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Top Tips for Irish Consumers

In the month before Christmas 2009, ValueIreland.com invited a number of higher profile Irish consumers to submit a listing of their own personal top tips so that we could share with our readers.

As a result, ValueIreland.com was provided with some fantastic and interesting tips from many household names. Everyone involved has been very generous with their time, for which we are extremely grateful.

If you haven’t seen them already, check them out now – you could find something new that could save yourself a few quid.

Many thanks again goes to all those who contributed to this series – ValueIreland.com very much appreciates it very much and we hope it’s been of benefit to the readers of ValueIreland.com.

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Top Tips for Irish Consumers from The Serial Complainer

Before Christmas, we ran a series of Top Tips for Irish Consumers. We asked a selected number of higher profile Irish consumers for their own top tips. Before Christmas, we had 17 very generous responses to our request – but we realised that a lot of time and effort was required to put together these lists.

Since December, a couple of other people have kindly sent on their own top tips, for which we’re really grateful, and we’ll publish them over time.

This week, courtesy of the Serial Complainer, here’s his own listing of Top Tips for Irish Consumers.

  • Give Feedback, both positive and negative: As a consumer, the more feedback you can give to a business, the more likely they are to meet your needs in future. Be sure to give positive as well as negative feedback, and try to ensure that you target the right person (the more senior, the better).
  • Use Conference Calling: When you have two businesses blaming each other (e.g. your bank and your insurance company), hook the two of them in together on a conference call and let them sort it out directly, rather than you being stuck in the middle
  • Use email: You can get directly to most Irish chief executives by email. Once you have any email address in that company, you can deduce the email address of the head honcho. Send your email between 5.30 pm and 6.00 pm to have a better chance of bypassing the secretary. Use Google Alerts to get regular email updates on topics of interest to you.
  • Be creative: If you want a response to your complaint, make it stand out from others. Attach photographs, or a bunch of flowers, or a ton of unwanted junk mail – whatever it takes to get some attention
  • Haggle, haggle, haggle: It’s not something that I’m very good at myself, but there are lots of opportunities to save a few quid. It is always worth pushing an insurance provider based on informed knowledge of competing offers to reduce the price. You can even haggle by email – I got €15 off a hotel overnight rate with a bit of email haggling!
  • Avoid big brands: Why would you want to spend 20%-40% of your hard-earned on morketing  and advertising costs, when you can get a no-name product of the same quality? Are you really that shallow that you think people are impressed by the label? It’s not a ‘bargain’ even when bought at a US outlet store, if you can get the same product for half the price in Penneys! [Are you listening, Mrs Serial Complainer?]
  • Use eBay: I got 16 AAA batteries from a UK eBay seller for the same price as Argos sell a pack of 4 AAA batteries of the same NiMh rating. Use eBay saved searches to get email notifications of bits and pieces that you are looking for.
  • Unit pricing: Check unit pricing (price per litre, or price per kilo) on the shelf label in the supermarket. I found that my preferred shampoo (Simple) was €20 approx per litre, so I switched to a nice, smelly Herbal Essences at a much lower €13 per litre.
  • Gift tokens/vouchers: Don’t buy them. It’s like handing over your cash to get a noticeably less useful form cash. Take that few minutes to find out a bit more about the gift recipient, and get them something they actually want. But if you do insist on buying them, don’t leave it until the day before Xmas and get stuck in a long, long queue (see attached photo).
  • Pick your battles: Ghandi said “Be the change you want to see in the world”. You need to focus your energy on the 1/2/3 big issues or organisations that really impact your daily life. Follow up on these issues tenaciously and persistently, and the change will come.
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Top Tips For Irish Consumers – We’re Done!

We very much hope that you enjoyed our series of Top Tips for Irish Consumers. For the past 3 weeks, we’ve provided you with some fantastic and interesting tips from some higher profile Irish consumers. Everyone involved has been very generous with their time, for which we are extremely grateful.

If you haven’t check out all the Top Tips, check them out now – you could find something new that could save yourself a few quid coming up to Christmas.

Many thanks again goes to all those who contributed to this series – we in ValueIreland.com appreciate it very much and we hope it’s been of benefit to the readers of ValueIreland.com.

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Top Tips for Irish Consumers from Jan Battles

With thanks to, and courtesy of, Jan Battles who writes for The Sunday Times, here is the 17th and last in our series of Top Tips for Irish Consumers.

When I’m being thrifty and virtuous (which I admit is not always) these are some of the things I have found that help me save money.

  • I’ve installed Skype on my computer, which has got to be one of the best inventions ever.  The software allows users to make telephone calls over the internet for free to other users of the service (and for a fee to landlines and mobiles). My best friend moved to Australia a few years ago and now instead of buying phone cards or access codes off websites I can call her totally for free. Not only does it cost me nothing, and is really easy to use, but because I have a webcam on my laptop I can see her every time we speak, instead of just once a year at Christmas. You’d think there’d be a catch, but I’ve yet to find it.
  • When using my credit card abroad and given the option of paying in euros or the local currency I always select the local currency. It means I’m not getting the crappy exchange rate the hotel, restaurant or shop has set (which will include a nice cut for themselves) but rather the bank’s rate of the day.
  • I use Which? magazine and its website Which.co.uk to help choose what brands of electronics and appliances to buy. They do comprehensive tests of reliability and value for money. They’ve never led me astray.
  • Otherwise it’s just trial and error for us consumers. Consumer Choice, the magazine of the Consumers’ Association of Ireland, publishes similar reviews.
  • I buy as much stuff online as possible: I get Dermalogica skincare products, which are only available in certain beauty salons and spas, from Care4YourSkin.com, where they are much cheaper (and they arrive at your front door). I use Amazon.co.uk for books, CDs and DVDs; Pixmania.ie is good for electronics and I buy art prints from Allposters.com or Easyart.com who will deliver canvas or framed prints.
  • Earlier this year I had an extension put onto my house and got a new kitchen fitted. I brought my rough plans to one kitchen company and paid them around 150 euros to do up a full CAD drawing with computer images of what the kitchen would look like, then emailed it round six or seven different companies for quotes. The dearest was twice the price of the cheapest. Many companies around the country are willing to deliver and fit in Dublin and are usually much cheaper than ones based in the capital.
  • I use websites like Laterooms.com and Wotif.com to get discounted hotel rooms. I’m so disorganised it’s always last minute anyway when I’m booking a holiday that it works for me but if you like to have everything sorted months in advance it’s not ideal.
  • I stock up on painkillers like paracetamol and ibuprofen when I’m in the North or Britain. Boots and Tesco have several different lines of own-brand versions in the UK that they don’t have here that are much cheaper, and it’s the same active ingredient. You can get paracetamol for as little as 1p a tablet when the cheapest here is more than 8c each. You can also get some medicines that are prescription-only here over the counter there, which saves on the 40 or 50 quid it costs going to the doctor.
  • Unless I have a memory lapse, I always clear my credit card when the bill comes in. I tend to use it only to book tickets, reserve hotels and when buying valuable items so they are covered by the card insurance. I don’t use it as a loan facility as the interest rates are so high and I’m freaked out by big debt (my large mortgage is something I manage to block out of my head most of the time). I love denying the bank any interest payments so when I forget to pay on time it really bugs me.
  • When the lovely people at the insurance company send me my annual renewal and have bumped up my premium I always call them. The first year I phoned all the other providers to get quotes and told my insurer how much cheaper I could get it elsewhere. The second year I didn’t go to the bother and just said I could get it much cheaper elsewhere and they immediately dropped the price. It seems to me like they pick any number out of the air and are leaving the ball in the customer’s court as to whether they bother to quibble with them or not.
  • These are personal top tips, and are not necessarily endorsed by The Sunday Times.

The complete series listing of Top Tips for Irish Consumers is now available here.

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Top Tips (about pets) for Irish Consumers from Pete the Vet

With many thanks to, and courtesy of, Pete Wedderburn (Pete the Vet) here is the 16th and penultimate installment of our Top Tips for Irish Consumers.

  1. Think about the cost of a pet before you welcome it into your home. Even just the cost of feeding a dog or cat will amount to hundreds of euro ever year. There are also vets’ bills, boarding kennel fees and other unexpected costs, such as replacing the wallpaper that was chewed/scratched to shreds. If you are feeling the pinch, choose a goldfish rather than a bigger, more expensive pet.
  2. If you’re getting a dog, don’t buy a pedigree puppy. Instead, rescue a dog from an animal sanctuary. You’ll save money and you’ll also save a life. Local authorities in Ireland destroy around 15000 healthy cross-bred dogs every year, just because they are unwanted.
  3. Don’t buy expensive toys for your cat – make your own instead. Try stuffing an old sock and attaching it to a piece of string. Visit www.best-cat-art.com/homemade-cat-toys.html for some more home-made toys.
  4. Don’t buy expensive chew treats for your dog – instead, buy long-lasting rubber toys like the Kong. (www.kongcompany.com). When stuffed with food and deep-frozen, these give your dog hours of contented chewing time, and they can be used again and again, lasting for several years.
  5. Learn to groom your own pet. A one-off investment in electric fur clippers will equip you to cut your own pet’s hair for many years.
  6. Choose your pet’s food carefully. Cheap pet food can be poor quality, and is not always good value. Pets need to eat more food to get an equivalent amount of nutritive value. Instead, choose a high-quality, so-called “premium” brand that your pet likes, and don’t change brands too frequently. Pet shops and vet clinics stock a range of diets that are suitable.
  7. Get pet insurance, but not necessarily for your pet’s whole life. Get it for the first two years of life, and then from seven years onwards, since these are the highest risk times. If not insuring your pet, put the equivalent amount to one side each month, in an interest bearing account, so that you are ready for a health crisis if it happens.
  8. Don’t let your pet get fat. Many people waste money by feeding their pet too much, and obese pets end up with illnesses (such as diabetes and arthritis) that are expensive to treat.
  9. Get a dog licence! It only costs €12.70 per year, and if your local authority finds that you don’t have one, you risk a much more substantial fine.
  10. Learn more about pet health and behaviour on the internet. Websites like www.veterinarypartner.com allow you to search for answers to different problems. Your local vet is still the place to go if you have a serious problem, but sometimes it’s possible to get simple, helpful advice for free.

The complete series listing of Top Tips for Irish Consumers is now available here.

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Top Tips for Irish Consumers from Bock The Robber

Courtesy of, and with thanks to, Bock the Robber, here is the 15th in our series of Top Tips for Irish Consumers.

  1. Never buy a new car. Get a big old one.  A Merc, a Saab, or a Japanese 4×4 are cheap and indestructible.  They’ll cost you more on fuel and tax, but you’ll be paying nothing to the bank.  What’s more, if you’re status-conscious, nobody notices the reg plate anyway.  They only see the three-pointed star or the big fat tyres.
  2. Learn carpentry. Frame your own pictures.  Make your own mirrors and lamps.  It isn’t nearly as hard as you think, and at Christmas you can make sex-toys for all your friends. Don’t pay people to fix things in your house.  Use the money to buy the right tools, and find out how to do it yourself.  Next time, the job will cost you nothing and you’ll be a better person.
  3. Drink Beamish. You’ll get used to it.
  4. There’s no Car Test but the Car Test.  It makes no sense to pay for a pre-test.  The NCT will tell you what needs to be done.
  5. Tell junkie beggars to fuck off and get a job.
  6. Register on the Revenue Commissioners’ website and claim back your medical expenses for the last four years.  Ask your doctor to prescribe generic medicines. Find a dentist in Croatia.
  7. When haggling with a market trader, praise the item you want and say you’d really like it but can’t afford it.  Shuffle away reluctantly, come back and offer the trader a third of the asking price and you should get it for about half.  That’s what he expected to get anyway, so everyone’s happy.  Make sure to show him real folding money while you haggle.
  8. Buy high-quality goods. They cost more but you’ll have them a long time, so they’re actually cheaper.
  9. Book an apartment when you go abroad, not a hotel.  Bring all your friends.
  10. Be honest with yourself about smoking. Twenty cigarettes a day cost you the same as the repayments for €40,000 of your mortgage.  One cigarette a day is €2,000 on your mortgage.  If you say you smoke twenty, you really mean thirty, and it’s actually forty at the weekend. Isn’t it?

The complete series listing of Top Tips for Irish Consumers is now available here.

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Top Tips for Irish Consumers from Roisin Shortall, TD

With thanks to, and courtesy of, Roisin Shortall, Labour TD and spokesperson on on Social and Family Affairs. This is the 14th in our series of Top Tips for Irish Consumers.

  1. Know your rights – from my day to day work, it is astounding how many people don’t claim basic entitlements. Perhaps the four most common ones I have come across are tax relief on medical expenses, family income supplement, the entitlement of over 65s who are tax exempt to a waiver of their local authority bin charge (depending on where they live), and the respite grant for Carers (which is not means tested). In particular, on medical expenses, I would say it’s very important to have a jar/box at home to put your receipts into – otherwise you will lose/forget about them.
  2. Complain and compliment – if you have a reasonable case, then exhaust all angles before you accept a “no”. Even if it doesn’t help your individual case, it should help the next guy. Equally, make sure to tell someone if you are happy with something. As a public representative, negative and positive comments from the public are invaluable to how you adapt your “service”.
  3. Shop Around – So many of us are time-poor but if you can afford the time, shopping around is the most basic way of saving money.
  4. Check the fine print – I’ve found on car insurance, for instance, that there are add-ons that I don’t really need and this helps reduce the overall bill. Similarly on home insurance, premia are generally increased each year in line with inflation or building inflation. I have found in some cases that these can be inflated beyond the true cost of rebuilding the home.
  5. Never buy anything from a door-to-door salesperson – I have come across countless cases such as gardening service, gutter repairs, and new driveways where thousands were handed over in advance and the job was never finished. Never accept a service from someone who can only give you a mobile number.
  6. Good Accounting – It’s amazing what you find out about yourself when you actually do detailed accounts of your income and spending. It’s worth trying it for a few months just to see where all your money is going. You’ll never buy a takeaway again.
  7. Overpay your mortgage – If you are in a position to do this, it takes years off your loan period and hundreds off your monthly payment. Now that interest rates are falling, it’s a particularly good time to do it.
  8. Composting and general recycling – It saves money on waste charges and is great for the environment
  9. Plan your meals – Freeze what you don’t serve for quick meals later in the week. It also saves on the amount of food thrown in the bin.
  10. Grow your own veg – You don’t have to have a big garden to grow your own veg. With a little dedication, it’s quite easy to grow basic veg and children really enjoy it.

The complete series listing of Top Tips for Irish Consumers is now available here.

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Top (Business) Tips for Irish Consumers from Paul Davis

We came across these Top Tips from Paul Davis of Davis Business Consultants in early December. While not strictly consumer related, we thought they were interesting and thought provoking. So, for this, the 13th (lucky for some) in our series of Top Tips for Irish Consumers, here’s Top 10 Tips to Kick-start Your Cash Flow.

  1. Stick to your budget. If you don’t have one, make one now. Your budget is one of your key financial management tools for your business. You want to know exactly how much to spend on each large item you purch! ase and when you will have the cash to do it. Your cash flow projection coupled with your forecast will give you the proper timing for making purchases.
  2. Joint venture with another business. Find a business offering services or products that are compatible with your own and offer to promote each other’s business. For example, if you are selling health food products, offer to cross-promote with a business selling fitness products. You’ll both enjoy increased sales.
  3. Ask suppliers for credit. If you haven’t done so already, ask your suppliers to extend your credit. Another possibility is to discuss loan or consignment stock from your suppliers.
  4. Stop producing dated and low profit items. Stick with your core product until sales improve.
  5. Cut back on stock or inventory. Ask suppliers to buy back stock at cost. Order supplies or inventory on an “as needed” basis. Alternatively, you could contact other small businesses that stock the same inventory as you do and discuss the possibility of bulk purchasing. Also sell off old or obsolete stock at reduced prices to tu! rn your inventory into cash.
  6. Help your customer and in turn, help yourself. Suppose your customer’s normal supplier has equipment problems and won’t be able to meet the deadline for a very important job. Connect your customer with someone you know who could help them out and you’ll be helping your customer, your business contact and yourself! As their cash! flow grows, they have more money to pay you! Alternatively connect your customers with business contacts for their business to improve their sales and in turn cash.
  7. Bill your clients regularly. Many business owners are so busy selling to new clients that they forget to invoice the clients they have already worked with. Put the task of billing your clients on your calendar and then stick to that schedule.
  8. Get a retainer for your services before you begin the work. If you are going to be working with a client over a period of time, request some money up-front before you begin to deliver the service.
  9. Give a discount for early payment. You will be able to collect the money more quickly if you offer a discount for prompt payment.
  10. Accept a credit card for payment. Although you have to pay the credit card company for this service, having the convenience of a credit card allows the client to pay immediately.
  11. Copyright © Davis Business Consultants – All rights reserved.

The complete series listing of Top Tips for Irish Consumers is now available here.

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Top (Fashion) Tips for Irish Consumers from Arhseen Qasim

With thanks, and courtesy of, Arsheen Qasim, here is the 12th in our series of Top Tips for Irish Consumers. Arsheen is a fashion blogger/stylist who has written for for Prudence Magazine and has a website at Fashion Filosofy.

  1. Buy online. Many people are wary of shopping for clothes online because they are afraid that the clothes sizes may not fit and vary from shop to shop and that returning may not be feasible. But many online stores give accurate size guides now as well as offering open policies on returning and exchanging items so there is less risk involved.
  2. Avoid rip-off by buying in-store at British high street chains here. Most of these chains have online stores and now ship to Ireland for minimum fee. You’re saving money even with the delivery charge and exchange rate applied.
  3. Save money by accessorising outfits differently and by customising your own outfits. For example, lace gloves are in fashion but they are also quite expensive. Get cheap lace tights and cut the top half and snip the toes to make your very own gloves. Add buttons, ribbons and pins to customise Tshirts and bags for a new look and wear an old dress with different jewelry to update the look.
  4. Expensive item doesn’t necessarily mean good quality item. The best way to save money is to shop around and  investigate all options before settling for something that that could have cost you less in another place. This is especially true for basic items like Tshirts.
  5. Wait for the sales to shop but don’t buy anything you wouldn’t have normally bought if it was selling at full-price. People tend to buy things when they get caught up in the buzz of sales-shopping. It’s not really a bargain if you weren’t willing to buy it for the original price in the first place. There are sales all year round now but make sure you’re getting value for your money.
  6. Apply the cost per wear rule to get the most out of your shopping. If an item costs €90 and you know you will only wear  it once then it’s not value for money. But if you wear it 10 times, each wear only costing you €9 then it makes the purchase more reasonable. This will help you decide whether the item is worth buying.
  7. Scour flea markets, car boot sales and charity shops. Vintage and retro trends are all the rage now and you’ll be amazed at what people throw away. One man’s trash…. Carboot sales are held every few months in the Bernard Shaw held by the guys behind Bodytonic and Dublin has a new flea market at The Dublin Food Co-Op in Newmarket, D8
  8. Clothes swapping is a la mode too. Many clothes swapping events are popping up everywhere. You can get a brand new outfit without spending a cent. Try Shebeen Chic on South Great George’s street every Saturday.
  9. Don’t get sucked in by fads. Learn to differentiate between an investment item and something that will be out of fashion next season. Spending a large amount of money on ‘on-trend’ items which you will not wear within a month is not worth spending cash on.
  10. Shop wisely. Buy coats towards the end of winter season/start of summer  as they are usually reduced and store it away for the following winter. Make sure you buy a classic piece that won’t look outdated come October

The complete series listing of Top Tips for Irish Consumers is now available here.

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Top (Career) Tips for Irish Consumers from Rowan Manahan

Here is the 11th in our series of Top Tips for Irish Consumer. This is with thanks to, and courtesy of, Rowan Manahan – MD of Fortify Services and author of the Fortify Your Oasis Blog:

The one thing that very few of us place real value upon is time. Become consciously aware of how you are using time and how you are wasting time. If you could make €300 an hour teaching Yoga and some old friend expected you to cancel a class so you could listen to their litany of woes about their partner – for the fifth time – you’d tell that friend to take a hike. Track your time for a couple of weeks. Between sleep, work, commuting, and basic domestic tasks, a huge amount of your week is already accounted for. What is swallowing those remaining hours? Are you happy to give the amount of time you do to the activities and people you give it to? If you had to claw back 10 hours in the week – had to – what would you strike off your current list? Think hard about this one, any improvement or advancement you want to make in your career is going to cost you time. You need to find that time and you need to determine if the advancement is worth that time …

Invest in staying on top of what is going on in your sector. Make your employer pay or contribute for memberships and any CPD activity you need to undertake and make sure that you avail of any gatherings – breakfast briefings, etc – that are coming up. At your desk, use Google Reader to subscribe to relevant sites and blogs that have RSS feeds. It’s like having a newswire spewing out targeted material directly onto your desk. Set up Google Alerts for yourself, your products/services, your company, major competitors, players in your field and add the resultant feeds to Google Reader. That way, the moment any of these things are mentioned in News, Blogs, Groups, Video or the wider Web, you will be alerted. You used to have to pay a clippings service a fortune for this kind of information, now it’s free.

Invest a little time and a little effort in staying abreast of the best of yourself. Develop a capturing tool – a Moleskine notebook, a microphone to turn your iPod into a voice recorder, or you may be able to record your thoughts onto your mobile phone. When you have a “Eureka” moment at 3.00am, when you hear positive feedback, when you come across a nugget of information that could be useful to one of your contacts; capture it for later use. This could be information that should be on your CV. It may be useful in your next review with your boss. It could the idea that swings things your way in a pitch meeting. Capture these things and set aside a small amount of time every week to categorise them and store them.

Invest in a career plan. Why? This quote from Jim Rohn says it all: “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Nothing much.” Have the courage to specify what you want out of life, and more particularly, out of your career, for the next 5-7 years and write it down. Don’t show it to anyone if you don’t want to, but decide it and write it down. That way, when you come to any decision, any fork in the road, you can immediately ask yourself, “Does this bring me closer to my long-term aspiration?” If you can’t crystallise a picture for your long-term goal, you need to invest time and go back to square one.

The complete series listing of Top Tips for Irish Consumers is now available here.

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