Ten top tips to keep control of your finances and finally save in 2017

After a roller-coaster 2016, suddenly the New Year is here. What surprises will it bring? After Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20, it’s anybody’s guess. One thing you can control is how you plan your finances to make sure 2017 is a little easier on the pocket. Here are my top 10 tips to get them under control.

House Insurance
This is typically the one where families overpay because they over-insure by using their house’s value as the sum insured.

This is invariably higher than the “re-build’ cost”, which is all you’ll get back anyway. To find this, use the Chartered Surveyors calculator (www.scsi.ie). If you’ve insured your contents for a percentage of this amount, cost them properly instead. Work out how much it would actually cost to replace your furniture, clothing and everything else. Then call your insurer and reduce the figure.
Tax Credits

Most of us don’t claim the credits we’re due. It’s not that complex, and it is your money, after all. The one usually missed is the Home Carer’s credit, worth €1,000 a year, according to Taxback.com, which says 65pc of people don’t bother claiming it.
It’s often assumed it’s only available to families with a sick or disabled person, but it can be claimed by any couple where one is a stay-at-home spouse or earning less than €7,200 a year.

Mobile phone
Mobile phone costs have dropped considerably, particularly when you’re on bill pay. However, to get the best deals you normally have to sign up for 24 months, so do your research. If you’re due an upgrade, ask exactly what you’re getting for your outlay. Consider switching provider – your number won’t change.

I find Carphone Warehouse helpful as they broker all providers. Decide what you need most – calls and texts or online access – and compare offers. Tesco Mobile has a current offer for a free iPhone 5S with a €30-a-month plan.

Draw up a family budget of all outgoings. Take out a bank statement for all direct debits, estimate groceries, transport and other weekly expenses. Less regular spends like back-to-school, Christmas, birthdays, bin charges and property tax can be added up and divided by 12. They’re the ones that normally catch us out.
Knowing what’s due can really help control spending. Set up a savings account online (it’s free) and divert, on pay-day, an amount into it which is your household fund for these bills.

Life Insurance
If you’ve had a mortgage for more than eight years, chances are you’re overpaying for your mortgage protection.

Rates have dropped, and it’s worth asking a broker to re-quote you. Only cancel your existing policy when the new one is in place.
Car Insurance

2017 may just be the year motor insurance premiums stabilise as companies finally catch up after years of under-charging. The new claims bible, the Book of Quantum, has been issued, and hopefully will be followed in court cases.

You can keep premiums down by claiming discounts, including having a garage, being at home during the day, low mileage and engine size and cross-insuring with your partner.
Pocket Money

Paying your kids pocket money may look like an added expense, but it’s a great idea. Teaching them about budgeting from an early age is essential, but you have to be strict. Pay them, if you can afford it, the same amount as their age, but specify what they must do with it – for example, save half, spend half.

Let them have goals, such as a new bike or summer holidays, and put their money towards that in a post office account or even a simple piggy bank. Don’t top them up if they spend the lot.

Most of us will be hoping to get away on a holiday this year, and January is a great time to pick up early-bird bargains such as free child places or a discount on the air fare.

The later you leave it, the more expensive it will be, so enjoy a browse online or visit your local travel agent (booking this way with a bonded agent means you have guarantees if something goes wrong).
Health Insurance

It’s still wildly expensive, but it really is vital to switch every year to avoid over-paying.

The dearest plans are those that simply roll over, with unsuspecting customers losing out by not availing of identical but cheaper plans. A specialist broker such as TotalHealthCover.ie or Lyons (www.lfs.ie) will cut through the mire.

Averaging €7,800 per family per year, our grocery shopping is one of our biggest expenses, yet we waste so much food.

Using your freezer better and varying your supermarket can make a huge difference.

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