‘We shop locally. . . Face to face is a social elixir’

Me and My Money: Finbar Wright, tenor

 Finbar Wright pictured backstage at the National Concert Hall. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Finbar Wright pictured backstage at the National Concert Hall. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Are you a saver or a spender?

My uncle Arthur preached that saving was both presumptuous and unimaginative. Firstly, believing you would be around to enjoy it; secondly, because there were so many exciting ways to spend it. He once inherited a princely sum from a friend that he let fly faster than Concorde in a tail wind. I like to keep a rainy day fund, but otherwise I’m happy to help the world go round.

Do you shop around for better value?

When it comes to airline travel, hotels, and employing concert employees, it would be foolish not to shop around as costs vary greatly. When it comes to clothes, I usually get in and out as quickly as possible and hope for the best.

What has been your most extravagant purchase, and how much did it cost?

Extravagance is relative. In 1984, when I could neither afford to buy a car nor run one, I took a loan of about £6,000 and bought a secondhand red BMW 323i. It was the most exhilarating car to drive. Tthe surge at take-off was jet-like. I was caught speeding once or twice (or maybe more) until I got sense.

Which purchase do you consider the best value for money?

In 1988, I bought a house in Portobello, Dublin for £14,500 at a time when prices had fallen through the floor. I sold it about 18 months later for £32,000, which was a spectacular appreciation.

How do you prefer to shop – online or local?

Outside of online air and tour business needs, we always shop locally for everything else. We enjoy the humour, smiles and sorrows of the local traders, particularly the hardworking individual producers at the farmers’ market, or squeezing wisdom out of the owners of small gardening centres. Face to face is a social elixir.

Do you haggle over prices?

I am too impatient to haggle. I prefer to instantly decide “worth it/not worth it” and buy or not, but never delay much.

Has the recession changed your spending habits?

Growing up in a family of eight on a small farm in the 1960s, recessions were frequent and you learned not to be too disappointed with cutbacks. Concert venues are still in recovery and, like many other emigrants, work is abroad mainly for musicians like myself.

Do you invest in shares?

My love affair with shares always tended to end up in a bitter parting of ways, so, outside of a managed pension fund, I steer clear.

Cash or card?

As I work a lot in the United States, it is vital to have a plentiful supply of cash. This is on account of the tipping culture, which requires you to drop dollars into service providers’ hands throughout the day. It generally ensures good service. In Ireland and elsewhere, I use nearly all card at this point.

What was the last thing you bought, and was it good value for money?

I bought a pair of Timberland hiking boots and a furry hat with weird ears in an outlet at Kildare Village at a discount. With my love of hillwalking, they will, hopefully, be well used and good value at a total of €180.

Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase?

No. The earning pattern of an entertainer is unpredictable at best, perilous at worst. Therefore, you tend to spend as you get. If it is a good year, you splash out on a few luxuries; if a slow year, you cut your cloth and lose weight.

Have you ever lost money?

In 1975, the year Gen Franco died in Spain, I lost 500 pesetas (about £5) in the back seat of a taxi in Madrid. As I was a struggling student, it remains fixed in my mind. Other than that, I lost a few thousand in Waterford Glass shares when that collapsed.

Are you a gambler and, if so, have you ever had a big win?

By nature, I would not be a gambler. But quite a few times a year I end up performing in the concert halls attached to the huge casinos across the United States, such as Mohegan Sun in Connecticut, and I am drawn to the flashing lights and jingles. I have never ended in credit!

Is money important to you?

My mother always reckoned it was good to “have the name of it”. She correctly judged that people tended to treat the wealthy with respect while the poor were given a raw acceptance, if any. In such a begrudging world, money is always important, if only to buy peanuts for the wild birds.

How much money do you have on you now?

As I am currently on a concert tour in the United States, I have $763.75 [about €708.30]. Despite the ever-expanding reach of electronic money, it is still advisable to have a good supply of ready cash when rushing through airports, using taxis, etc, on a daily basis.

Finbar Wright performs at Dublin’s National Concert Hall on Sunday, April 30th.