Saving for a mortgage? Here's a few tips...

From switching utility companies to cutting down on coffee & snacks, you can save quite a bit with a few simple changes...

Saving for a mortgage? Here's a few tips...

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The 'Help-to-Buy' scheme opens for applications online today.

The scheme will give first time buyers of new homes 5% back on the price of their property.

Although house prices continue to rise, it is hoped the new initiative will encourage and help more people to buy their own home.

It also comes at the start of a new year, when many people are likely deciding on their plans for the year - and saving up for a deposit for a mortgage may be on the list.

It's a decision that may come with some significant lifestyle changes: more saving, fewer luxuries, maybe even moving in with parents, friends or relatives to cut down on rent.

There are plenty of smaller ways you can help reach your target too, and you may be able to save a surprising amount with just some relatively minor adjustments here and there. Below we've listed a few ways you can save money towards that deposit, from the little things to bigger ones.

It's important to stress that these should not come at the cost of living life - it's still important to be happy and healthy, even when saving the pennies.

Bills

Changing utility providers can be an effective way to save a few hundred euro every year. Even if the monthly savings seem small, these can build up over a year or more to become very significant indeed. For examples, price comparison website bonkers.ie suggests customers can save €387 a year on gas & electricity prices, and up to €300 on broadband, phone & TV bills. Savings can also be made across services such as insurance or banking.

Savings here will vary from person to person, but on average many could be saving €400-500 a year across their various bills. You can add a little more to that total if you choose to pause some monthly luxuries, like your Spotify premium subscription.

Transport

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Even allowing for the massive variations in individuals' transport needs and access, this is potentially an area you can save a lot of money.

Using your car less can quickly save hundreds if not thousands in petrol and parking costs. If you're in the lucky position of being able to ditch it entirely, that'll cut out motor insurance and tax too, but obviously that won't be applicable for many. As frustrating as public transport can be, it is significantly cheaper than driving, with potential savings of thousands a year.

Cycling and walking more will also bring major savings. If you have access to the city bike schemes in Galway, Limerick, Dublin and Cork, you can get around the cities with only the annual subscription charge of €10-20. If you want to buy your own bike, you're looking at a few hundred euro for the bike and equipment (locks, helmet etc...) but the savings after that will build and build. You can always save some money and spread the cost with the 'Cycle to Work' scheme.

So effectively transport savings can be as small or as large as circumstances allow for, but annual savings of €1,000-2,000 are certainly possible here.

Lunch

If you work in a city or town centre, heading out for lunch is an easy temptation. You can easily spend anywhere between a fiver and tenner everyday, which quickly builds up to a substantial amount.

The possible savings here should be obvious. Pack your own lunch and you'll be paying quite a bit less for each meal. Go to cheaper spots for lunch when you do choose to eat out. Even ditching the meat - either in your packed or bought lunch - could save you a euro or two a day.

Possible savings? Anywhere between €250 and €1,000 a year, if not more if you're particularly committed. As a bonus, you may be eating much healthier to boot.

Coffee & snacks

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Coffee is the great addiction for many these days, with some feeling like they're unable to function without a few cups in the morning or during the day. With dozens of coffee shops in most towns and cities these days, it's never been easier to get that fix.

It's also an easy way to make some savings. Some may already enjoy the luxury of decent workplace coffee and already make those savings. But if you buy, for example, one coffee from a shop every weekday that's a habit worth kicking. Allowing yourself a treat or two a week, you'd still be saving a tenner or more every seven days - a potential saving of €500 a year. The coffee might not be as good, but the savings would be. Even if you're not that much of a coffee fiend, you could still be saving €200 or more a year.

Not a coffee drinker but partial to the odd snack? Dropping the salty or sugary treats could save a few hundred euro over the course of a year, and you'll feel better to boot.

Nights out

A night out can easily drain the bank balance. A survey conducted in 2015 suggested a night out in Ireland can cost as much as €112 if you tot up costs such as food, transport, drinks and a babysitter.

Even if you don't have some of those expenses, a €70-80 night out is still very much a realistic possibility. Depending on where you live - not everybody has the luxury of night buses, unfortunately - you could cut that in half or more. Have fewer drinks (or fewer expensive shots and cocktails); eat at home; walk or get a bus instead of a taxi... If you head out once a month, and manage to cut your costs in half, you're looking at saving around €400 a year without compromising your social life.

If you head out more often than that (or tend to spend more when you do head out) the savings will naturally be more substantial again - whether you choose to stay in a little more often, or just spend a bit less when you do go out.