I’ll get the party political plug out of the way at the beginning – Vote Fine Gael, and you’ll get a party which doesn’t believe in stealth charges, VAT increases and other policies which have contributed massively to Rip-off Ireland.
- Always Look For A Discount. While it won’t work in your high-street multinational shops, but if your buying from an independent retailers, it is always worth looking to see if they can do you a deal. You’ll be surprised how often they will do.
- Never accept the first offer from Insurance Companies. They will always go lower, and you can always go elsewhere.
- Be careful with vouchers – Always check the terms and conditions inside out – especially at this time of year. Last year, I carried out a survey on this which showed that over 2/3rds of them had an expiry date, and in some cases vouchers expired in as little as three months. In addition, more than three quarters had conditions which meant that customers would not get change on their purchase, even for sums below €1 left on the gift card, thus forcing them to make another purchase to get the full value of the card.
- Be even more careful with gym membership. In a few weeks we’ll be all looking at our New Year’s Resolutions, and if you end up signing up for a gym you can be signing up to some onerous and largely hidden terms and conditions. Make sure you know what your signing up to, for how long, and what the story is with selling on your membership or cancelling it. You might be gung-ho for hitting the gym in January, but from bitter experience, that may not be the case six months later!
- If your getting professional services – know before hand what your signing up for, and the cost. Be it solicitors, dentists, doctors or whatever, always ask what the cost will be before agreeing to it.
- When buying products like home heating oil – shop around. No matter what you are buying, you should always shop around, but in particular for products like Home Heating Oil where such information isn’t too well known. Spending half an hour with the Golden Pages and on the phone and you’ll easily be able to get in touch with about a dozen suppliers. We did a survey over the summer of suppliers, which showed for a 1,000 litres of home heating oil there was almost €80 of a difference in the Dublin area. So it can certainly make a difference. Oh, and always ask for a reduction on their initial offer.
- If you see a bank charge on your account – ring them, ask them to remove it. If they whinge about it, tell them you’ll move your account. While you might think it would be a load of hassle, switching accounts between banks is no longer that big a deal.
- Keep an eye on what your mortgage provider is charging you, and keep an eye on what other providers are charging. You can make a fair old saving, even in the current banking climate, by switching your mortgage between banks.
- If your buying a house or an apartment, and there is a management company, make sure to find out everything about it. Before buying, take a look at the National Consumer Agency’s information on Management Companies and make sure to question the Estate Agent, and your Solicitor in detail about the company before doing making any commitment.
- Finally my American intern advises to always look for clothes which are missing a button or have a small blemish, and then demand a reduction. This strikes me as far too much hassle, but she tells me it is well worth it to save a few Euro. Being a student and the Dollar/Euro exchange, she probably knows what she’s at.
The complete series listing of Top Tips for Irish Consumers is now available here.