Irish consumers have been hit with ever-increasing prices for various goods and services over the past year or so. Here we outline the simple steps you can take to beat the rapidly rising cost of living.
After years of muted inflation, prices for consumers in many sectors have shot up over the past 18 months.
In October 2022, inflation in Ireland hit its highest level in almost 40 years at 9.2%. It's currently 8.5% and there are fears that inflation could remain above 5% until 2024.
It’s mainly being driven by record energy costs and lingering supply chain bottlenecks due to Covid, which is affecting countries worldwide. Closer to home, Brexit-related factors have also had an impact.
So how can you beat the rising cost of living this year and next?
1. Substitute for cheaper alternatives
Irish households spend way more on branded groceries than most of our European neighbours. Non-branded alternatives are usually almost just as good and can be a fraction of the price.
And when it comes to fresh food and drink in particular, like steak, pasta, milk, chicken, pork, bread, eggs and bacon, the produce has often come from the exact same farm or factory, meaning you’re literally just paying extra for the label.
People will usually have their few things that they’ll NEVER substitute, which is fine (personally I wouldn't let anything less than a Gillette razor near my skin!) but ask yourself if every second item in your basket needs to be branded?
2. Shop better
Supermarkets have lots of cunning little tricks that they use to make you spend more.
A well-known one is that the products which make them the most profit (and are usually therefore the most expensive) are placed mid-shelf in your line of sight. Easy to see and reach.
The cheaper products are often top shelf or bottom shelf. Harder to reach.
Meanwhile, all your staple items such as cheese, milk, bread and cereal are often in completely opposite corners of the shop, forcing you to wander around more aisles and spend more money.
And similar to Vegas casinos, most big supermarkets don’t have windows either - as they don’t want you to notice the passage of time.
So if you want to spend less, the best thing to do is to make a list, stick to it, and don’t be afraid to seek out items further from reach.
Finally, most supermarkets discount soon-to-go-off meat and fruit at the end of each day. So popping into your local store late in the evening and heading for the discounted section might get you some cheap food.
3. Compare the price per unit - not just the price
Buying in bulk is usually better value, right?
Quite often it can be cheaper to buy items of fruit and veg separately.
Meanwhile, the 24-pod detergent that you like can sometimes be more expensive, pod for pod, than the 12-pack one.
What’s more, supermarkets constantly run special offers, meaning that the fresh orange juice you like with your morning breakfast can sometimes be cheaper to buy in one litre rather than two litres.
So how do you know what represents the best value?
Simple - compare prices based on unit price or price per unit of measurement. In other words, compare prices based on the price per kilogramme, per pod, or per millilitre etc.
This might seem complicated to work out. But thankfully, under EU rules, the unit price (price per unit of measurement) must be clearly displayed in shops on barcodes beside the actual price. Though it’s amazing how many people either don’t know this or don’t see it.
So by looking at this you can determine what represents the best value and ensure you’re not overpaying or being fooled by gimmicky offers.
4. Avoid 'express' supermarkets and convenience stores
Doing your weekly shop at a big supermarket will usually be cheaper than its 'express' counterpart.
For example many items in a Tesco Express store can be around 10% dearer than a normal Tesco.
And while Spar and Centra stores are great for convenience, you'll usually pay for it.
5. Get acquainted with your local butcher, greengrocer, florist and pharmacy etc
Supermarkets are great for convenience - but they're not always great for price.
Quite often it's cheaper to get your meat, vegetables or beauty products in the local butcher, greengrocer or pharmacy down the road.
What's more, the quality of the food will often be better than what you'll find in a major chain supermarket and you'll be supporting your local high street too. A real win-win.
6. Purchase from re-selling websites/apps
Shopping on sites like Depop, eBay, and Refurbed.ie are an easy way to buy cheaper second-hand or refurbished goods.
As well as saving some money you'll also be doing your bit for the environment.
And if you're also looking to earn some money, you can sell your things on some of these sites as well.
Check out a recent episode of the bonkers.ie podcast where we chatted to Pádraig Power, Marketing Manager for Refurbed.ie in Ireland, an online marketplace for refurbished electronic devices such as phones, laptops, smartwatches and games consoles.
7. Switch energy provider
Since early 2021 there have been dozens of price hikes which have left gas and electricity prices at record highs.
On average, households are looking at paying around €2,000 a year more for their gas and electricity than they were in late 2020 just before prices began to shoot up.
If you’re concerned about rising energy prices then you should switch supplier.
Despite the rising prices, there is still competition among energy suppliers in Ireland for new customers right now and some are offering big discounts for an entire year to those who switch. For example, the average switcher could save around €400 a year just by changing supplier which would help offset some of the recent price hikes.
It’s quick and easy to switch and it can all be done online in the space of a few minutes on bonkers.ie. You can learn about what you need to switch energy suppliers in this guide.
There are also numerous simple steps you can take at home to reduce energy consumption and save on your bills. Here are 16 ways to use less electricity and save money and 10 ways to heat your home for less.
8. Avail of reward schemes
Another way to get more bang for your buck in a world of rising prices is to check out some suppliers' reward schemes.
For example, Electric Ireland has a partnership with SuperValue which allows you to get €5 off your bill every two months when you shop at the supermarket. It also offers deals on a range of shops and family activities.
Tesco now limits many of its cut-price deals on household goods and groceries to its Clubcard members - so if you shop in Tesco regularly and don't have a Clubcard, consider getting one.
9. Get up-to-speed on cashback deals
If you’re a customer of Revolut (and who isn’t these days) then check out its rewards scheme, which offers up to 3% cashback on a range of decent brands.
Many people still only use Revolut for when they travel abroad or for transferring money to friends and family.
But if you use your account for your day-to-day spending you can get money back on purchases with certain restaurants, shops, travel destinations, and more.
Every little helps, to borrow a phrase...
10. Eat less meat
We're not saying you have to become a vegetarian or go vegan. But eating a bit less meat each week will be good for your diet, your pocket and the environment.
Consider making a healthy soup with leftover veg in the fridge. Or add some eggs to your meals instead if you need lots of protein. Or simply make your meat go further by adding rice, lentils, pasta, beans, grains or root vegetables to a recipe.
11. Move to a SIM-only mobile deal
If you're looking to save some money on your phone bills a good option is to look into SIM-only deals, which have exploded in popularity over the past few years,
A SIM-only plan is, quite literally, when you purchase just a SIM card, which comes with an allocation of data, texts and minutes per month.
SIM-only plans are generally much, much cheaper than billpay plans because you don't incur the cost of buying a phone.
SIM-only deals are now available from all the main mobile providers and some operators such as GoMo and 48 focus solely on these deals.
So if you're out of contract and don't need an upgrade just yet, you should definitely check them out.
48 has a deal right now that offers unlimited calls, texts and 200GB of data for just €12.99 a month. Virgin Mobile often runs a similar offer for just €5 a month for six months.
Check out the five hottest SIM-only deals on the market right now.
12. Cut back on streaming services
With streaming services becoming ever more expensive - and numerous - it's a good idea to look at what you've signed up to and see if you can cut back.
A handy tip to remember is that there are no sign-up fees to any of the streaming services in Ireland. So if you don't think you'll be watching anything for a while, just cancel your subscription and save some money. You can then resubscribe a few weeks or months later when a new show piques your interest. With most of the providers, your account data and viewing history will remain intact for at least a year.
13. Play 'hard to get'
On some sites, if you visit and then leave without making a purchase, especially if you went so far as to put something into your shopping cart, you'll receive a follow-up email a few days later with a discount code to encourage you to complete your purchase.
So if you're not in a rush to buy something, just abandon your shopping cart, and see if a site tries to court your business with some incentives a few days later!
Just make sure you have an account with the site in question and log in so they know how to contact you.
14. Buy more energy-efficient appliances
If it's time to replace the fridge, the washing machine, the tumble dryer, the dishwasher or the hoover, it's a good idea to look into the energy ratings. Most modern appliances are way more efficient than older models, but the rating will help you choose the most efficient model.
The ratings, which are compulsory and which have recently been rescaled, range from A to G, with A being the most efficient.
15. Buy a coffee machine and a reusable cup
If you’re the person who can’t wake up properly in the morning without a decent cup of Java, then this one is a bit of a no-brainer and you've probably heard it before.
All of those last-minute tap-and-go coffees that make you late for work add up! And the price of takeaway coffees, like everything else, is getting ever higher.
By making yourself a to-go coffee in the morning and taking it in a reusable cup, you’ll not only be saving money, but you’ll also be helping the environment by reducing the waste you produce.
And even if you don't want to invest in a coffee machine, buying a reusable cup is a good idea due to the upcoming 'Latte Levy' that will see 20 cents added to every disposable cup. So if you were to buy just one cup of coffee a day, you'd be looking at spending almost €75 extra a year on coffee cups as a result of the tax.
16. Switch your mortgage
Managing and running a household isn’t cheap and according to Eurostat, Irish household costs are a staggering 82% above the EU average.
Part of this comes down to high rental costs here and high mortgage rates.
But you can save big money by switching your mortgage.
For example, right now if you’re paying an interest rate of 4.50% and have €250,000 and 20 years remaining on your mortgage, you could save almost €170 a month if you switched to Bank of Ireland's 3.20% fixed rate over four years!
17. Get a bike
Petrol and diesel costs are at near record levels and with the carbon tax set to almost triple over the coming years, no reprieve is in sight for hard-pressed motorists.
And although it may seem like an extreme decision, getting rid of your car, or at least using it less, and choosing to cycle instead, could save you a small fortune, and mean you can worry less about the rising cost of fuel.
And getting a bike has never been cheaper.
Under the Government’s Cycle-to-Work Scheme, launched in 2014, your employer can pay for bicycles and bicycle equipment for you which you pay back through your salary over a period of up to 12 months. You then don't have to pay any income tax, PRSI or the Universal Social Charge on your repayments.
There is a limit of €1,250 per bicycle purchased (increased from €1,000 in August 2020) and €1,500 for electric bikes and the purchase can be made in any bike shop.
So if you're a higher-rate taxpayer and you purchase a new bike for €1,000, it'll only cost you just over €500, spread out over 12 interest-free monthly payments.
We Irish are wedded to our cars but when you add up the cost of your car loan, tax, insurance, NCT, petrol and repairs, you can end up spending hundreds a month for the convenience of having one.
And while those living in rural areas or with young families might feel like a car is absolutely essential, in places like Dublin where there are far more transport options, there's less of a need.
We Irish aren’t the best at haggling or negotiating prices.
And while you’re hardly going to go into your local Tesco or pub and haggle over the price of milk or a pint of beer, there are industries where haggling is acceptable – indeed almost expected.
Whether it’s a second-hand car, a new laptop, home repairs, or a new sofa, always check when buying a big-ticket item if there’s any room for negotiation. The worst they can say is no.
Quite often a discount might be available if you pay in cash.
Either way, just make sure you’re chatting to the right person as it’s usually only more senior sales assistants who are in a position to negotiate on price.
19. Rent instead of buy
We always think of rent as 'dead money', especially when it comes to housing. But that's definitely not the case when it comes to other goods and services.
Think about renting a wedding dress, debs dress, evening dress or tux for an upcoming special occasion instead of buying one. Especially if you think you're only going to use or wear the item once or twice.
And if you think renting clothes is a bit gauche, think again. Brown Thomas recently launched a designer dress rental programme. While its Full Circle scheme allows you to trade in your old handbags for store vouchers.
20. Drive better
With the price of petrol and diesel at record levels, you should look at ways to conserve fuel by driving more efficiently.
Keeping your tyres properly inflated, driving more consistently, cleaning out your car, and rotating your tyres regularly are all simple ways to save a bit on your driving costs.
Start saving on your household bills today
We mentioned above that you can switch energy suppliers right here on bonkers.ie, but did you know that you can save you money on a variety of other household bills too?
We’ve also compiled a list of helpful articles that will provide you with more information on how to save:
- With energy prices on the rise, we looked at how you can reduce your electricity consumption in the kitchen to save money.
- To ensure that you’re not overpaying on your banking fees, have a look at these 9 simple ways to reduce your current account fees.
- Home insurance is necessary to provide peace of mind, but that doesn’t mean you should overpay. Start saving money on your home and contents insurance today with these 10 tips.