Last week we ran a piece that was – by any measure – pretty grim. We totted up the cost of the cost-of-living crisis and reckoned there are many households and families that will be worse off by more than €7,000 over the next 12 months when compared with 2019.
Some won’t be so badly hit while others will pay an even higher price. But rather that just leaving it there we thought we would try to come up with some solutions.
We do this knowing that many people – more people than ever, we suspect – have already implemented all of the money saving measures at their disposal and will be wearily aware that they are still coming up short.
1. Keep switching
The days of being able to knock 30 or 40 per cent off your annual electricity or gas bill simply by moving from Provider A to Provider B are long gone, but people who are proactive about choosing their energy provider can still save some money. Most – but not all – companies have announced discounts in recent weeks ranging from 10 to 20 per cent.
If household energy costs €4,000 then at the highest level, the price reductions will save people €800. While that is welcome, it still means even the most fortunate people will find themselves spending about €100 more a month on heating and lighting their homes than in the past. Switching will help. Hundreds of thousands of Irish households have never switched provider and are paying the standard rate on their energy. A discount of even 5 per cent amounts to €400 over the course of a year. Do not waste your time making calls to providers and instead rely on bonkers.ie or switcher.ie – both of which have the approval of the Commission for Regulation of Utilities to do the heavy lifting.
2. Keep the heat in
When it comes to energy savings, the best thing to do is to conserve what you have. It is better for your pocket and the environment. While retrofitting your home, plugging all the heat leaks and installing solar panels and heat pumps is obviously the gold standard, for many people it is unaffordable.
But attic insulation should be considered by anyone who has not had it done in decades. The materials used have become much, much better in recent years and substantial grants are available from the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland. Getting a decent job done should see you energy costs over the winter ahead fall by more than €100.
3. Turn it off
At the risk of sounding like our parents in the 1970s, be mindful – not a word that existed in our world back then, we think – of how you are heating, lighting and running your home. Turn off the heat half an hour before you are due to leave and do not turn it on until you return. If a room is used infrequently, then use the radiator valve to turn the temperature down or off.
By turning the thermostat down by just two degrees you will see your energy bill for the winter fall by as much as 10 per cent. Oh, and if there is no one in the room, why is that light on? Some simple steps in this space could save you €300.
4. Don’t be washed out
Don’t run your washing machine or dishwasher until they are full and run them on the eco settings or lower temperatures. By washing your clothes at 30 degrees instead of the default 40 degrees you will save money, your clothes will last longer and you will not notice any difference at all. You might save yourself 100 quid over the course of the year ahead.
Have a freezer audit. If you are anything like Pricewatch, your freezer is full of leftovers that you aspirationally thought your might eat one day and food you bought and never got round to cooking but did not want to throw out. But if your freezer is full, it is costing you money. Take everything out – and yes, we know that is a pain – salvage what you can to feed yourself in the week ahead, defrost it to get rid of the packed ice and start again. It will make things more efficient and is better for your head. On a one-off basis the savings will not be enormous but, as the phrase goes, every little helps.
6. Immersion? Are you made of money?
Use a clothes horse on rainy days and a clothes line on not so rainy days. If you do have to turn on the immersion, make sure to turn it off again as leaving it on can be financially ruinous.
7. Service your boiler
This simple task is critical for safety reasons and should be done every year. But while it might cost money, it might save you some money too, as a well-maintained and properly functioning boiler will be able to heat your home and water for about 5 per cent less. That could easily knock another €200 off your annual bills.
8. Pay close attention to health matters
The three private health insurance providers in the country have all upped their prices at least twice over the last few months. Given that most of the two million people with health insurance will renew between now and the end of February, this is somewhere where significant financial pain will be felt. It is also an area where there can be significant financial gains. Most people with health insurance stick with the same providers and same policies no matter what.
But if you have been on the same policy for the last three years there is a very good chance you could save money without losing any of your benefits by changing your plan. If a household of two adults and two children is spending €4,000 a year on cover and can save 10 per cent by moving in the months ahead that will amount to savings of €400.
9. Food for thought
There has been a big shift towards own-brand products as the cost-of-living crisis has endured, but there are still savings that can be made. Resolve to swap out just €20 worth of branded products for own-brand versions in whatever supermarket you shop in over the next 12 months, and you will easily save yourself €300.
10. Go circular
Clothes are expensive. But if you buy fewer of them, make the ones you have last longer and shop second-hand, you will see the annual bill fall and you will be very much on trend into the bargain, making it a win-win.
What you could save
Now by our casual reckoning, these steps could save some Irish households about €2,000. That will still leave people substantially worse off than they were, but at least it is something.