Snowy field with gas electricity pylon the background

Switcher.ie's 17 ways to save in 2017

Tackling your finances can seem like a massive undertaking, but actually, several small changes could really make a difference and add up to big savings.

If you found yourself splurging in the run-up to Christmas, or have been struggling with energy bills because of the cold weather, the new year represents time for a fresh start.

Here are Switcher.ie’s 17 tips for saving in 2017.

1. Draw up a budget - be it weekly or monthly - and stick to it

Every money-saving list starts with this, because getting a sense of your income versus your expenses is a really important first step on the road to taking control of your finances.

List all of your after-tax income, then take away your regular expenses, like your mortgage, or any other loans you have, gas and electricity bills, car, home and life insurance, broadband and TV charges, food shopping, and anything you put into savings.

Next, go through your calendar and ensure you include any birthdays or other occasions which are going to be an extra expense in certain months. And make sure you leave yourself a buffer each month for any unexpected expenses, too!

2. Take control of your debt

Have a look at any loans, including overdrafts and credit cards, that you have.

Typically credit cards have a much higher rate than other types of loans. If you do have a credit card, consider using some savings to clear it, as the interest you pay on the card will be much higher than what you earn on your savings.

Alternatively, you could transfer your balance to a card with a 0% introductory offer, and make sure you clear the balance within the 0% period.

3. Review all of your monthly payments

You might be used to some regular payments that come out of your account - like membership payments for the gym and cinema or subscriptions for music or TV-streaming services.

Ask yourself if you really need each one of these and, if the answer is no, cancel the ones you no longer want.

Although each subscription might be for a small amount, even a few euro a month really adds up over the course of the year.

4. Make the most of any tax reliefs or benefits you’re entitled to

For example, you can claim tax relief on some medical expenses that are not covered by the State or by private health insurance.

There’s loads of information on benefits and taxes on the Revenue website, so take some time to check these out at the start of the year. And, if you realise you’ve been entitled to a benefit you haven’t yet claimed, you may be able to do this retrospectively, too.

5. Switch energy provider to save up to €336

Over the last year, the average cost of energy bills has come down, but there are still savings to be made - especially since the majority of us in Ireland are on standard energy tariffs.

We have seen some price cuts from energy suppliers this year - normally of between 2 and 6%. If you stick with your provider, obviously you will get the benefit of any cuts they bring in, however the savings you will make will pale in comparison to what you could save by switching, as there are huge discounts available from some providers for new customers.

The average dual fuel customer can currently save up to €336 by switching from standard tariffs to the cheapest deals on the market - and the savings are even higher for larger households.

Switching is easy when you use a price comparison website like Switcher.ie. It only takes a few minutes but it could have a big impact on your finances over the course of the year.

Switch now

6. Think about your TV package

Do you regularly watch TV or do you spend most of your time streaming content via the likes of Netflix?

If you mainly stream online, or you only watch a certain few channels, think about whether you could cancel your TV package, or downgrade to a more basic deal. It could save you hundreds of Euro over the course of the year.

7. Go unlimited

If you regularly find yourself being charged for going over your data allowance on your mobile phone or broadband plan, think about moving to an unlimited plan to avoid nasty surprises when your bills arrive.

Most providers offer these kinds of plans now, and they mean you’ll pay a set amount on your bill each month, which can really help you to budget. You can easily compare unlimited broadband plans on our broadband deal checker.

8. If you’re saving, choose the right account for your needs

If you’re saving, consider what the purpose your savings account is. Do you have a lump sum you’re willing to lock away for a set period of time, or do you need instant access to your savings? Things like this will impact on the interest rate you can get.

Generally, regular savings accounts where you have instant access to your money have a lower return, while notice accounts or term deposit accounts will have higher rates.

Rates vary hugely between different banks, so take some time to compare before making a decision.

9. Take some energy-saving measures around the home to cut your bills

Aside from switching supplier, the biggest saving on your energy bills can be made by really understanding your energy usage, and cutting down where possible.

Simple changes, like turning down the heating by just one degree can knock up to 10% off heating bills, while turning appliances off, rather than leaving them on standby, will reduce the appliance’s energy use by around 20%.

One of the most cost-effective energy-saving products you can buy is an energy-saving lightbulb. They use up to 75% less energy than more traditional bulbs, so it’s possible to save over €20 per bulb annually. Given that these bulbs will last for a considerable period of time, it means savings across the lifetime of each bulb can quickly add up.

You can view more energy saving tips in our dedicated guides.

10. Bundle up!

If you have broadband, TV, home phone and a mobile phone, see if you can get a discount by buying two or more from the same provider - known as ‘bundling’.

Generally, providers will offer a discount if you bundle products, and you’ll also only have to deal with one provider - and one monthly bill - instead of several.

Review broadband, TV and phone bundles

11. Review your grocery spend

Lots of us are in a situation where we buy the same groceries each time we go to the supermarket, without considering what we really use and what we end up throwing out time and again.

Take a month or so to review your habits when it comes to the food you buy and use, and make appropriate changes to your grocery shopping using this information.

Even if you don’t waste much food, you could still make savings by switching from branded to own-brand products - for example porridge, tea, coffee, milk, ketchup etc.

12. See if you can get a discount by switching from monthly to annual payments

If you pay any of your insurances, or even things like your gym membership, on a monthly basis, see if you can afford to pay the annual fee upfront instead.

The chances are you’re paying extra for the convenience of paying on a monthly basis, so although paying upfront will be a larger outlay of cash in one go, it will save you in the long run.

13. Check your bills

Research carried out on behalf of Switcher.ie in 2016 showed that 50% of us simply trust our suppliers to get our bills right. You should check all household bills thoroughly and ask your supplier if you think there’s been a mistake or find something you don’t understand.

By getting a handle on the information in your bills, you will be in a stronger position to take control of your usage and spend across all of the household essentials. This will help to ensure not only that your bills are correct, but that you are getting value for money too.

14. Make sure you submit regular meter readings

Tied to checking your bills is the concept of submitting a meter reading for your gas and electricity. If you notice an ‘E’ on your energy bills, this means they have been based off an estimate, rather than an actual reading.

If you get several estimates in a row, you could end up getting a large bill once the meter is finally read.

Submitting regular readings will help you to avoid any shocks at bill time, and will ensure you are always being charged for your actual usage.

15. If you’re buying a home, compare mortgage offers from all providers

For most of us, a mortgage is the biggest financial product we’ll buy in our lifetime. In the panic to make sure you get the home of your dreams, it can be really tempting to take the first mortgage you’re offered.

However, even small variations in interest rates can really add up over the term of the loan. And, while choosing a longer term for your mortgage may lower your monthly repayments, it could make a sizeable difference to the overall cost of the loan.

In order to get an idea of the real cost of the mortgage over the full term, compare the cost of credit across each mortgage - this should help you to narrow down options and choose the best one for you.

16. Track everything you spend, every day for a week

If you’re someone who regularly finds yourself looking at an empty bank account and wondering where it’s all gone, try tracking everything you buy over the course of the week. You might be surprised at how quickly small purchases add up!

17. See if you are eligible for fee-free banking

Although many banks have re-introduced fees on current accounts in recent years, many still have accounts that offer fee-free banking once you meet certain criteria - like making a specified number of payments using the account each month.

Have a chat with your bank and see what they can do for you on this - it could save you a few Euro a month.

Little savings can really add up

Don’t feel you have to take on all of these changes in one go. Maybe pick out a couple that you think could work for you, and try to introduce them gradually.

Although each one may seem small, if you introduce two or three changes, you should really notice the difference adding up over time.