Disposable income: ‘There never seems to be anything left’

Pricewatch proposes a few changes and helps Bernadette Ní Ógáin save €600 a year – Conor Pope

Bernadette Ní Ógáin divorced in 2009 and lives with her adult daughter in Co Wicklow. She has a household income of just over €2,000 a month.

Her mortgage sets her back €362, and she spends €300 a month on groceries. A further €80 covers the cost of weekly out-of-home lunches and takeaway coffees.

She is a member of a tennis club which costs €35 a month, while golf club membership costs another €88.

Her bin charges set her back €10 a month, while her car tax costs €29 and her car insurance comes in at €38.

Her home insurance is €25 a month and her health insurance costs €119.

A monthly subscription to Sky television is €66 and the monthly cost of a boiler service is €13.

The cost of gas is €45 a month and electricity is €35, with broadband coming in at €53. Her mobile phone costs €45 each month, and the cost of a TV licence is €13.

The monthly cost of property tax is €22.50, while another €120 is spent on petrol. Spread out over 12 months the cost of servicing her car is €25.50 while she has put aside another €13 a month for water charges.

Little more than €25 goes on the cost of clothes, while she spends €40 every six or so weeks in the hairdressers – €28 a month. She spends €6.50 on travel insurance and the cost of a monitored house alarm is put at €42.

She sets aside €55 for Christmas gifts – although spends that again on the actual cost. She borrowed €4,500 to cover a training course, and the repayments are €150 each month.

All told, then, this expenditure comes in at €1,843, which leaves her with €157 each month to cover everything from presents for her three children, all incidental spending and anything unexpected that might crop up.

“There never seems to be anything left at the end of the month,” she says.

“Particularly if I need to buy clothes or a pair of winter shoes. I know that I spend a lot on the golf club and the tennis club but they are important social outlets. I know I will have to let one of them go.”

She acknowledges that the cost of the alarm service is high but it gives her peace of mind.

Pricewatch advice

Bernadette Ní Ógáin hasn’t switched utilities for more than two years, so she is paying the standard rate, according to David Kerr of Bonkers.ie. She is with Bord Gáis Energy for both gas and electricity but were she to switch to Flogas for her gas and Energia for her electricity she would see her monthly spend fall by about €15.

Ní Ógáin has been with the same health insurer for the past three years. Her Company Care Choice plan is with Laya. This plan currently costs €1,428 a year.

“For a similar Laya plan that will deliver maximum savings, she should check out Simply Connect Plus, costing €1,099,” says Dermot Goode of totalhealthcover.ie. If she made the switch next year, it would save her another €28 each month.

She has broadband with Eircom – or Eir to give it its new name. And her TV (including Sky Sports) comes from Sky. All told, costs her €113 each month.

If she were to switch to Eir’s bundled Play Small with Sky Sports package the monthly charge would fall to €61 for four months before reverting to €113 each month.

This would see her monthly outgoings fall by €17 over a year. Another option might be to switch her broadband to Sky. A 12-month deal covering her television and broadband costs €96, which is also a monthly saving of €17. But if Pricewatch’s experience is anything to go by, she should call Sky and tell them she wants to leave. They are likely to offer her incentives to stay, which will see her making savings straight away.

With these changes Ní Ógáin can cut her outgoings by €51 while not noticing any appreciable difference to the quality of her life. It is not a lot by any measure but it is money better off in her pocket than in anyone else’s.

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