The number of websites offering deals, vouchers and money back is growing every day says consumer affairs expert Tina Leonard.

She ran through the best of them with Pat Kenny. So why not start the new year with a great resolution - spend less on the things you need to buy. 

There are savings to be made on everything from eating out to broadband, telephone calls, health insurance, gadgets, and groceries.

If you know where and how, you can get offers on almost anything.

Jump right to the end for full list of discount and offer sites mentioned by Tina.

Listen to Tina Leonard on Today with Pat Kenny show

1. Get the best deals on groceries

It’s what we have to spend our money on so this is where we need to know how to make savings.

The latest grocery price survey published by the National Consumer Agency revealed that there was an increase in special offers from the big supermarkets, so assuming you will actually use the products on offer, you need to find out what they are and where.

Go to www.compare4me.ie for a comprehensive section on supermarket deals, which can also be emailed to you, and you’ll also find the weekly offers posted on www.cheapeats.ie.

Our shopping habits have changed and more of us are dividing our weekly shop between stores. But instead of trawling around the shops you can view the prices from all supermarkets online, and then choose where you buy from there, by creating your own shopping list from one of two supermarket price comparison websites.

The two sites are: www.smartshopper.ie, which gives you access to all supermarket prices for an annual subscription of €11.99; - for a half year subscription of €9.99. (The people behind both of these sites physically collate all prices themselves, and prices are up to date, usually updated on a weekly basis).

According to fitthebill.ie there can as much as 10% difference on price when a full range of products is compared, and this differential rises in certain categories like fruit and veg, so you should be able to make back the subscription price in a short time frame. Bear in mind that many branded market leaders (when not on special offer), carry identical or similar prices across the stores, so check the prices on own brand products and fresh food and special offers to get bigger price differentials.

2. Get cash back for online purchases

If you are buying online anyway, why not get money back on every purchase? Money that will be put directly into your account that you can spend on whatever you want. This is what cash back sites offer. This is not a ‘money off’ offer; you pay full price, and then get cash back to use how you will.

A tried and tested model in the US and the UK, cash back sites are newer here with the first launched in April 2009 and the most recent in April this year. There are now three dedicated cash back sites in Ireland; www.bethrifty.ie, www.fatcheese.ie and www.cashbackireland.com.

Cashback sites simply list retailers (fatcheese.ie has 800 and bethrifty has 500 for example), all of whom deliver to Ireland and you will find everything from supermarkets, to electronics, high street clothes stores and phone and TV service providers.

When you click through to a website to purchase something, the cash back site gets paid for ‘providing leads’, and they pay that money on to you.

There are no strings attached, you are still buying directly from your chosen online retailer, but are just linking to them from another site.

Your trail will be tracked by ‘cookies’ which means the trader will know to pay the commission to the cash back site who in turn pays it in to your bank or PayPal account. The process of getting the cash back can take between two and four weeks depending on the retailer.

The first in Ireland, established in April 2009, and the biggest, is bethrifty.ie with almost 24,000 customers, fatcheese.ie launched in Ireland last December has 15,000 customers (they have jumped from 9,000 in October) and cashbackireland.com, launched in April (and a sister site to uchoose.ie) has 4,600 users.

Both bethrifty.ie and fatcheese.ie have no membership fee, but cashbackireland.com has a €9 annual membership fee.

In addition to the cash back offers, look out for special money off promotion vouchers and added services like bethrifty’s weekly email on the latest offers or fatcheese.ie’s option to give all of some of the money you get back to a charity of your choice and all of them also offer cash back on ‘free’ things such as for your time filling in a marketing survey for example.

These sites are relatively new to Ireland and many Irish retailers are not yet engaging in affiliate marketing, so all cash back site operators say there is plenty of room for growth. There is also, of course, the element of education and letting people know that this way of shopping is there, and that there is no catch.

In the UK two of the largest cashback sites, Quidco and Greasy Palm, have already developed to the next stage; getting cashback when you shop on the high street. In Ireland cashbackireland.com are planning on introducing this with a new debit card they will be introducing (a pre-paid mastercard), which when used will give ‘offline cash back’ at selected on street retailers.

Examples:

The sort of deals you can get are: €7 cash back on new Tesco customers; €1.75/€2.50 for existing customers; 8% back from Champion Sports; 10% back from citydeal; 4% back from Debenhams; 10% back from Expedia.

A lot of retailers are common to all, but check to see which has the best cash back offer. Other retailers offer exclusive deals so you’ll need to do a bit of digging to find out where the best offer is.

3. Get a discounted ‘deal of the day’

I know people who are practically addicted to ‘deals of the day’ sites, so if you haven’t heard of these already, ask your friends, because they certainly will.

The three sites currently in operation here are: www.citydeal.ie, www.livingsocial.ie and www.goodbuy.ie.

You subscribe for free, and receive an email each day about that day’s featured deal, which is always heavily discounted. If enough people buy the deal it’s yours. Check the terms of the deal for how long you have to use it – it could be one month or three months. Most deals tend to be Cork or Dublin based (for now), and when you sign up you indicate what area interests you most, although hotel and getaway deals can be anywhere in the country.

Examples: Yesterday citydeal.ie were selling tickets for two to Arnotts ice rink for €11 rather than €24; livingsocial were offering admission to Harold's Cross greyhound stadium for two, with sausage, chips and drinks for two plus two €1 bets for €13. 

A word of warning though; many of the deals are non-essential such as beauty treatments, restaurants and activities so if you didn’t want it in the first place, try not to buy. For example, also on livingsocial.com yesterday they were offering a microdermabrasion and skin rejuvenation package fore €54 rather than €180. That’s a big discount but do you really need it and would you have spent that €54 in the first place?

4. Always compare prices

There aren’t as many (good) price comparison sites here as in the UK, for example, but if you’re looking for travel insurance, a new bank account, or broadband there are a few sites you should start with, so that you don’t have to do all the hard slog yourself.

www.compare4me.ie, www.uchoose.ie and www.bonkers.ie where you can input your needs for travel insurance, broadband, bank accounts etc and the best deals should be revealed.

Use these sites as a starting point, and take it from there yourself.

For fantastic health insurance comparisons go to the Health insurance Authority’s site at www.hia.ie and try www.callcosts.ie run by the Commission for Communications Regulation for mobile, landline and broadband products.

5. Use coupons and search for special offers

Lifestyle: It is impossible for us to know where the best offers are all the time, but there are plenty of sites that simply provide information on sales and special offers on fashion (www.thesavvyshopper.ie), beauty and lifestyle (www.feelingfrugal.ie), and for food / restaurants (www.cheapeats.ie, www.mylunch.ie).

It’s also time to start printing off money off coupons for things that you want. For money off coupons and some exclusive offers take a look at www.onoffer.ie for offers on electronics, hotels, fashion, beauty and restaurants. You’ll also find competitions there; recent giveaways included a free mini-facial and a free dental check up. Money off offers currently include 10% off all games at CDWow and 10% off admission to the wax museum.

Newest kid on the block is www.5hop5.ie which gives you access to discount codes for products across all categories.

Getting discount or promotional voucher numbers online is a huge craze in the UK - with ordinary members of the public posting the numbers online on bulletin boards etc. You can get discounts for everything from travel to branded goods. There are also sites that do it and now www.5hop5.ie does it for Ireland.

6. Buy and sell online

Keeping with the online theme, apart from giving to and buying at charity shops, swap shops and second hand shops, there is plenty to choose from online.

Plus given Deloitte’s annual Christmas spending survey suggested that up to €150million would be spent on unwanted gifts, you may have some things to sell right now.

Chances are you’ve tried eBay, but don’t forget about www.donedeal.ie (the biggest classified site in Ireland), www.buyandsell.ie and www.gumtree.ie.

To sell or buy baby gear, try the relatively new www.babybay.ie where listings include a mamas and papas pilko pram system for €70 and mamalicious maternity jeans for €15.

7. Recycle and give to charity 

If you want the proceeds to go to charity, there is a new website set up by two Irish charities focused on Africa; Friends of Kitui (Kenya) and CareAid (Tanzania and Zambia) called www.giveandbuy.ie, where you post your unwanted item for free and when sold 100% of the money goes to the charity you choose.

Charities currently listed are the Irish Cancer Society, Our Lady's Hospice, Barnardos, Peter McVerry Trust, Trocaire, Special Olympics, Meningitis Research Foundation, the Down Syndrome Centre, Friends of Kiui and CareAid.