Personal finance advisor Eoin McGee is a newly appointed ambassador for Champion Green, Ireland's 'Support Local’ campaign. Here, he writes about over-reliance on global markets, the cost-of-living and quality of life in Ireland and the vibrancy of Irish towns and communities.
Inflation is in our face right now. We turn on the radio, TV or social media and there it is, the curse of inflation. It is especially painful when it hits us at the till.
Globally, costs are rising. As we move from a pandemic closed-down world, to a post-pandemic open economy, demand has been driven up. So too, the global unrest of the war in Ukraine, aside from the awful humanitarian crisis, is impacting global supply.
When it comes to inflation, there are certain things we just cannot control. We can’t, as individuals, resolve the situation in Ukraine. We can’t control the cost of gas or oil coming into the country, and we can’t control the cost of wholesale food supplies either.
But there are things we can control. While we cannot decide the wholesale price of gas, we can control who we buy our personal gas and electricity from.
CRU.ie, a Government website, lists the authorised "switcher" firms you can use to help shop around for gas and electricity. It isn’t unusual to save €300 when switching provider, and, often, more than twice that if switching two.
Just make sure you don’t get caught for a fee if ending a contract with a current supplier early!
There is a whole pile of household essentials that, if you scratch your head a little, you can switch and save money. Try your car and home insurance, life cover, mortgage protection, health insurance, and the big one, the mortgage! Pull out a bank statement and go through it line by line. You will identify both switcher savings and costs like streaming services and that music or gaming app or club membership you haven’t used for ages.
And what about the less obvious choices we make with our money? Often, we don’t think about the knock-on effects of how or, more importantly, where we spend. Every time we support local, it helps create jobs, helps Irish families, and puts money into local communities.
We do not control the price Ireland pays for oil, but we know that it is global demand and market forces that push-up the price of home heating oil, petrol and diesel.
When we buy something online from a faraway place it has to be transported to us. The cost of the oil for the truck, train, boat and/or plane all adds to the global demand for oil. This, in turn, pushes up the prices we all pay at the pump.
There are other non-financial costs too. If we all made a decision to support local, overall it would reduce the cost of transportation, the global demands on oil, and, of course, we would reduce our carbon footprint.
Buying something from a locally-owned shop, regardless of where it was sourced, is still better from an environmental and a wallet perspective, than buying from a company based abroad.
Intuitively it makes sense, and it is also the right thing to do. Supporting local means we create a better community, a community we live in ourselves, and benefit from directly.
If you have a local boutique, restaurant, coffee shop or service provider on your doorstep and they are locally owned and operated, I can guarantee you there is no one sitting in Berlin, Milan, Toronto, Tokyo who is going to be ordering from them. The people they have to rely on for custom is you. So, if you appreciate them, if you want them and the jobs and services they provide to last, then it is up to you to support them.
Online or in-person, if more of us make a concerted effort to spend our money locally, we not only keep that money in circulation in our own community, but we facilitate growth and competition and more and better services locally, all of which ultimately forces down costs.
When shopping locally online, do check that the .IE domain that you are on is actually an Irish owned and operated website, as otherwise you’re not only shopping with an overseas business, but you also risk unwelcome customs and import duty on your purchase!
Local means less depletion of global resources too. Less reliance on global resources strengthens our autonomous economic power, here in Ireland. We help create a wealthier economy, where our kids can take good well-paid jobs here, if they choose to, rather than heading abroad.
Support local is so much more than a nice concept we should pay lip-service to.
If we ‘champion green’ and support local businesses this year, we help our towns and cities to recover and remain vibrant.
It’s good for global demand on natural resources; it’s good for our carbon footprint; it’s good for the Irish economy; it’s good for the local economy and, most of all, it’s good for you!
ChampionGreen.ie has plenty of good advice on great local brands and businesses and on how to support them.