Online calculator unveiled to help cut household spending

Wed, Mar 31, 2010, 01:00

AN ONLINE calculator aimed at helping consumers reduce their household spending in key areas has been released by the National Consumer Agency.

Called the Economiser, the agency’s new calculator analyses users’ spending patterns in four areas – groceries, energy, TV and telecoms and mobile phones – before comparing it to one of 59 distinct profiles which have been input into its database. This allows users of the service to see at a glance how their spending matches people in a similar financial position to themselves and make changes accordingly.

Amárach Research, working on behalf of the agency, surveyed close to 2,000 people to create the detailed consumer profiles.

Based on information provided by users about their weekly grocery buying habits, their phone and television usage and their energy requirements, it also offers general tips on how people can reduce their bills. The agency has assured consumers information which is input will not be stored.

While the consumer body has declined to say how much it thinks people who use the service will be able to save if they follow the tips as outlined by the Economiser, sources within the agency have suggested that the savings could amount to 10 per cent of the annual spend in the four areas covered by the calculator.

At the launch yesterday Minister for Innovation Batt O’Keeffe described the budget calculator as “an important new offering for consumers”. He said it would allow people “to quickly and easily understand where they might have opportunities to make savings that can benefit them financially in a short period of time”.

Consumer agency chief executive Ann Fitzgerald said the Economiser, which cost €80,000 to put together, had been developed in direct response to the needs of consumers in the current difficult climate.

She said it was designed to act as an educational tool and to deliver a tailored analysis, directly relevant to the user’s circumstances. She noted consumer spending on groceries, telecoms, mobile phones and energy made up 30 per cent of the average household spend annually.

“What’s really valuable is that the Economiser does not take a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach,” Ms Fitzgerald added. “Your results compare you to those with similar characteristics to you, meaning that the analysis should offer you relevant information and suggestions to achieve real savings.”