We can't afford to go on holiday or have our house rewired

Jennifer Baggot and her husband, Stephen, live in a three-bedroom former council house in Dublin 8. She describes herself as middle class and says that she is fortunate to have both a job and a house.

Stephen works in information technology, and she is a part-time pharmacist. Their joint income is €43,000 a year. She says she knows it sounds like a lot, but when their outgoings are totted up they have very little left. Their mortgage, which they recently fixed for two years, costs €1,380 a month, and in an average month they spend about €800 on groceries. "I do most of my shopping in Lidl and in the Dublin co-op," she says.

Baggot also grows her own vegetables, on an allotment near her home. "I’ve been doing it for years, but this summer I think was the first time it might have saved us money," she says, laughing.

A further €95 of the couple's monthly income goes on gas; electricity costs €70 a month. They have no childcare or education costs but spend about €80 on prescription medication. Their mobile phones come in at €85.

"I have a cheap phone and the cheapest contract I could find, so that costs €25 a month. My husband's contract costs €60 a month."

They pay €65 to cover landline and broadband costs. Transport costs €190 a month, most of it for the public transport that her husband takes to work, six kilometres away; she spends a small sum on petrol to take her to and from work.

Another €39 goes on television, while a combination of her health-insurance policy and his hospital cashback plan costs €111. They spend €29 on home insurance, and alife-insurance policy tied to their mortgage costs €55.

The couple spend €40 a month insuring her car. An average of €100 a month goes on clothes, while their social life costs €480 a month (in this she includes gifts, Christmas and "the odd takeaway pizza").

All told, this couple's annual expenditure is just under €43,500 - on that income of €43,000.

"We scrimp and save but don't seem to have that much left at the end of the month. I buy most of my clothes second-hand, and we don't go out that much.

"It seems crazy that we can't afford to go on holidays or have our house rewired," she says. It needs to be done, but the couple don't have the €4,000 it would cost

"We are lucky to have a house, but our parents had a more comfortable life than we have. My dad was a professor, and he would have been on a good salary. He doesn't understand how we are scrimping and saving all the time.

I honestly don't know where we could make more savings."



Baggot appears to have a very good grasp of her finances and knows where most of her money is going. But there are still ways to improve their finances.

"If she were to go full time as a pharmacist then their financial difficulties would almost certainly be over," Karl Deeter, a financial analyst and mortgage broker, says.

She has fixed her mortgage for the next two years but could make some savings on her life insurance, he says. "Sticking with thepolicy sold by thebank when they took out their mortgage is not the best idea. This couple have no dependants, so they could look at taking out a cheap mortgage protection policy, which they could probably get for around €30 a month."

That would save them €240 each year. A bigger saving could be found were the couple to change their way of commuting. Baggot's husband has an economical Leap card, but he still spends €20.50 a week on his commute -just under €1,000 a year.

He has a bike but doesn't use it Baggot points out how unpredictable the weather is – but, according to Met Eireann, if he were to cycle to work, five days a week, he would get rained on only once every 25 days.

Then there's the grocery shopping - the second-biggest annual outlay for this couple. Baggot says she is a frugal shopper, but she still may be spending more than necessary, according to Caitriona Redmond, a food blogger who feeds herself , her husband and their three children on €100 a week-half what this couple spend. "I would say two adults can eat really well on €60 a week. All the supermarkets have weekly deals selling vegetables for just 49c," she says. If they could shave just 20 per cent off their grocery shop they would cut costs by €80 each month, or nearly €1,000 a year.

When it comes to utilities, David Kerr of the price-comparison website bonkers.ie suggests that they are paying over the odds for at least one element "The €90 a month on gas seems high to me. It may be that there is poor insulation in the house. There are sustainable-energy grants available for improving insulation, but it does cost money upfront."

He says that the killer for most people is staying on standard tariffs. About 85 per cent of homeowners are on the standardexpensive-band. By switching to a discounted electricity tariff with Energia and the best gas offer with Flogas, this couple could see annual bills fall by €307. Making these fairly small adjustments would see them better off by €2,507 each year, which would go a long way towards covering the cost of rewiring their house in 2016. 

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