Online budget tool targets household bills

By Seán McCárthaigh - Wednesday, March 31, 2010

IT might sound like the lead character in some Hollywood action blockbuster but the National Consumer Agency (NCA) will be hoping its new internet budgeting tool – The Economiser – is more an everyday type of hero.

The new online facility, launched yesterday, is designed to help consumers identify areas where they can obtain a reduction in their household bills.

Some families with large outgoings may be able to save about €3,000 per year by making a few changes to their spending habits.

The Economiser analyses a consumer’s spending in four key areas – groceries, TV and telecoms, mobile phones and energy – which account for almost one-third of a family’s typical monthly expenditure.

Consumers can use the tool to input information on their own bills and compare it to the average outgoing of consumers with a similar profile based on research on the spending habits of almost 2,000 families.

The questionnaire can be completed in 10 minutes. The data will be updated at regular intervals to take into account fluctuating prices.

The Economiser will deliver an analysis of how people can reduce their spending through easy-to-implement steps without requiring dramatic lifestyle changes.

NCA chief executive Ann Fitzgerald said the Economiser was developed in response to the needs of consumers in the current economic climate.

"Our market research shows that most households around the country are tightening the purse strings to make budgets stretch further," said Ms Fitzgerald. She claimed the Economiser should help consumers to think about their bills and to assess if they were getting good value for money.

For example, the tool will help a single-income family with two teenage children compare their expenditure to the average of households with a similar background rather than an average of all consumers.

Cost-cutting advice offered by the Economiser includes encouraging consumers to switch to own brand groceries, reducing thermostats in their house and combining their TV and phone packages.

The new tool was launched by the Enterprise Minister Batt O’Keeffe, who praised the facility as both "timely and relevant".

"The Economiser is an important new offering for consumers, enabling them to quickly and easily understand where they might have opportunities to make savings that can benefit them financially in a short period of time," said Mr O’Keeffe.

The Economiser can be accessed via the NCA website at consumerconnect.ie.