‘If I am negotiating set bills such as phone and insurance, I will haggle’
Me & My Money: Designer Jennifer Rothwell on her pandemic spending habits
Jennifer Rothwell: ‘I believe your health is your wealth.’ Photograph: Kieran Harnett
Are you a saver or a spender?
I suppose I fall somewhere in between; I save when I can and spend when I see good value. I try and buy quality all the time so that it lasts. As a fashion designer, I am conscious of sustainability, so I try to buy once and have it for years. Whether that’s a kitchen or a pair of shoes, I buy for long-term use. Because I have been self-employed for over 20 years, I try and have something put by.
Do you shop around for better value?
I switch utilities and phone companies regularly for the best deal on the market. I put a bit of time into researching offers on the market and, armed with that knowledge, I can negotiate. It’s a good idea to comparison shop every so often.
What has been your most extravagant purchase and how much did it cost?
It was a total extravagance and predates children and a mortgage, but I bought a shiny red Chevrolet car in the US. It was everything I loved in a car – colour, design and shape. It cost $20,000 and it was worth every penny.
What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money?
My home, definitely. I was gifted the land from my parents, and I built it at cost price from my hard-earned savings when I worked in the US. I was very lucky that my deceased father, Tony, was in the building trade and was a very talented carpenter. I am so proud and honoured to be living in a lovely home that was built by my father. What a lovely legacy in his name.
How do you prefer to shop during the Covid-19 restrictions – online or local?
I make a huge effort to shop local where possible – my local butchers and smaller shops in my community. If we don’t support our local, independent shops, we will live in a world of retail monoliths before we know it. Because of Covid a lot of smaller businesses have gone online, so I can also shop online, which is easier and safer.
Do you haggle over prices?
Only if I have priced around and believe that I am being overcharged. If I am negotiating set bills such as phone and insurance, I will haggle. I don’t in shops and services – I can either afford it or I can’t.
How has the Covid-19 crisis changed your spending habits?
I have been fortunate that Covid has been good to my business as I diversified into masks very early in the pandemic. I can invest in my business more now and buy larger quantities of silk and other raw materials. I now make more considered purchases and definitely prioritise quality over quantity.
Do you invest in shares?
Not presently but I plan to in the near future. I need to research the market and shares and plan a safe and conservative buy to dip my toe in the market.
Cash or card?
I always use cash – it’s way too easy to get carried away with your credit card. With a credit card, it can sometimes seem like someone else’s money – until the bill comes!
What was the last thing you bought and was it good value for money?
I bought a four-sandwich panini machine for €34, which was great value. I use it every day to make a snack for my two children.
Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase?
Yes, the down payment for my first apartment in New York. After I graduated from the [National] College of Art and Design, I went to America to develop my career. An upside of working so hard was that I was able to buy an apartment. That was a proud day as I was still relatively young.
Have you ever lost money?
Yes, my bag was stolen from me on 5th Avenue in New York several years ago. I was walking through a crowded street and realised that my bag strap, which was across my shoulder, had been slashed and my bag was stolen. It was a tough lesson as it was more than about the money – it was replacing cards and IDs and some personal mementos that can’t be easily replaced.
Are you a gambler and, if so, have you ever had a big win?
I do not believe in gambling whatsoever and discourage my children from participating in any activities that may encourage them to gamble in the future. However, I did stray once! When I visited Atlantic City a few years ago, I played the slot machines for fun and won $200. I walked away with the winnings, though.
Is money important to you?
I believe your health is your wealth. We need money for essentials, food, a nice warm home and for treats now and again, but it’s not the be-all-and-end-all. I’m not a materialistic person. I appreciate family, health and happiness and work hard to support that. Otherwise, money is pretty meaningless.
How much money do you have on you now?
I have €105. Obviously, there are no big purchases planned!
In conversation with Tony Clayton-Lea