How to be a smarter spender in the new year

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It’s January, the party is well and truly over and pay day is a long way off so now is as good a time as any for a 17-step programme to make you a more savvy spender.

1. One in four people routinely shop in either Aldi or Lidl, according to figures from retail analysts Kantar Worldpanel. While that is a whole lot of people it does mean that 75 per cent of us rarely or never darken the discounters’ doors. If you are in this cohort it’s really worth having a look. The quality of the stock in both has improved dramatically in recent years and you could easily knock 30 per cent off your weekly grocery shop. Spread the saving over the course of a year and you will be more than two grand richer at the end of 2018.

2. Now is the time to hop on the wagon – not forever, but until the beginning of next month. New year’s resolutions are almost always a disaster because they are open-ended and ultimately boring. But if you set yourself the goal of getting through January, it is much easier to do. The average Irish adult drinks the equivalent of eight pints of beer a week. That’s about €40 if you do all your drinking in a pub. Cut it out for the month and save yourself as much as €160.

3. Pricewatch is very partial to coffee. And we were delighted to read late last year that by drinking four cups every day we’ll live forever – although we did speed read the story so may have missed some of the key details. While coffee might be good for your health, the takeaway variety is not good for your wallet and if you cut out your morning cup for January you’ll save yourself €50.

Detox distractions

4. If you are considering a detox diet or have already started one – think again. And then decide not to bother – they are complete nonsense and as real and as useful to your wellbeing as a bowl full of unicorn dung. The simple fact is there are absolutely no special treatments or fast tracks to help your body detox itself. You have organs to look after detoxification. And it’s not just Pricewatch saying this; doctors and dietitians all over the world have been saying it for years. Detox is a scam – don’t get fooled again.

5. There are tens of thousands of diet books in print right now and they all promise us the secret of sustainable weight loss. But the vast, vast, vast majority of the diets, plans and books simply do not work in the long – or even medium term. Repeated surveys from experts and consumer groups in many different countries have proved that 95 per cent of diet programmes fail. So don’t get sucked into the latest fad. If you want to lose weight, eat less, exercise more, watch your sugar intake and cut back on processed food. These steps will not help everyone get into perfect shape (the problem of obesity is more complicated than that), but it is a good starting point that won’t cost you loads of money.

6. We are not anti-gym (in fact we’re happy to give our money to a very good gym) but joining such a place in January or February is madness. The dropout rate among people who take out gym memberships in the first part of any year is more than 60 per cent. That wouldn’t be so bad if gyms didn’t make it so hard to leave once they have you in their clutches. Far too many of those who join a gym this week and next with the best of intentions will find themselves locked into expensive contracts for at least a year. As many as 350,000 Irish adults are gym members, and less than half go regularly. Don’t find yourself in the wrong half.

Health insurance

7. Many people who have private health insurance will soon be facing into renewals. Most will stay with the same provider – in fact about 70 per cent of people with health insurance have never switched. They are all wasting money. If your renewal is coming up, call your insurer and ask for all the comparable plans to the one you have that cost less. Use the Health Insurance Authority website to make comparisons (hia.ie). If you are on a budget of, say, €800, you should ring and ask for the best-value plan for that amount. Always put the onus on the company to find the best value and to explain exactly what the plan does.

8. When it comes to getting in shape for the new year, the best thing you can do is overhaul your grocery shopping habits. Remember lists are your friend. Get into the habit of only buying what you need by checking what you have in your cupboards or your fridge before you go shopping. Then make that list and stick to it.

9. A sliced pan and a block of cheese will easily knock €25 a week off the cost of keeping yourself fed throughout the working day. You can also make a week’s worth of meaty stew for €5. Five bread rolls to go with it will cost €2, taking the cost of a hearty lunch for a working week to €7, or 80 per cent less than buying a sandwich every day.

Spend nothing

10. Challenge yourself to spend nothing for just one day. Then see if you can make it five days. Then seven. Spending money is a habit, but if you put your mind to it, it can be broken. You’d be amazed at how easy and refreshing it is to get through a whole day without spending a bean. The key is – obviously – not going into shops at all. If you find yourself weakening, just ask yourself if you really need whatever it is you are tempted to buy. If you can’t answer a truthful yes, then let it go.

11. We’ve long been a convert to own-brand products. We’re not saying they are all lovely; there is some awful stuff selling under the brand names of some of the State’s biggest retailers. But there is also some very high-quality stuff that typically sells for 30 per cent less than the brand equivalent.



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