Welcome to the first blog for 2021 from MABS. We hope that you kept safe and healthy over the festive season, and Happy New Year.
Typically, we start the new year with good intentions. Committing to new year’s resolutions of things we want to do, new habits we want to make and general hope for the year ahead. This year, however, might be different. We find ourselves in a level 5 lockdown, meaning whatever plans you have for the year may already have hit a few snags. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t set yourself some manageable goals for the year ahead.
We’ve pulled together 5 useful tips to get you started on planning your spending (and saving) for the year ahead.
Make a Budget
With the ongoing uncertainty, many people are currently managing their households on reduced incomes and wondering what the future holds. Now is the time to take control of what you can.
Start by making a budget. There is a list of resources at the bottom of this blog to help you get started. Take a pen and paper, gather up or open your bank statements online along with any social welfare payment receipts or payslips. Make a line down the page, and on one side, put any income (and dates if you have them). On the other side, write a list of all your bills and spending, add up the columns and take away the outgoings from the income.
Good starting point!
Now you have a basic snapshot of the amount of money coming in and money going out. This is a good starting point. You can see if it is possible to increase the money coming in or reduce the money going out. Move onto the next step for more information. Or use some of the resources at the end of this blog.
Maximising your income
Rights and Entitlements
Take a bit of time when looking at your entitlements – you may miss something you have a right to. For example, are you a Carer for someone? If you are on Carer’s Allowance, you may also be entitled to the Household Benefits package, Carers Support Grant and free travel. This is just one example of how you can begin to explore any additional supports linked to specific social welfare payments.
If you’ve never signed up for an account on Revenue, now is the time. You can claim back 20% of the medical expenses you’ve had over the past four years. If you have an account already, then the new year is an opportunity to submit those receipts.
Stay and Spend Initiative
If you’ve eaten out or stayed in your local or not-so-local hotel within Ireland, you could be entitled to tax relief of up to €125 (on €625 spends, or €250 per couple on €1250 spends). You can upload your receipts to Revenue to claim this back. You can check if your stay/meal was eligible.
Income Tax Credits – Working from Home
Suppose you’ve been working from home during 2020. In that case, you might be entitled to claim some of the heating, electricity, and broadband cost back if your employer didn’t cover these costs. An employee who works from home can claim tax relief to cover the additional expenses, such as heating and electricity. Revenue allows an employer to make payments up to €3.20 per day to employees who satisfy the conditions for the relief without deducting PAYE, PRSI, or USC. Any payment by your employer of more than this figure will be taxable.
Income Tax Credits
If you and your partner are jointly assessed, and one of you are not working or have decided to stay at home, you could transfer the credits for 2021, raising your standard cut-off point.
Shop around to make your money go further
Compare prices for food, gas, electricity, phone and internet. Contact your provider and ask what they are offering. If you don’t ask, you won’t know. Websites, such as, Bonkers.ie offer cost comparisons which can help you decide.
It’s not just your utility bills you could be saving on. Pull all your annual statements together and note the renewal dates on your calendar, planner or set a reminder on your phone. You will then know when to shop around and save more money.
Here’s a few annual bills that are worth checking if you can save on:
- Motor Insurance
- Health Insurance
- Home & Contents Insurance
While it’s not a utility bill, it can be a big bill that comes out every month – your mortgage – if you’re not in a fixed-rate term, you could make massive savings both monthly and annually on your mortgage repayments by switching to a lower-interest-rate. You may not even need to switch your mortgage to another bank. A call to your bank might be all it needs. Check out Bonkers.ie to compare mortgage rates.
Start a Rainy-Day Fund
You’ve likely heard this phrase since you were five years old, but how many of us have the money to buy a new washing machine if it breaks? Many of us would struggle to pay for something like a new washing machine without using a credit card, savings or asking a friend/family member to tide you over until next month.
So, if you’re able to save during lockdown, even if it’s just the money you would spend on petrol every week, it all adds up: €20 a week is over €1,000 in a year. Having a regular saving habit and watching your money grow is a great incentive not to spend it unless you absolutely need to.
Remember that it’s not all about saving.
Getting yourself a treat now and again will help you avoid what we call “budgeting fatigue“. This is when you’re so focused on budgeting and saving that you become tired and end up spending on something you’ll later regret.
If you need a few things, and have the money to hand, focus on the things you need rather than just a want. Make sure you are getting value for your money and not just buying for the sake of it. The money you save on resisting the temptation or by only buying what you need can go into your rainy-day fund.
Get advice if you’re worried
Help is available. If you would like help with budgeting or some tips on spending, advisers from MABS are available by phone on our National Helpline on 0818 07 2000 from 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday. Or you can email email@example.com to answer any personal money and debt questions you might have. MABS is open and ready to provide the full range of money, debt and budgeting support.
You can contact your local office here, call the MABS Helpline on 0818 07 2000, Monday to Friday, from 9am to 8pm, or on WhatsApp 086 035 3141.
Follow @MABSinfo on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram for further updates.
Did you know that our phone numbers starting with 0761 are switching over to 0818? This has already started and means that from 1 January 2022 numbers starting with 0761 will no longer be in use.