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Sinead Ryan: I spent a few hours working the phone and saved myself €1,000

We all want value for money these days and I've just found the best saving this year. It cost me an (admittedly tedious) afternoon but saved me over €800.

Yes, the whole lot was saved by turning into an insurance tart, hitting the phone and internet for an afternoon. A couple of times I almost lost the will to live, but the savings more than made up for it.

The ball started rolling ferociously downhill when I received my motor insurance renewal. It was up €80 for a claim-free year, swiftly followed by the house insurance -- up over €100 from last year. This was explained by a cheery official as due to "the flooding".

Now I get how insurance works -- we all pay, even though only a few have claims, but it's still galling to get whopped for someone else's misfortune.

So I hit the phones. Here's what I found:

The construction downturn means you don't need as much house insurance as before. By keeping my cover at last year's level and removing some old cameras from the all-risks section, I saved €120. Time taken: 10 minutes.

Most insurers will reduce their quoted premium if you tell them it's cheaper elsewhere. You can actually go to the trouble of getting another quote, but most of the time a fib will do the trick. Do not let loyalty get in the way. It only flows one way, I've found. After being with Zurich for donkeys' years, my renewal car premium rose to €449 this year. By phoning Aviva I got it down to €280. Zurich offered a discount promptly, but it wasn't enough. Saving €169. Time taken: 30 minutes.

On this topic, I had been inclined to get AA breakdown cover which costs €146 a year.

Charming

I discovered this is automatically covered on my ordinary car insurance after getting a flat tyre at the St Patrick's Day parade in the city centre. A charming chap fixed the wheel for free. Saving: €146.

A couple of trips abroad each year make it worthwhile getting multi-trip annual insurance. With the VHI, this cost €95 for the family. I got it online for €50.49. Saving €44.51. Time taken: 5 minutes.

Renewing my anti-viral software coincided with a geeky house-guest staying. What was I thinking? Instead of the €49 fee, he downloaded it from the internet for free. Saving €49. Time taken: 3 minutes.

But the biggie remained -- health insurance is a massively expensive business. My old cover was with the VHI, who were quoting €2,302 this year. I eventually got similar cover with Quinn for €1,880. Aviva was about the same. Quinn then offered me a discount on my motor insurance if I switched, but it still worked out more expensive than the Aviva car quote, so no deal there. By the way, an awful lot of confusing guff is employed to stop you changing cover by all the companies. The key message is that unless you are already ill you'll get like for like. Saving: €422. Time taken: an hour, at least.

I was told that if I removed the kids from the policy the premium would be €400 cheaper. Children are far less likely to require elective surgery in a private hospital but in the end, guilt prevented the final step.

See, I do have a heart, but not where insurance is concerned. The head rules, every time.

Time taken: one afternoon. Total saving: €950. Joy: unconfined.