I stood in front of the ticket machine and gasped. €12 for parking, how long was I in town? It was just two hours but I crept over the third hour mark by a few minutes, costing me an extra €4.
It was at that moment that I decided to cop myself on. I have been avoiding public transport as much as possible due to the pandemic but now that restrictions have eased and with the recently introduced 20% reduction on public transport, I’m back on the bus.
Of course, the parking isn’t the only reason. The price of diesel has also put a stop to my extravagant ways.
I’ve also copped myself on in the supermarket. I was researching a piece on supermarket own label brands versus branded products for Irish Country Living when I really saw the price difference.
My research took me to the shops for a dozen every day items-bread, cheese, milk, a few sausages, yoghurt etc.
On a shopping basket of just 12 items, I saved over €5.50. Its important to point out that every swop I made was supporting an Irish business and I believe this is an important consideration when buying own brand.
There are some small Irish producers that have been elevated to another level because they are supplying own brand products.
Florrie Purcell in the Scullery in Waterford who produces the Lidl Deluxe relishes is one example, as is Johnny Lynch who supplies Aldi with his buffalo mozzarella in Macroom, Co Cork.
However, margins are squeezed more tightly with own brand products so its important to still have a good mix of Irish branded and own brand products in our trolley.
I did look into what savings could be made by moving our mortgage and there are certainly much better rates out there at the moment, based on comparison figures I got on www.bonkers.ie.
Given our current interest rate, we could switch and save €271 a month. We have 15 months left on our five-year fixed rate mortgage and that’s a saving of €4,065 between now and then.
However, we are due to get cash back at the end of the five years, plus we would have to pay a solicitor about €1,000 to change as well as a penalty of about €1,500 so we would actually end up losing money.
However, even just looking up how much we could save has motivated me to get organised for next year and get a better rate when our fixed term is up.
I grew up in the 1980’s in an old, cold, thick walled, uninsulated farmhouse. I swear that you would be lying in bed and see your own breath on a cold morning if you poked your head out from under the blankets.
Although I try to avoid the maxim “in my day”; with the recent rise in prices, I have officially turned into my mother. Suffice to say, I am constantly closing doors which is really banging doors loudly to make my point and shouting at my children to turn off lights.
If your children try to convince you that turning off a light consumes more energy than leaving it on, this is completely untrue.
A light on is using energy, a light off is not! If for ease I say my electricity rate is 20c/ KW, this will apparently save me 1.2 cents per hour when lights are turned off.
Other small efforts include moving the washing machine temperature 10 degrees lower to a 30 wash. According to my research, washing clothes at 30 degrees will use around 40% less electricity over the course of a year than washing at higher temperatures. The dryer is broken and it will stay broken.
What do I intend to do? More! When we built our house, the design was for semi-open plan living areas with lots of light through lots of windows.
Lovely theory for a house in the south of France but in cold Kilkenny in the winter – not so much. In terms of spending money to save money,
I have gotten quotes previously for window blinds, particular for the sunrooms and doors to close off some of the openness. They gathered dust but will be revisited as a priority investment for this winter.
My other good intention is that I am going to examine my wardrobe this summer. A Depop account to sell the best of the rarely worn shall be set up and I might rent a stall at our local farmers market which I actually think will be fun.
Bits that are too worn for sale, I intend to upcycle and see what I can create. Not sure what the savings will be but it might make purchasing something else a little more affordable.
Our house is a new build with – lucky us – a heat pump, good insulation and a high energy rating. We made the decision to purchase an induction range instead of gas and we won’t be looking back there, either.
But while we are saving on oil and gas, we are still using a good bit of electricity (especially with me, my husband and any number of other visitors using the house to work remotely on any given day).
We have the farm to think about, as well, with water to heat and electricity to consider among our other inputs, so I do believe solar panels will be in our not-too-distant future, if we can figure out a way to afford them.
The nice thing about these hybrid return-to-office systems and remote working is the effect it’s having on my meal planning, supermarket visits and food waste management.
Instead of trying to plan six meals on a Saturday and completing one massive shop (hoping I bought enough school snacks and praying I can stick to the meal plan), I have taken a less rigid approach since I can nip out to the shop a few more times each week.
This means fewer veggies going off before we get the chance to eat them, making better plans to support local shops and farmers instead of doing the one big shop in one place and – just as importantly – eating meals we enjoy and feel like eating on the day.
This is all leading to less food waste and – cha-ching! – money in my pocket.
I was spending over €200 per week on groceries and now I have gotten that down to about €175 per week. It may not be much, but with price inflation, if I had kept shopping the way I was, I’d be spending upwards of €250 per week on food – and I am happy to spend a bit more on ingredients if I know they’re supporting Irish farmers and food producers.
Looking over our main household bills, I have seen some price rises; but it’s not always as cut and dried as it seems.
In April 2021, our electricity bill with Bright Energy was €63.46. In April 2022, our bill with new provider, Electric Ireland, was €103.20.
This can be partially attributed to a rise in actual cost per unit from €0.2188/kwhr to €0.2932/kwhr; but also, we simply used more units in 2022 (290 to 352) because we are now heating an additional home office that we invested in for work. We are tied to our current electricity provider for the next six months.
Our Internet with DigiWeb stayed the same at €45.01; but we managed to negotiate an upgrade from a speed of 150Mpbs to 500Mpbs for the same price.
Heating-wise, we bought 500 litres of oil at a cost of €0.65/litre from O’Keeffe’s Oil in Rathmore in March 2021, with the bill coming to €325.
In February 2022, the best rate we could get was 500 litres at a cost of €1.02/litre from Corrib Oil in Tralee, with the bill coming to €510.01. While more expensive than 2021, we were fortunate that we got our fill before costs really soared.
I feel we have yet to see the full impact of price rises, but since COVID, we have been living a lot more sustainably and a lot of our extra discretionary spending has been cut down.
For instance, before COVID, myself and my husband would go out for our dinner in the middle of the day probably twice a week.
With two main courses and two coffees, this would typically come to €30 per day, or €60 that week. These days, we get a takeaway salad box and a loaf of bread from a local deli as our treat, which costs us €16 and does us for two days.
I have two weddings this year, but having a wardrobe full of clothes that have not seen the light of day since 2019, I will be wearing something I already have.
We also let go of things like gym membership, preferring to exercise outdoors, which I just feel is safer for me as COVID continues to circulate.
There are certain things that I will not cut back on, however, such as buying quality assured Irish meat. With a young daughter, we cook a lot of our dinners from scratch and in batch, so it’s really important to me to prioritise food.
Let’s make no bones about it, I drive a lot. In fact, a friend remarked recently, “Anne, you’re up and down the country and the price of diesel has never been higher.” It’s true.
By the nature of this job there’s a fair bit of motoring in it. I also live in Kildare but pretty much go home every weekend (I know, who could blame me, Limerick is class).
So, the astronomical cost of diesel is hurting my pocket, a lot.
Now, I would be lying if I was to claim that I am super savvy when it comes to deals, bargains, etc. I’m not, but since the cost of diesel went through the roof I have been on ‘Diesel Watch’.
It started when I was going for dinner with a friend one of the very first weeks the price of fuel went sky high, about the second week in March.
I was driving us to Limerick and, story of my life, the diesel light was on. My friend assured me the best price in the country was at the very end of the Dock Road, Barron’s Mace.
We passed garage after garage on the drive and I was willing to pull into any one, but no I had to keep going.
By the time we reached the end of the Dock Road the car was running on fumes, so it didn’t matter what the price of diesel was, I was going to have to pay it regardless.
My friend however, was vindicated. The price was €1.83 at the time and it was a steal! If only I could get that somewhere now.
Anyway, my rule of thumb is always to get a full tank of diesel when I’m home, somewhere along the N69. Pretty much everywhere is cheaper ‘down the country’.
The cost of diesel has also unfortunately put paid to my love affair with motorway service stations (if I ever go on Mastermind ‘motorway service stations of Ireland’ will be my topic) because unfortunately the cost of fuel is just too high there.
This has been Anne O’Donoghue, reporting for Diesel Watch.