IT’S EASY to fall at the first hurdle with typical New Year’s resolutions of eating less and exercising more. This week, we’re showing you 10 ways to make your household finances fitter in 2013 – and none of them will break a sweat.
1. REDUCE YOUR MORTGAGE PAYMENTS
There may be nothing you can do about your loan repayments, but mortgage protection policies can be reduced. Prices have dropped sharply over the past few years and a new quote might surprise you. Ignore your bank if it tells you you can’t switch. €100,000 cover for a couple aged 45, non-smokers with 15 years left on their mortgage is around €19 per month. If you’re paying more, it’s too much. Try www.iba.ie for a list of brokers to help you with the leg work and don’t ancel your existing policy until the new on is in place.
2. DITCH THE TV
You’ll still want to watch your favourite programmes but cable packages are expensive. With Saorview, see what’s on offer for free. You’ll get dozens of familiar channels and combining it with free-to-air satellite will add many more. A combi box is around €115 and that’s all you’ll ever pay. www.saorview.ie
3. GET “FREE” BANKING
Banks are charging for everything from ATM withdrawals to printing statements. Free banking is only available if you keep about €3,000 in your current account. If you do have €3,000 don’t put it near a current account. Put it in a high performing annual deposit: Nationwide UK Ireland has a one year rate of 3.05%, netting €61.30 after DIRT tax.
4. INCREASE YOUR PLASTIC POWER
Credit cards are a financial disaster. If you can’t pay them off in full each month, use your debit card instead – even overdrafts are cheaper. A balance of €2,000 making minimum payments of €50 per month will take five years and one month to clear – costing you €1,025 in interest alone. Why not chuck it away?
5. TAKE FROM THE TAXMAN
Revenue has millions of euro in unclaimed tax relief. Isn’t it time to get something back? Medical and dental expenses, rent, bikes, college fees and lots of other things qualify for tax relief. Check www.revenue.ie for a list of what’s available or www.taxback.com for help reclaiming
6. UTILITY BUNDLING
Whether it’s electricity and gas, or phone and broadband, or telly and phone, many utility providers offer bundled packages with discounts: you can save lots of money, especially if you sign up for a year. Switching is easy and don’t be afraid to do it every year. Try www.bonkers.ie for the latest information on packages. Ignore cold caller: make up your own mind.
7. HAPPY HEALTH
Health insurance is set to rise again this year: the levy is going up and public beds are going to be charged at €1,000 per night for private patients. Use a comparison website like www.hia.ie or www.healthinsurancesavings.ie to check cheaper plans – there are 241 out there – many of them are confusing duplicates. Dropping to a lower-priced plan may just mean giving up a private bed in a posh hospital, but will cost you a lot less.
8. CUT WASTE
A third of the food we buy ends up in the bin, costing €1,000 per year. Make better use of your freezer in 2013, plan your meals weekly and only buy as you need. Ignore supermarket offers for bulk buys unless it’s non-preishable. www.stopfoodwaste.ie for tips.
9. YUM YUM
Buying soup, sandwich and a coffee at work costs around €2,500 a year. Bring your own instead; ask the company to invest in a microwave and a fridge for staff. Bring your own snacks to the cinema and check out the Early Bird menus in restaurants – far better value.
10. STOP SMOKING
Well, we couldn’t resist this perennial resolution. A 20-a-day habit costs €3,157 a year, not to mention the extra doctor’s visits. Make 2013 the year to quit. www.quit.ie for help.