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The Sunday Business Post (20 June 2010) has an interesting article by Emma Kennedy on how to ‘Turn Down Your Spending’ in order to increase your ability to save.

1. Be a technosaur. Marketing can convince us that we absolutely must upgrade our antiquated gizmos and gadgets in favour of much shinier, sleeker and more expensive versions.

The top-of-the-range phone, television, MP3 player or home sound system may have come down in price considerably due to the recession. But relative value is not a good enough reason to make a purchase. Unless you really need the bells and whistles version, forsake it in favour of your reliable dinosaur.

2. Use it or lose it. 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 euros, either use it frequently or cancel your contract and opt for a cheaper pay peruse option. However, beware of tricky terms and conditions that can apply to cancelling gym contracts.

3. Be especially discerning. You upgraded to an all-inclusive ‘special discount’ mobile phone package to avail of free minutes and bonus texts, but soon realise you are spending more than before on your basic package.

You stock up on two-for-one offers in your supermarket and end up with vast quantities of unused stuff clogging your cupboards. You buy a swanky new jacket because, at 75 per cent off, it’s a steal, but then never wear it. Sound familiar? Before you jump on a bargain, make sure that you need it, and that the offer is what it seems.

4. Relieve your wallet. Medical bills, tuition fees, rent and mortgage payments are just some of the payments on which you can claim tax relief.

A cheque from the Revenue Commissioners can significantly increase your savings, so make sure you claim all your entitlements. For example, tax relief on medical expenses is granted at the standard rate of 20 per cent, with no threshold applying. This means that, for every €5 you spend on medical bills, you get back €1.

A wide range of medical expenses qualifies for relief, including doctors’ and consultants’ fees, prescribed medication and physiotherapy prescribed by a doctor. Laser eye surgery and orthodontics are covered, but not basic visits to the optician or dentist, or the cost of contact lenses and glasses.

5. Energise your budget. For years, the ESB had a monopoly on the Irish energy market but, since liberalisation, consumers have far greater choice. Airtricity and Bord Gáis are both aggressively trying to increase market share, and many customers have already made the switch to avail of promised reductions in their electricity bills. Double-digit discounts mean a typical household could save more than €100 per year.

6. Ensure you get the best deal. Insurance premiums can put a large hole in your finances, but choosing carefully can reduce your financial pain and mean further savings. Car insurance is typically the most expensive premium you face each year, and one that you are legally obliged to pay.

Recent cost comparisons from the National Consumer Agency and broker organisations show that some drivers could save hundreds of euro by swapping insurance company. When your insurer sends your renewal letter, it is always worth trying to haggle on the price. Apply a similar approach to health and home insurance.

7. Avoid impulse purchases.

Monday morning and you reach the bus stop just as your bus pulls away.

Feeling frustrated, you pop into the cafe beside your bus stop and pick up a quick latte to revive your spirits.

You get little change from €3. Then you add a warm croissant and hand over another couple of euro. Next, you purchase a glossy magazine to read while you wait for the bus, bringing your bill to €7 or so. Hardly bank breaking, but certainly habit forming.

Force yourself to keep a record of treats and indulgences.

A two-coffees aday habit seems much more of an issue when you tot up the cost over a year – more than €1,500, based on a five-day working week.

8. Bargain on it. If you don’t ask, you won’t know. Haggling in certain arenas has always been seen as acceptable. For example, a car dealer usually expects 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 they can. Bargaining might not reduce the cost of your new couch but, with a bit of luck, you might negotiate your way out of a hefty delivery charge.

9. Cut the cost of your commute.

Transport costs can mount up without you really noticing, but a few tweaks can mean big savings. Leaving your car at home will mean you save money on fuel, but is not always practical. If you must drive to and from work, make sure you get the best value when filling your tank.

Use the website www.pumps.ie to find the cheapest forecourt in your area for petrol or diesel. A difference of 10 cent per litre may seem like nothing but, when you work out the cost based on thousands of litres of petrol a year, the extra savings can push you closer to your savings target.

For those who commute to work on public transport, buying your travel tickets via the Taxsaver scheme can reduce your annual bill by up to 51 per cent. Similarly, the ‘bike to work’ scheme can reduce costs for cyclists. 10. Consider alternatives.

The key to saving is breaking old habits and fostering new ones, so be willing to adopt a new approach to spending to see a difference in your savings balance. Look at how you spend and identify problem areas.

Tackle these first by looking at alternative, cheaper options that still satisfy your spending urges.

Think of saving as a financial diet – you’ll crave what you cut out, so make sensible sustainable choices, rather than rash ones that will be harder to stick to.

Replace lunchtime purchases of new books with library visits, cook for friends instead of spending a fortune on dining out or get up ten minutes earlier to make your lunch each morning to avoid overpriced deli sandwiches.

Read the Full Article here.

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