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‘When I was self-employed, I lived pay cheque to pay cheque’


Are you a saver or a spender?
It is only in recent years that I have been able to upgrade myself to be a saver. From the time I moved back to Ireland in September 2015 until I was elected to the European Parliament, I was self-employed. It was difficult for me not to live pay cheque to pay cheque.

Do you shop around for better value?
When at home, I shop local as much as I can. Disclaimer though – I am a “convenient eater”. I don’t cook so, while I travel for work, I eat out or pick up food. Value is important!

What has been your most extravagant purchase and how much did it cost?
I purchased a 162 Honda CR V in early 2020. I had to weigh up the mileage and distance I cover (before Covid-19) with weekly trips in my constituency of Midlands-North-West (Galway to Donegal, Mayo across to Louth) and weekly commutes to and from Dublin Airport. The most economical decision I could make was to invest in a car that was low in mileage. I paid €20,000 for it and bought it from a local garage.

What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money?
I purchased a new MacBook Air last summer and for me, given the work I do, I consider it a great investment and value for money. I use it daily and it is essentially the bricks and mortar of my work.

How do you prefer to shop during the Covid-19 restrictions – online or local?
The benefit of shopping online is a convenience, but I would prefer to shop locally and in person, as I really like speaking with people out and about, asking business owners how they are finding trade. It gives me an opportunity to meet constituents.

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Do you haggle over prices?
As a farmer’s daughter, I would always seek to challenge a price being offered, especially when buying or selling stock at marts. But for general and daily purchases, no.

How has the Covid-19 crisis changed your spending habits?
The pandemic gifted me time to really look at my spending habits and finances overall. I am working to have a better relationship with financial planning. I never overspent or had credit card debt but, equally, I didn’t understand where my money went and how I spent it. The time spent over the periods of lockdown has really helped me future proof.

Do you invest in shares?
I haven’t invested in shares. The only stock I have is the four-legged version in a field that I invested in over course of the last few years.

Cash or card?
I am a card carrier. I never have cash on me, I usually only have enough change to buy a coffee.

What was the last thing you bought and was it good value for money?
Towards the end of 2020, I bought a Samsung 22-inch Full HD Monitor for about €87. It has proven very good value. I work off a 13-inch laptop screen, and having the extra screen has helped.

Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase?
In my final year of college, I saved up for Canon SLR, which at the time was €750, with all the bells and whistles. It was a big investment and one I thought about for months. It’s still being used.

Have you ever lost money?
I’ve never physically lost money, that I can remember, but I recall in my early 20s working in New York city on less than $28,000 a year and living very much week to week. I had enough money to pay my phone bill and buy a monthly subway pass, but a week into one month I lost the pass. The phone took the backseat that month.

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Are you a gambler and if so have you ever had a big win?
I am the person who goes to the Galway Races each year with €20 and places bets that are €2 each way. I play my local Shrule Glencorrib GAA Lotto weekly. I am still waiting to win.

Is money important to you?
I never believed money and material items equalled happiness. Money was never on the top of my “must-have” list, and truthfully it still isn’t. Over the past five years I have gained a much better understanding of the value of my time and energy, and how to equate that to a euro amount is very important.

Speaking with women, young women, in particular, I understand now more than ever we need to educate ourselves on pension plans, mortgage options, rainy-day funds, investing in upskilling courses, and having the difficult conversations on equal pay. We need to change our attitudes.

How much money do you have on you now?
In my car, I have €5.47 in change and, in my wallet, I have a $50 note and my debit card.

In conversation with Tony Clayton-Lea



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