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7 Reasons to be a Cheerful Consumer in 2009 With Tina Leonard

Thursday, 29 January 2009

With all the doom and gloom surrounding the recession Tina is going to try to cheer us up with some reasons why you should be a happy consumer in 2009.

Tina Leonard, Consumer Expert:
January is pretty dark and bleak anyway plus we're all officially broke! So here are some ideas to help you save money in 2009.

1. Get your entitlements
Millions of euro in tax relief goes unclaimed each year. Make sure you get yours. You can claim for: mortgage interest relief; rent relief; union subscriptions; waste charges; medical and dental costs; annual transport tickets; letting a room; some college courses and more. You can do it all easily online at www.revenue.ie

2. Switch
Make sure you are getting the best deal for your home and mobile phones and broadband services. Many people pay too much simply because the tariff they are on does not match their usage pattern. So work out how often, to where and when you make calls and then input this data to the calculator on www.callcosts.ie, which will calculate the best deals available. Then call your provider and see if you can change your package or switch provider for a better deal.

You should also do research on all the policies you hold such as home, health and motor insurance, as you could potentially save yourself hundreds of euro a year by switching. Go to www.itsyourmoney.ie for cost comparisons and also www.hia.ie for more price comparisons.

3. Haggle
Haggling was always around but is now becoming more popular. If you are buying high ticket items such as furniture, electrics or cars or if you're spending a lot in one store, ask for a discount. Remember to ask for the manager and be polite and friendly. Keep in mind how much you are willing to pay so that you don't end up bartering as though you're in a souk or walking away when you actually really wanted the thing. Keep your cool, and remember that a €10 discount is better than nothing.

4. Sell your unwanted goods
One of the leading online auction sites reckons that the average Irish household has €4,400 worth of unwanted goods so have a look around your home and get selling. This way you can justify your purchases and stay solvent.

5. Swapping and Bartering
If you don't want to sell your clothes online then there are the more traditional 'swap shops' such as Stockxchange in Dun Laoghaire, the Bridge Mills in Galway and the Designer Swap Market in Ennis. These stores will sell your unwanted clothes for you and then pay you minus their commission. Use the cash to buy more second hand clothes in the stores, becoming an on-street 'neutral shopper'.

If you don't like the idea of money changing hands then you could swap them instead. Shebeen Chic in Dublin's Georges Street hosts a swap every Saturday where you can exchange your clothes or other items for tokens which can then be exchanged for something that you like. Keep your eyes out on online bulletin boards or at your local shop for occasional swap events, or better still organise one yourself.

You can also swap your skills for something you want. For example, if you speak French, you could offer French lessons in exchange for a decorator, electrician or some other service. Obviously this 'bartering' system is completely dependent on who wants what, but it could work. There are plenty of bartering sites online in the US, Australia and the UK but not in Ireland. A Dublin woman did set up a Barter Club in Dublin however and you can find it through Gumtree.ie.

6. Get free things
There are many websites where you can register to receive free samples of anything from beauty products and homewares to food, children's toys and coupons. Take a look at www.mysavings.com and http://irelandfreestuff.com

If you need a radio, a sofa or a washing machine you don't necessarily have to pay for it. There are various websites that allow people to advertise things they want to give away and if you want it you can go and collect it. Check out www.jumbletown.ie which covers the whole country or www.gumtree.ie and www.dublinwaste.ie for Dublin only. While you're at it, if you have something you don't want anymore, you could give it away. Remember you will save on the waste disposal charges for large items.

7. Save money and the planet
In 2009 you should do your bit to save the planet as well. Ditch the expensive and chemically laden household cleaners and instead use vinegar and soda crystals. Vinegar clears blocked drains, cleans metal and gets rid of calcium build-up in kettles. Check out www.vinegartips.com. Soda crystals diluted in water are good for cutting through grease and limescale, so is good for cleaning kitchens and bathrooms, including ceramic or vinyl tiles.

You really should ensure you are employing every energy saving device in the book to save on household bills. Use the appliance calculator on www.esb.ie to estimate how much your home electrical appliances and lighting cost to run. You can also compare the cost of, for example, washing clothes at 40 degrees rather than 60. Prepare to be shocked. Then go to the website of Sustainable Energy Ireland www.sei.ie to get useful tips on how to make both small and big changes to reduce your bill.

If you have a car, it costs a lot to run plus it increases your carbon footprint. If you can't walk, cycle or get public transport then use the car less. Share journeys with friends or colleagues and save up small trips for daily errands and do them all at once. You could also change your driving practice: empty your boot; use heating and air conditioning sparingly; drive at a constant speed and start and stop as little as you can manage, as this all saves on fuel consumption.

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