Have you money to burn?
What's the story with saving money?
ALTHOUGH THERE IS no escaping the fact that we live in a high price economy, there are still ways we can make substantial savings without draining our lives of colour. Here are 10 small steps which should leave more money in your pocket.
1 Pay less for meds
Buying generic or non-branded medicines can save a packet. This applies to both prescription and over-the-counter medications, although patients have more control with the latter as they are not dependent on what their GP writes on a script. A box of 24 non-branded paracetamol costs €2, while a similarly sized box of Panadol costs €2.85.
A pack of 20 Motilium anti-nausea tablets, meanwhile, costs €9.49 while the generic equivalent, Domerid, is only €7.49. There is no difference in the active ingredients or the quality and efficacy of the products.
There are many other over-the-counter and prescription medicines that have cheaper alternatives, so it is always good to ask your local pharmacist if there is a better value alternative available.
2 Pay nothing for software
Software providers charge big bucks for their products and are perfectly within their rights to do so. And you are perfectly within your rights not to pay it and go in search of free software elsewhere. There is a vast amount of high-quality, professional-level software legally and freely available on the net, including word-processing, picture and video software. Microsoft Office costs more than €100, while OpenOffice, a fully functioning suite of office programmes with software comparable to Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Access, costs nothing. Then there is the unfortunately named Gimp, a free replacement for Photoshop, and for anti-virus software it's worth checking out AVG. Three places to look for free software: free.grisoft.com; www.openoffice.org; and www.download.com.
3 A free read
When was the last time you visited a library? They are genuinely remarkable places providing an amazing service that seems to be terribly under-used by the reading public, who prefer to visit their local bookshop to hand over good money for books they'll read just once.
4 Surf's up
And of course many libraries also have free internet access. If you can't get to one and want to go online for nothing, there are a growing number of WiFi hotspots dotted around the country offering wireless internet access to anyone with a laptop fitted with a wireless card. While some places charge silly amounts to give access to their WiFi networks, others have a more open policy. A collaborative map of Irish WiFi hotspots is available here: tinyurl.com/2ydbyr.
5 Call care
Do an audit on your phone usage at least once every year and ask whether you really need all those "free" minutes and "free" text messages you get from your provider. If your mobile bill is about €50 a month, then it is costing you €600 a year. If you're only a casual user, switch to a pay-as-you-go option - the handsets can be picked up for €30, including €10 of call credit - and save yourself hundreds of euro this, and every, year.
6 It probably won't be you
Don't spend a lot on the Lotto. Of course it's enticing when the jackpot rolls over and over and over again and reaches €12 or €15 million, but don't let the advertising and the hype sucker you in to buying more than one or two tickets. Your chances of winning the Lotto are about eight million to one, and they don't improve significantly if you buy 10 tickets.
7 Free at last
Find more free stuff to do. There are hundreds of events happening around the country every week that won't cost you a penny. Listings magazines are the traditional source of information about such things, but there's also the Facebook Free Dublin guide. Run by Joerg Steegmueller, the e-mail digest of what's on in Dublin contains a head-spinning amount of free stuff from writing workshops for foreigners and feminist walking tours to classical concerts in the Hugh Lane Gallery and astronomy lectures in Dunsink Observatory. It now has close to 1,000 members and at the time of writing was looking for a new name.
8 Time it right
Timing your holiday carefully is essential if you don't want it to cost the earth. People without children of school-going age should never go on holidays in June, July and August, when demand is at its peak.
Pricewatch recently found a two-week holiday in the Cretan resort of Stalis for two adults in the first two weeks of July with Budget Travel for €709 per person. A two-week break booked with the same operator in the same complex in the same Cretan resort in the second two weeks of May, meanwhile, cost €497 - and Crete is probably a lot more pleasant in May than July too.
9 Stop paying through the nose
Don't be conned by your convenience store. There is a shop not far from where Pricewatch works which sells cans of Coke for €1. Not 15m away from its front door, there is another, similarly sized shop selling exactly the same product for 70 cent - yet every day people queue up to waste their money in the dearer shop.
By being just a little more aware of the price of everyday items and doing just a little shopping around each year, you could save yourself a couple of hundred euro without even noticing your belt being tightened.
10 Stock up
When you're going to see a film, stock up on your treats before you cross the cinema's threshold. Readers are constantly contacting us to complain about the high prices in the vending machines, the ridiculous cost of popcorn and the outlandish chocolate charges. While you might just have to pay up for the popcorn, as there's no alternative in the local shops and bringing your own just wouldn't be the same, there's absolutely no need to spend €2.50 on a bottle of water when the shop next door to the cinema is selling it for half the price.
Conor Pope's new book,Stop Wasting Your Money , published by Liberties Press, is out now.