‘I’m a huge fan of buying second-hand’

Me & My Money: Finn van der Aar, marine biologist and sustainability activist

Finn van der Aar: “It’s a very simple fact that money can buy you both freedom and security, and that to me equates to happiness.”

Finn van der Aar: “It’s a very simple fact that money can buy you both freedom and security, and that to me equates to happiness.”

 

Are you a saver or a spender?

Absolutely both! I have become a lot better with money in the last few years by paying off my loan for my masters and saving an emergency fund in the credit union. I’ve also become much more aware of fees and interest on monthly payments such as car insurance. I try to save so that I’m always in the position to be able to pay for things outright.

Do you shop around for better value?

I think I’m quite good at weighing up bigger purchases, even just something like a phone, and will always shop around and compare prices. I’m a huge fan of buying second-hand, from clothes to electronics.

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

A trip I took to Australia in 2018. Considering it was probably my favourite trip of my life and how difficult it is likely to be to get to Australia in the coming years, I have absolutely no regrets.

Last year I got my first custom surfboard made. If you don’t surf, it might seem extravagant for some foam and glass, but I love supporting shapers who’ve worked their whole life to hone their craft. I’m getting another one this year!

What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money?

Hands down my laptop, a refurbished MacBook Pro that I bought in 2015. Six years later it’s still going strong. Following that, I’d say my Helly Hensen jacket. Technically my dad bought it, but I’ve had it since I was in college. I’ve worn it every time I’ve gone to sea on research vessels and I wear it day in, day out working on the pier in Killybegs. It must be at less than one cent a wear at this point.

How do you prefer to shop during the Covid-19 restrictions – online or local?

Restrictions definitely meant getting more takeaways didn’t feel like a guilty pleasure, as it was supporting local businesses. I also definitely started to shop more online – getting veg delivery boxes and bulk buying from zero waste shops like PAX in Westport meant having to go to the shops less, but not taking essential grocery delivery slots from people who needed them more.

Do you haggle over prices?

I’ve been self-employed for nearly six years and so am very conscious about who I haggle with. I’d never haggle in small independent businesses as I know how hard it is to run and maintain one, and never on handcrafted pieces or art. I will always haggle over bigger ticket items like cars or if the price seems unjustified.

How has the Covid-19 crisis changed your spending habits?

Covid has definitely changed my spending habits in a positive way. It’s really helped me in terms of how I manage my money. My key focus has been to eliminate debt and, if possible, beyond a mortgage and some clever use of credit cards, not to have it again. I’ve drastically cut down my monthly subscriptions – everything from a yoga app to photo editing software – to just Spotify and Netflix.

Do you invest in shares?

I currently only have bonds. I’m very close to paying off my last piece of debt and, once it’s cleared, I’ll be looking at setting up a PRSA [pension] since I’m self-employed and haven’t got an employer-related pension scheme. After that, I’m very interested in investing in sustainable funds.

Cash or card?

Cash is king, but I never remember to take it out. Card, or even more so now, my phone. I find Revolut very handy for tracking smaller weekly spends that would otherwise go unnoticed. Cash-related fees in my bank are very annoying. If I get around to it soon, I’ll change banks!

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

The last thing I bought was a nice and fluffy bed for our dog so that she’d like her crate more and want to sleep in it. Considering it was only €20 and now means we get a proper night’s sleep, I’d say it’s worth its weight in gold.

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

My biggest purchase so far would be the car I bought last year. I’d worked really long and hard hours all year and bought the nicest, newest and most fuel-efficient car I’ve ever had. To pay for it all in one go – no finance, no monthly payments – felt like a massive achievement. I think working towards a big purchase over time can really make it all the sweeter.

Have you ever lost money?

In 2019 I opened a sustainable gluten-free bakery called Milish. While it got a great reception, it just didn’t turn out to be as financially viable as my other work – talks, events, social media and marine biology. I lost money on outfitting it but it was a learning curve and a lot from that year has stood to me since, so no great loss.

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

Not at all! It never seems worth it to me. My granny, a very cool granny, taught me to play poker when I was five years of age, but we only ever bet pennies and sweets.

Is money important to you?

Of course. In Ireland, there can often be negative connotations associated with someone who is open about their attempt to earn more or be well off. It’s a very simple fact that money can buy you both freedom and security, and that to me equates to happiness. Money pays for healthy groceries, health insurance, a gym membership, a warm home to live in and a car that I know will start each morning.

How much money do you have on you now?

For all I said about never having cash, I have €50 in my wallet. Mostly because none of the coffee shops want to break a €50 note for just a cup of coffee, so it’s been lurking in my wallet for a few weeks.

in conversation with Tony Clayton-Lea

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