Conor Pope, consumer affairs expert and co-host of The Price of Everything, gives some top advice on how to cut costs and save money.

Managing our money has rarely been as important as it is now, with the rate of inflation spiking and set to hit rates we haven't seen since the darkest days of the early 1980s.

The bad news is the problem of spiralling prices is only likely to get worse before it gets better. But we are not powerless and there are some steps we all can take to save money on food, transport, energy and insurance.

Food
The cost of groceries is second only to a mortgage or rent for most Irish households but it is also an area where significant savings can be made.

  1. Be a supermarket ninja and only buy what you need. Do not let yourself be swept off your feet by the offers dangled before you as you go up and down the aisle.
  2. Before you walk through the supermarket doors, do your homework. Know what you have in the house and make a list based on that. Do not deviate from that list. Rather than scribbling it on a piece of paper, write in the notes app of your phone – you are less likely to leave that at home.
  3. Never shop hungry – a hungry shopper is never ninja-like.
  4. Experiment more with own-brand products. Making some smart switches could see the cost of your weekly shop fall by 30% which could save you hundreds of euro each year.


Light & heat
The cost of heating and lighting our homes has climbed dramatically since this time last year, with all the main companies rolling out multiple price hikes, blaming soaring prices of fossil fuels on global markets. The hikes will cost many households more than €1,000 over the next 12 months.

  1. While every company has increased their prices, they still offer substantial discounts – sometimes of over 30% – to new customers. So be that new customer. Moving provider is easy, although you will be on hold for some time, but if you have the patience and can save €500, it will be worth it.
  2. Turn the thermostat down by one degree and you will reduce your heating energy consumption by up to 10%, which might save you €100.
  3. Cooking more than one thing at a time makes your oven more efficient. Resist opening the oven door while cooking, as 20% of the heat escapes each time. Put lids on pots boiling on the stove and always turn down the heat when water starts to boil.
  4. Do not leave electrical items on stand-by and look at ways to make your home cosier by plugging drafts and use your immersion at your peril!


Transport
Petrol and diesel prices have gone through the roof in recent weeks. The price of fuel fluctuates from forecourt to forecourt but a rise of close to 50 cent per litre since last year is pretty typical. When spread out over a full 12 months, increases of that level will cost the typical motorist close to €1,000.

  1. The best way to save money when it comes to cars is not to use them. If you could reduce the amount of time you used your car by 20% – by walking or cycling maybe – then you will knock €220 off your annual costs.
  2. Knocking even 5 cent off the price you pay for fuel will save you another €60 over the course of a year. Buy a set number of litres, which will make you aware of the price gaps between forecourts. Check out pumps.ie for prices in your neighbourhood.
  3. You can also save a surprising amount of money by changing the way you drive. Do not over-rev your engine, drive in the right gear and keep your boot empty. Keep tyres at the right pressure, get the car serviced, do not use air conditioning and remove roof racks.


Health insurance
Healthcare is not immune to inflation: the cost of health insurance is likely to continue to climb this year.

  1. For more than two million people, private health insurance is a luxury they cannot afford. And many of those who do have it are paying too much. If your renewal is coming up, call your insurer and ask for all the comparable plans to the one you have that cost less and use the Health Insurance Authority website to make comparisons (hia.ie) between your provider and others on the market. You might be able to save yourself hundreds of euro with just a couple of hours work.
  2. Makes sure you claim the tax relief on the cost of health expenses. There is a 20% tax back on the table for health and medical expenses and non-routine dental expenses.