Serious savings on all manner of goods and services are just a click away
Emma Kennedy Personal Finance Correspondent
Saving money doesn’t have to be hard work. There’s a veritable treasure trove of information at your fingertips if you take a few minutes to look for it. Shopping around for the best deal on car insurance, finding the cheapest flight for a forthcoming trip or switching energy provider may seem like it involves a lot of work, but don’t despair. Chances are that someone has already done a lot of the leg-work for you. With a host of informative websites, cost comparison services and discount websites spilling over with information and offers, a few clicks could mean good news for your wallet.
What it does: the National Consumer Avency (NCA) website is a one-stop-shop for consumer information on a wide range of topics, including saving, investing, budgets and tackling debts.
What is says: “This website is a single resource for information on your consumer rights, financial products and help with managing your money.”
How you save: a big feature of the NCA’s website is its cost comparison service, which lets you compare the cost of a range of products, including current accounts, loans and motor insurance. This makes it easier to see when you are paying over the offs for a financial product.
Example: we put in figures for Mary, who wants a €5,000 loan over three years. Her monthly repayments could range from €162.47 with National Irish Bank to €170.82 with Bank of Ireland. Based on 36 repayments over three years, her total cost of credit would range from just under €850 to just under €1,150, so Mary could save about €300 by shopping around for her loan.
What it does: the Revenue Commissioners’ website makes it easier for you to get on top of your tax affairs. It pulls together information guides, frequently asked questions and frequently used forms.
What is says: “… provides a general overview of personal tax-related issues for individuals including information on tax credits and reliefs.”
How you save: with all the necessary information at your fingertips, you have no excuse not to claim the tax credits and reliefs that you are due. With Revenue’s online services, PAYE Anytime, you can manage your tax affairs online: view your tax record, claim a wide range of tax credits, apply for tax refunds, request a review of tax liability for previous years and more.
Example: Tom and his wife have a two-year-old and make regular trips to the doctor. Money is tight, so they have only got basic health insurance and can’t claim back any of the expense of the doctors’ visits. However, Tom has just become aware that he is entitled to tax relief at the standard rate on medical expenses, including visits to the doctor and prescription medication. Claims must be made within four years of the end of the tax year to which the claim relates. Tom and his family have made 12 visits to the doctor in the last two years and , at €55 a pop that addus up to €660. They’ve also spent €170 on prescription drugs, a total spend of €830. Tom can claim back 20 per cent, meaning a refund of €166.
What it does: helps cut the cost of communicating.
What it says: “… an interactive websites that has been developed by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) to help consumers to compare the cost of personal/non-business mobile, home phone and broadband price plans.”
How you save: compare costs easily by inputting estimated figures on your usage, and see how your current operator compares to the market in terms of price.
Example: Jane prefers having a bill for her mobile phone, rather than having top-up credit. She makes most of her calls in the evenings and at weekends, and spends about 20 minutes a day on the phone. Roughly half of her calls are to mobiles, and half to landlines. She also sends about ten text messages a day. Based on callcosts.ie figures, mobile plans that would cater to her needs range in price from €40 to €55 per month – a difference of €180 annually.
4. Various: Groupon.ie, LivingSocial.ie, Grabone.ie etc
What they do: the websites encourage consumers to sign up for a daily deal email, which offers them substantial discounts on a range of products and services.
How you save: sometimes with so many deals on offer, it can be hard to distinguish between a real bargain and a dud deal. Know exactly what you’re getting for your money, read the small print, check the expiry date and don’t make a purchase just because it is discounted. That said, there are good deals to be had.
Example: some of the deals we spotted last week included a seven-week language package for €99 via Groupon (marked as 60 per cent off), two tickets to a show at Dublin’s Gaiety Theatre for €35 via LivingSocial (half the regular price) and €59 for a golf clinic and practice pass at the GUI National Golf Academy via Grabone (valued at €219).
What it does: comparison website Bonkers.ie is Ireland’s first energy price comparison service to receive accreditation from the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER). The CER said that the accreditation of websites would “help provide energy customers with the confidence to use these websites and get the best tariff.”
What it says: “… helps thousands of households save money on their bills every month.”
How you save: Bonkers.ie has a handy comparison tool for energy customers, but also has useful comparison on a range of other areas, including broadband packages and prepaid cards.
Example: based on a fictional electricity customer – who pays by direct debit, receives bills online, has a nightsaver meter and uses about the national average amount of electricity – a quick input of data suggested that annual savings of up to €122 could be achieved by switching to an alternative electricity supplier. However, keep in mind that introductory offers generally have an end date, so costs could increase after a year or so with a new suppler.
The above is an abridged version of an article by Emma Kennedy which appeared in the Sunday Business Post on 17th June 2012. The full version reviewed additional websites including EnergyCustomers.ie, HIA.ie, Mabs.ie, Welfare.ie, Pumps.ie, Taxsaver.ie, Publin.ie, Dublintradesmen.ie, TheCAI.ie and Skyscanner.ie.