In the next part of our New Year series Alan Healy looks at budgeting and money saving tips to make your money stretch as far as possible
TO listen to recent announcements reporting rising house values and an improving economy you could be forgiven for thinking the times of austerity and harsh budgeting is behind us.
However the reality as many people know is that savings still need to be made in everyday life and that for most households in Ireland every euro needs to stretch as much as possible.
With the measures announced in Budget 2015 coming into effect this month there are some measures which will put money back into people's pockets.
Child benefit is increasing by 5 per child per month while the dreaded Universal Service Charge, which takes a sizeable chunk out of people's wages, is reducing.
Margaret O'Neill co-ordinator with the Cork Money, Advice & Budgeting Service (Mabs) said the budget changes were welcome but are small.
"It is a bit more for people but not a lot so wouldn't like to give the impression that things are improving dramatically. We are seeing a slight turn but we a long way off of where we all want to be," she said.
So with money still tight and people examining their statements and credit card bills after Christmas what can be done to improve your financial standing.
"Don't be rash, take stock at what you have and focus on the roof over your head, the heat, light food as your priorities," Ms O'Neill said.
"At this time of year in January we are looking at the fall out from Christmas. Someone who didn't have sufficient cash may have borrowed money or used credit cards.
That is fine when you have sufficient means but the fear is a person borrowed money and made an agreement they can't honour and then pull money from their mortgage or other utilities." Ms O'Neill urged people in difficulty to go and talk to those they owe money to and work out a repayment plan that is manageable.
The Mabs website www.mabs.iehas a range of budgeting advice tools and they can also be contacted by phone on 0761 07 2090.
Another popular website to get advice and money saving tips iswww.consumerhelp.ie which is run by the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.
They give advice on how to save euros on everything from your television packages, groceries, holidays and cars.
A common theme on savings advice is to shop around and to change your utility provider as often as possible to avail of the cheapest deals and new offers.
There are also a number of cost comparison websites such as www.bonkers.ie where you can compare the cost of electricity and gas prices, bank accounts, broadband and television deals and mortgages.
A popular new service is called One Big Switch. More than 70,000 people in Ireland have signed up for the campaign which allows them to secure cheaper gas, electricity and health insurance prices because they are part of larger group.
Ms O'Neill of Cork Mabs said that despite all the savings tips it is important people stay focused on keeping the essentials, the roof over their heads, food, light and heat.
"Go and talk to people. If you find have a credit union loan and can't pay go and talk to the manager and come to an arrangement.”
"We do see a lot of credit card debt in January and it is important you don't just pay off the minimum amount because you are not addressing the debt at all, just moving it onto next month."
"We are still at a point where money is very, very tight and people need to take great care. In fairness most people have made savings where they can and if you are still in difficulty then see or website or come and talk to us."
"We have seen a levelling off in numbers but the demand is still there for our services. People can now be seen within two weeks and will get to speak with a money advisor and if a crisis there is no wait at all."