices, the best site is hia.ie -- see if there is an equivalent company policy available.
If there is you are entitled to buy it and it will cost less. For example, VHI's Plan B Option costs €985.86 but the equivalent VHI Company Plan Plus Level 1 costs €805, meaning a saving of €180.86, so check if the terms suit your needs.
For travel and home insurance comparisons go to uchoose.ie and visit itsyourmoney.ie for price surveys across the sector.
If you buy anything online, from groceries to clothes, digital TV to electrics, then sign up to a cash-back site (bethrifty.ie, fatcheese.ie, cashbackireland.ie) to get cash back simply by linking to the trader you want to shop with from their site.
The cash will go into your bank or PayPal account and you are shopping as usual, so there is nothing not to like.
Many retailers are on these sites and examples include €2.50 back for existing Tesco online customers at bethrifty.ie; €160 back on a Sky+ HD box and package on fatcheese.ie and 8% back on clothes from Coast at cashbackireland.com.
Before you head to the bricks and mortar shops get money-off coupons at onoffer.ie and 5hop5.ie. And you can still afford to go for a meal out or get that beauty treatment if you buy a heavily discounted 'deal of the day' from www.citydeal.ie, livingsocial.com and goodbuy.ie.
- Tina Leonard