The Money Doctor's A-Z of Saving: Part Three

M is for mortgage

The European Central Bank interest rate is at its lowest – 0%. Rates can really only go one way but may not go up for quite a while. Make hay while the sun shines and check

  • Are you getting the best rate

  • Could you switch and save?

  • Have you still the income to justify your current mortgage?

  • Is your loan to value 80% or less?

Your mortgage could be on 4.5% standard variable rate and qualify for the lowest rate on the market 2.3% – a massive saving each month and well worth checking out.

N is for negotiate

Haggling might seem crass, but take your inspiration from Arab souks and try to negotiate the price.

For certain types of purchase, such as buying a new car, this is already common practice. Car dealers expect a bit of to and fro with potential customers. Apply this to other purchases, particularly big ones, and see where it gets you. Retailers and service providers want your money, so make sure they give you the best deal.

Bargaining might not get you a better deal on a hotel room, but the hotelier might throw in an extra. Likewise, delivery charges could be waived on home purchases if you play hardball. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

O is for other people

Consumers should realise that information is their friend, so make use of your networks and share information. Did your friends get a great deal on their latest car service? If so, find out where.

In a world of Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+ and Twitter, information has never been so instant, making it easy for consumers to vote with their feet. If you learn that you are not getting good service, or better options are available elsewhere, act quickly.

P is for petrol

If you’re based in Ireland, use the website www.pumps.ie to find the cheapest forecourt in your area for petrol or diesel or just keep an eye on the prices as you drive by the petrol stations.

A difference of a few cent per litre may seem like nothing, but when you work out the cost based on a year’s supply, it can be considerable. Petrol prices have hit lows this year but are never far away from starting to rise again. Better in your pocket.

Petrol prices have hit lows this year but are never far away from starting to rise again…

Q is for questions

Before you buy something, understand exactly what you are getting for your money. Questions might not save you money immediately, but can certainly stop you wasting it in the long run.

For example, make sure to ask when vouchers expire, otherwise you could be wasting the money you have spent if they run out before they are used. If something looks too good to be true, it probably is – always ask what conditions apply to special offers. And if you sign up to a new service, ask what fees apply if you break the contract.

R is for relief

Or more specifically, tax relief. Medical, dental bills and pension payments are just some of the day-to-day expenses on which you can claim tax relief.

Tax relief on medical expenses is granted at the standard rate of 20%, with no threshold applying. This means that for every €5 you spend on medical bills, you get back €1.

S is for switching

Do you moan about your bank, insurer or mobile phone company, but never bother to take your custom elsewhere?

Tackling your inertia could be the first step towards saving some of your hard-earned cash. If you find that you are not getting value for money and good service, put your money where your mouth is and move. Switching provider is easier than it seems, and there are statutory provisions to help you.

For example, under the terms of the Central Bank’s code of conduct on current account switching, your bank is obliged to make the process easy for you and liaise with your new bank.

John Lowe ©