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

G is for groceries

In the past year, food and non-alcoholic drink prices have increased by 1.6 per cent, according to the Central Statistics Office.

Shaving a few euro off your shopping bill each week could make a big difference to your finances. Simple changes like switching to own brands for certain products, availing of special offers and making shopping lists to avoid impulse buys will all help to keep your spending in check. However, don’t be fooled into buying in bulk if you won’t actually use the product. Volume discounts are only good value if you have a real need for the additional items.

Another way to save is to use a retailer’s loyalty card system, which allows you to earn points as you shop. Download the free app Stocard to house ALL those loyalty cards instead of having to carry them around. No missing out on discount vouchers. You should track and record all your discretionary spending too with the free Money Doctor app which gives you the top 5 spends of the period, the total amount you have spent and geographically where you spent every cent!

H is for homemade

It might seem too obvious to mention, but making your own lunch is a guaranteed way to save a few euro.

A working couple who eat out at lunch or have a takeaway sandwich each spend at least €9 a day on lunch – around €2,160 each year. Think how many sliced pans, cheese slices and packets of tinfoil that would buy.

Making your own lunch is a guaranteed way to save a few euro

I is for insurance

By law, consumers must have at least third-party insurance if they own a car. Cost comparison surveys have repeatedly shown that shopping around for motor insurance can save drivers more than €1,000 annually, making it the type of insurance with the biggest potential savings.

Home insurance is not a legal obligation but may be stipulated by a lender. Cut costs by making sure your home is not over-insured. Your home should be insured for its reinstatement value – the cost of rebuilding it – not the market value.

This can make a considerable difference to the premium. If you decide to change your cover to get a better deal, don’t base a decision on the premium alone, as the level of cover can vary considerably. A standard benefit with one insurer might be an optional extra with another.

J is for joining clubs

J could just as easily be for January, the month when people sign expensive contracts for gyms, or June, the month when people realise they haven’t set foot in their expensive gym in weeks.

Do you fork out hundreds of euro a year for your gym or swimming pool, but don’t feel you get your money’s worth? If your monthly membership is merely a guilty reminder of lost euro, either use it frequently or cancel your contract and opt for a cheaper pay-as-you-go deal. Beware of tricky terms and conditions that can apply to cancelling gym contracts. Remember local parks are free to jog around.

K is for kids

Parents are given some respite with the €140 per month per child ‘Child Benefit’, but the vast majority use it for the very purpose it was legislated, to help defray child costs. Parents still face huge expenditure on crèches, school books, extra-curricular activities and so on and very few have the luxury of being able to invest their Child Benefit for 3rd level education (which without fees can cost up to €42,000 per child).

Childcare costs have stayed relatively static in the last year, with the latest figures from the Central Statistics Office showing only a marginal increase of 0.3 per cent. But a recent survey by the CCPC revealed huge variations in childcare costs nationwide. Average prices for full-time care for a toddler ranged from €145 per week in Sligo to €220 in Dublin 6.

Obviously, parents don’t want to compromise on the quality of service available where they live, but comparing prices is a no-brainer.

L is for luxuries

A savings habit does not have to mean the end of fun. However, if you are trying to cut back, spending on discretionary items is the first to face the chop.

Force yourself to keep a record of treats and indulgences and try to factor them into your budget. If you want to go away for a weekend, try to set aside money for it, rather than booking it on a whim and abusing your credit card.

John Lowe ©