Managing your finances this winter

By Lorraine Waters

Managing to save with extra bills during the winter and to have peace of mind

With shorter days and colder weather creeping in, the most expensive season looms in sight. With extra heating bills and Christmas just around the corner, how can you manage to stay comfortable in the winter while reducing your bills and make some savings?

For many of us savings are for other people, people who have spare cash. But saving is for all of us, although when we’re finding it hard to make ends meet, saving money can seem impossible, so why would we? But it’s worth trying.

For the big bills, you know they are coming – electricity, gas, heating, property tax and so on. (And not to mention CHRISTMAS.) The list can seem endless but the one thing we are sure of is that these bills come in every month, quarter or yearly and we know that Christmas is going to happen and we have to be ready for them. It’s difficult to pay for them unless we plan ahead and save a little each week or month.

How to get started?

Often the first step in saving money is in finding the money to save – that often means prioritizing spending in some areas over others. Generally, it means putting aside some money each week.

Work out what you spend day to day and try to keep track of your spending habits. Shopping can be one of the biggest bills in the household, so the best advice is to plan in advance, make a list and stick to it. Compare prices and shop around. Can you cut down on your daily spending? Remember the small things add up.

Here are some practical things you can do every day to cut down your energy. And, even better, you may have some savings to put towards the Christmas kitty.

Make the Switch

You can make significant savings on your energy bills without having to resort to turning off the heating.

Are you getting the best value wherever you can? Shop around for better deals on your fuel, utilities, phone, TV services, insurance and bin charges. Compare prices and switch services to where you can cut costs. Cost comparison websites like will help you make an informed decision.

Energy efficiency

Are you losing heat through windows or doors? Is your heating running when no-one is home? Could you turn it down a degree or two? And what about lights and appliances – are they left on all the time? Leaving appliances on standby can be costly – switch them off!

Check with your supplier for tips on energy efficiency and many have online tools which can help you. Electric Ireland have a free appliance app for IPhone and Android. The calculator gives you greater control over your home energy costs by finding out how much your home appliances cost to run. The app can help you estimate your bill within a few euro.

Paying your bills

So we have looked at ways of cutting costs of some household bills, now we need to look at a system for paying the bills, one that suits your needs. Choose a method that doesn’t take too much time and is handy for you. Use a service that is near where you live or work.

Alternatively, you can set up an account and put in a certain amount every week or month to pay your bills. However, check the charges you’ll have to pay your bank or service provider.

Make a list of regular bills and work out the best method to pay them. Some common methods of bill payments are:

Bill Pay: Available through your Post Office-ask in your local Post Office or go through

Post Point: This free service allows you to pay your household bills in shops nationwide, look for the Post Point sign.

Pay Point: This service is a convenient way to pay Electric Ireland, Bord Gáis and Eir bills at over 60 Credit Unions nationwide.

Household Budget Scheme: This free service is available to people who get certain social welfare payments from the Department of Social Protection. A fixed amount is deducted from your payment each week. Check out

EasyPay: (Electric Ireland)  With an EasyPay Card from Electric Ireland, you can make regular payments to your Electric Ireland account through PayPoint or at your local PO.

Direct Debit: Direct Debits can be set up on some accounts, which allow your service provider to apply directly to your bank for payment of your bills.

Standing Order: You instruct your bank to make regular payments to your service provider.

Internet / phone banking: Some bank accounts provide internet banking so that you can manage most aspects of your account, including paying bills, from your own home.

Cheques: Posting a cheque is a simple and secure way to pay bills. Complete the payment slip on your bill and return with your cheque. Remember there are charges for cheques.

However you pay, always keep a receipt of the payment or some other proof for all bills paid. Note down the amount paid, on the bill itself, and file it, or note the amount paid, together with the reference or account numbers, on your calendar or in a notebook.

For more information and handy tips, read the “MABS Guide to Managing Your Bills” on our website

Planning for Christmas

It may seem a bit early to be planning for Christmas but if you plan now it will make things a lot easier. We are often tempted to spend more than usual at Christmas, but do remember that all your regular bills still need to be paid once it’s over. How did you finance Christmas last year? How much did you spend on Christmas? Most people do not know, so to change things this year how about you controlling your spending (instead of your spending controlling you).

Include a ‘Christmas Savings’ amount in your regular budget to estimate how much you will need, draw up a list of everything you need to buy and estimate the cost. Then look at how much you can afford to save every week. Divide the total cost to see how much you need to save. Can you afford this? If not, you need to look again at your plan and consider making some cuts.

Would a secret Santa work in your family or circle of friends, so that everyone just buys one gift? Can you agree on a set limit per gift? Don’t overestimate how much food you need, the shops close for only one day so do you really need to stock a lot?

For more information on planning for the cost of Christmas read our “MABS Guide to Getting Ready for Christmas” available on our web site,

Remember if you do run into trouble with clearing your bills or debts MABS is here to help you. Our role is to provide you with support and to help you draw up a realistic budget which will allow you to deal with your debts.

Calculating every cost, keeping a notebook and cutting out what you can save will add up for you!

MABS, the Money Advice and Budgeting Service is: Free, Independent, Confidential and Non- Judgmental Service.

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Phone Helpline 0761072000

Local Office 0761072520

Drop in Local Office 26-28 Lombard Street, Dublin 2

Picture: Google Images.