Solutions to the cost of living crisis in Ireland - RTÉ

Image audioSolutions to the cost of living crisis in Ireland - RTÉ

The fear and worry surrounding the rising costs of household bills began last year when there were 35 price hike announcements made by gas and electricity suppliers. 

This saw a huge increase in the cost of people’s energy bills. For instance, for those who have their gas and electricity bills combined, their typical bill over the last year would have risen from 2,000 to 2,800, which is a 40% increase in price. 

With the introduction of carbon taxes, the charges associated with moving the country towards green energy, and with the outbreak of the crisis in Ukraine and the extra costs associated with this, the financial pressure being put on Irish households is worrying.

This is especially seen amongst lower-income households, with many left wondering whether they will be able to pay their energy bills.

3 ways to cut the cost of your energy bills

1. Ask for help

Organisations such as St. Vincent de Paul and MABS (Money Advice and Budgeting Service) provide those struggling with their bills budgeting advice. They will also show you how to reduce your energy consumption and help you get to grips with understanding and reading your bills.

You can also reach out to your energy provider and tell them you are struggling. Engaging with them is important as together you may be able to come up with a solution.

See our guide for more on the supports available for those struggling with their energy bills.

2. Look at supports available 

All Irish households are due to receive a 200 energy credit from the government to help alleviate some of the financial strain caused by energy. However, you may also be eligible for the Households Benefits Package, which has a free electricity package in it. This is typically given to over 70s and means your bill will amount to 35 per month.

You can discover what supports are available to you if you are struggling to pay your bills here.

3. Make the switch 

This is the most important cost-saving measure you can do to lower the costs of your energy bills. At bonkers.ie, we recommend that you switch energy suppliers once your initial 12-month contract is finished, and you’ve been bummed up to the standard unit rate.

Why should I switch energy providers? 

By switching suppliers, you could save up to 600 on your annual energy bill. This is because gas and electricity providers reserve their best prices and deals for their new customers.

If you switch providers you will be able to avail of a discount on the standard unit rate price, which could result in you getting up to 40% off your monthly energy bill.

However, it’s important to note that even though you have a discount on your standard rate, the standard price is not set so as the market fluctuates as will your bills, but they will still be at a discounted price.

You can learn all about the switching process in this step-by-step guide.

For those who do not like the uncertainty of being on a variable standard rate, then a pay-as-you-go electricity meter may be the way forward for you. However, you will be paying the most you can possibly pay for energy.

Reduce your household costs

Switch your current accounts 

Now that KBC and Ulster Bank are leaving the market, there is less choice available for Irish consumers. However, you can open a current account in the remaining banks such as Bank of Ireland, AIB, and Permanent TSB or with the digital banks Revolut or N26. The Credit Union is also an option that many people tend not to explore, but it is worth looking into. 

When opening a current account people tend to opt for a bank that suits their personal preferences. People’s choice of bank may boil down to whether they can get an overdraft or if the bank has a good mobile banking app.

Fees associated with each bank vary. Certain banks will charge you a monthly fee to just have an account with them. 

Your current account may be subject to additional costs, depending on your account usage. This is based on ATM withdrawals, contactless payments, etc.

You can read our guide on 8 things to consider when choosing a new current account provider.

Switch your mortgage provider 

At bonkers.ie, we always recommend mortgage holders to switch mortgage providers at least once in their mortgage terms lifetime. This advice is aimed in particular to new mortgage holders or those on variable rates. 

If you are paying a rate of 3.5% for your mortgage you need to be switching mortgage providers, as you could save thousands over the course of your mortgage term. This amount will, of course, differ depending on the number of years left in your term and the remaining balance on it but you could remove at least 100 off your monthly mortgage bill.

Move to a different broadband provider

Similar to energy suppliers, broadband providers save their best deals for new customers. If you want to avail of the best prices you must switch suppliers once your current contract ends and you return to the standard rate.

Unlike the energy switching process, broadband is a bit more complicated. This is because you may need to get a new Wifi box from your new supplier. We recommend that you only cancel your existing broadband service after you have received all the new equipment from your new supplier, to guarantee continuity of service.

You can read about how to switch broadband providers here.

Top tips for cutting down on household costs

The economic consequences of the war in Ukraine has already had and will continue to have an impact on Irish consumers’ pockets. As Ukraine and Russia currently supply one quarter of the world’s wheat export, the breakdown of this supply chain means that food inflation is set to rise.

According to the Central Statistics Office, food inflation was at -2.1% in January 2021, it now stands at +2.9%, which is a 5% increase in a little over a year. This is very concerning, especially as it is speculated that food inflation could rise to 5% by the end of this year.

In an attempt to manage this increase, along with the other financial pressures Irish consumers are facing, we recommend that you: 

  • Look at the unit price or cost per kilo of grocery products when purchasing them: This is because these will give you a proper indication of whether you are saving money on an item. For example, you may be better off buying 24 washing machine pods, rather than 48, due to the cost per kilo of the pods.
  • Wash your clothes at 30 degrees in the washing machine: The lower the temperature of water you use to clean your clothes, means less energy is used to heat up the water.
  • Put the dishwasher on at 50 degrees: Don’t wash your dishes in the sink as it will more than likely use up more litres of water.

Making these small changes, coupled with switching energy, broadband, banking and insurance providers will help you reduce the cost of your household bills considerably.

All the comparisons and switches you need to do in relation to these products can be done on our website. Our comparison tools are free, easy-to-use, and 100% impartial. 

Money-saving articles

To discover more ways to keep money in your pocket, check out our helpful articles on the topic. 

Pieces you may find particularly interesting include: 

Stay up to date with the top tips for lowering the cost of your bills with our blogs and guides.

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