What a start to the New Year it has been, reports Tina Leonard for Today with Pat Kenny.

VAT on products has increased from 21% to 23%, public transport costs have risen, as has motor tax and the €100 household charge has been introduced.

Not only that, but in addition to health insurance premium hikes already announced and more to come, the government has announced an increase of 40% on the health insurance levy.

All of that may make you want to put your head back under the covers, but there are always ways to save and Tina Leonard joins us to look at some ways of doing just that in 2012.

Public transport

Average Dublin Bus cash fares are up 15%: Example, €1.85 fare is now €2.15, €1.65 fare is now €1.90 and €2.30 fare is now €2.65

Luas fares have also increased by 6.3% on average, about 10 cent on single adult and child journeys.

Irish Rail prices increased from yesterday (4th January): Dart fares by an average 6% and 6.7% on Irish Rail commuter services.

How to save:

1. Even if you don’t commute every day it is worth your while to get the new integrated Leap card, which covers Dublin bus, Luas, DART and commuter rail. This can only be used in the greater Dublin area but the plan is to extend it nationwide this year.

You will save approx 5% on the full fare.

Leap fare examples: €2.15 fare is €1.95, €1.90 fare is €1.70, €2.65 fare is €2.40.

You can buy one at your participating newsagent or at www.leapcard.ie for a refundable charge of €5, and then top it up as you need it. Make sure to register the card in case you lose it etc.

2. Wherever you commute to and from in Ireland make sure you get your employer to join the Tax Saver scheme if you buy a monthly, part yearly (Bus Eireann only) or yearly ticket. That way you will pay for it before tax is deducted from your wage. You save 31% - 52% in tax, PRSI and USC on the price and your employer saves 10.75% in PRSI on the amount. 2,500 companies already participate and if yours doesn’t ask them, as it has to be done through payroll.

3. Don’t forget the other multiple journey tickets, which over better value for money than buying tickets individually. For example, a 30 Day Rambler ticket (bus) costs €110 or a 10 journey bus ticket is €19.

These, in general, still offer better value for regular commuters than the Leap card, although Leapcard say they will be adding multiple journey / rambler to the system, so it will be interesting to see what the prices for those will be.


There have been hikes in motor tax and motor fuel costs have risen. In addition to motor tax and fuel hikes motorists will also be hit by an increase in tolls as there has been a 10 cent rise from the start of the year on parts of the M1, M8, M6, Limerick tunnel, M3, M4, M7. The M50 toll for goods vehicles has increased by 10 cent but will remain unchanged for private vehicles. Dublin port tunnel rates remain unchanged.

Add to that service, running, parking, insurance and depreciation costs and the costs add up. For 2011 AA Roadwatch calculated average running costs as between €4,500 and €14,000 and this will rise for 2012. All this means you may have to think about ditching the car, or at least a second car if you have one.

How to save:

Hiring a car

Hire a car by the hour from www.gocar.ie if in Dublin or Cork if you need the use of a car. They say you will save money if you drive less than 8,000Km in a year. This will really only be practical for you if you live in or near to Cork or Dublin city.

You just have to register, then book a car at least an hour in advance, pick it up from one of a number of locations and drive off (you are provided with a GoCard which operates as a key for all the vehicles).Tariffs range from €2.75 an hour at night-time to €5.75 an hour on weekdays and €6.25 per hour at weekends.

Car sharing

www.getthere.ie is a useful site for car sharing – either if you’re looking for a lift somewhere or offering, whether for a once off trip or a commute. Plus use @getthereie on Twitter to find a lift. Another useful car sharing website is www.swiftcommute.ie.

That will save money on bus and train fares. But if travelling by train remember that Iarnrod Eireann adverstises the cheapest fares online but sometimes you can do better directly at the station. Plus remember that booking your train online you have to pay a €2 booking fee no matter what method you use to pay plus you pay an additional €1 if paying by credit card.

If you want to switch to using a bike, don’t forget the cycle to work scheme. This allows your employer to give you up to €1,000 of your wages before tax is paid, so that you can buy a bike from a participating bike shop. That way you won’t pay tax, PRSI or USC on the amount and your employer saves on employer PRSI for the amount. A useful website to fins out more is www.cycletowork.ie

Claim tax relief

Apparently many tax reliefs go unclaimed each year so it is worth checking what tax relief you are claiming and if there is any more you can claim.

You may not receive a tax cert in the post this year as income tax hasn’t changed, so if you don’t request one from Revenue, then look at the list of credits you are claiming on the back. Claiming relief can now be done online or even by tax so it doesn’t have to be an arduous procedure! Check for all available relief on www.revenue.ie.

Remember that you can claim back for four years to 2008. Here are some that you might not know about:

Work expenses

This is the flat rate expense allowance (Schedule E expenses) for work related expenses, i.e. uniforms or tools etc and Revenue often agree a standard amount for various occupations.

For electricians it’s €153; shop assistants €121; waiters €97; plumbers €177; bricklayers €175; mechanics €42; hotel managers €191; pilot €275; vet €337 and journalists €381.

If your expenses amount to more than that, then you claim for more.

Year of Marriage

If you’ve recently wed inform your local tax office to have your earnings reassessed and if you paid too much you’ll be refunded the difference back-dated to the date of your marriage.

Note that tax allowances can be transferred between spouses, so it would make sense to transfer these to the higher earning spouse to get more benefit from the credit.

Age Tax Credit

Even if you turned 65 on 31st December you can claim the age tax credit for the whole of 2011, which amounts to €245. Plus if you’re married and one of you turned 65 at any time during 2011 you can claim a double tax credit of €490 for the whole year.

Medical and dental expenses

Complete the Med 1 form to get tax relief at 20% on medical expenses and claim back to 2008 if you haven’t done so already.

If you’ve paid for medicine or treatment for your mum, or even for a neighbour (the person doesn’t have to be a relative), you can also claim tax relief on that seeing as you incurred the cost.

For non-routine dental treatment fill out the Med 2 form for your 20% relief and this also applies to work carried out in Belfast or Budapest. And don’t forget the 41% tax relief on nursing home fees.


If you care for an incapacitated child that lives with you, you can claim €3,300, €70 can be claimed if you care for a dependent relative at your expense, that is unless the dependent’s income exceeds €13,387. If you’re married and stay at home to look after a dependent (that could be a child), get the home carer tax credit which will be worth €810 to you.

Bin charges

Yes tax relief on bin charges was abolished from 2011, but you can still claim the relief for prior years (back to 2008) if you haven’t claimed already.


The VAT increase effect mainly non-food products, but Aldi, Lidl, Tesco and M&S have all announced there are not passing on the VAT increase.

Despite that you should still shop around for the best prices and this is what people are already doing.

According to a survey carried out for Checkout magazine and published yesterday, 81% of shoppers now shop in more than one store per week to avail of promotions and a half believe there shopping habits will change again in 2012 in order to save money, including shopping more at ‘discounters’ Lidl and Aldi, buying more own brand products and purchasing less.

To get grocery price information without leaving the house use websites www.fitthebill.ie (free) and www.smartshopper.ie (€11.99/year). They detail all prices and you can create shopping lists from the cheapest.

Go to www.cheapeats.ie and www.onoffer.ie for information on sales and discounts and weekly supermarket special offers.

Get money back for nothing when you shop as usual online but go via the cash-back site (Includes online shopping at Superquinn and Tesco): www.fatcheese.ie / www.cashbackireland.com

Analyse bills and switch

This is something you should do each year on all insurance policies, phone, broadband and TV subscriptions and your energy provider.

The first thing you have to do is analyse your bills and then start trawling through other providers for a better offer that suits your needs.

Some useful websites to get you started:

Health insurance



Phone / mobile / broadband




General services comparisons and information at



- Quit the gym and head outdoors (make sure you check the cancellation policy and cancel in time if in a rolling contract, otherwise you may have to pay an extra month).

- Cigarettes have also gone up to above €9: Try and quit and as well as saving on the cost of a packet of twenty you will save on your life insurance policy. I.e. Monthly premiums for life assurance cover almost doubles for male smokers when compared with non-smokers or a typical 50 year old couple could pay over €180 per month more for €250,000 of life cover or a staggering €420 extra for Critical Illness. (Source: Acorn Life).