Summer savin’, give it a blast: ways to cut costs

From picnics to apps, sun screen to free days out, here are eight ideas for a frugal season

Mon, May 12, 2014, 01:00

Here comes the summer, but with the sun (if it appears) come extra cost. There are many ways to save – some old-school and some new – here are just eight of them.

1 Have more picnics

The restaurants of Ireland won’t thank us for saying this, but one of the best ways to cut the

summertime costs in Ireland is by having more picnics.

During the boom years, the sight of families stuffing their faces with mediocre food in mid-priced restaurants became normal. The only people seen eating home-made sandwiches in public places were those who had come up to Dublin “from the country” for Croke Park Sundays. They could be found picnicking on “hang sangwiches” and flasks of tay standing next to parked cars on Drumcondra side roads.

Just find a bit of green space and you’re all set. An average lunch for an average family of two adults and two children will cost about €40. The makings of a picnic for all four will cost a tenner. And flasks are in again. Just so you know.

2 Free attractions
We moan about the high cost of many things in Ireland, but we are well served by free attractions. The National Gallery of Ireland was ranked as the fifth most popular tourist attraction in Ireland last year, with about 660,000 visitors walking through its doors, and none of them were asked to pay a penny.

The National Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin was eighth, with 544,000 visitors strolling through its wrought-iron gates. It is beautiful on a sunny summer’s day – a real national treasure. Parking will set you back €2 but it is money well spent. Then there is the Dead Zoo – or the National Museum of Ireland: Archaeology, to give it its stuffy real name. Throw in a trip to Farmleigh and the Science Gallery at Trinity College Dublin and you’ll have three free days out for starters.

3 Free event guide
If you are looking for more free stuff to do, visit and sign up to the free event guide, written by Joerg Steegmueller. For almost seven years, he has been writing a weekly guide to free events. About 15,000 people receive it and he has 20,000 fans on Facebook.

4 Join the zoo
While it is brilliant, Dublin Zoo is not cheap to visit – particularly if you are paying for a bunch of people. The price of admission for an adult is €16.50, while a children’s ticket costs €11.80 – a family ticket covering two adults and two children will set you back €46.50. However, if you live within easy striking distance of the place, there is wonderful value to be found in the annual family membership. The annual family pass costs €168, but for that you get unlimited access for 12 months. It will allow the pass-holder and three adults to visit, or the pass holder and two adults and two children, or the pass holder and six children – mind you, if you’re the only adult going to the zoo with six kids, we applaud your bravery.

5 Download Vouchercloud

This app can save you money. It relies on GPS technology to find deals and discounts near you. After you have trawled the offers, you choose the one you want and download it straight to your phone.

Last week, dozens of restaurants and bars around Dublin were offering discounts of about 20 per cent on meals, several hotels and B&Bs were offering similar discounts and Lillie’s Bordello was offering users free admission before midnight. It won’t have something for everyone all the time, but it is worth having on your phone – and is a lot handier than clipping coupons from the newspaper.

6 Always wear sun screen

You can buy a bottle of sun cream made by Crème de la Mer for almost €100 or a bottle in Aldi for less than €4 – the choice is yours. When it comes to protecting your skin from the sun, both will work just as well. The sun creams selling in Aldi and Lidl have to comply with the same European Commission laws as the others, so if they promise a certain SPF, they have to deliver it. Don’t buy sun screen without checking what you have left over from last year. An open bottle lasts up to two years – but remember to check the “period after opening” number on the bottle to be sure.

7 Do more deals

Nearly two-thirds of Irish adults use online coupon services such as Groupon and Living Social.

While enthusiasm for them may have waned – after two years of mails about cheap colonic irrigation and teeth whitening – they are still a must if you want to cut the cost of your summer. Sign up to and you can get all the deals from all the sites bunched into a single mail, customised as you like.

While we’re doing deals, if you are going abroad this year, sign up now for the deal sites for wherever you are going on holiday. You will find discounted meals and cheaper tickets to tourist attractions, and, with Google Translate doing the hard work for you, you won’t even need so much as a word of the local lingo to secure your deals.

8 Don’t pay for data
Tap into the apps: Wifi Finder will lead you to thousands of wifi hotspots around the country, while Wikihood uses GPS to find Wikipedia articles about the places near where you are. AroundMe does something similar, but also locates shops and parking spots. Navfree turns your smartphone into a satnav, with pre-loaded maps and route planning, so you won’t need to use internet data.

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