‘It’s been so long since I’ve had cash, I’m beginning to forget what it looks like’

Me & My Money: Fionnuala Bourke, costume designer and mask maker

Are you a saver or a spender?
I used to be a spender when I worked in retail. Starting your own business, however, makes you realise how much money it really takes to get your passion project off the ground. I wouldn't say that I'm a saver just yet, but I'm evolving into one, for sure.

Do you shop around for better value?
It depends. If it's something small, I go for convenience. For bigger items, like fabric or crystals for my studio, I will always look around for good value.

What has been your most extravagant purchase and how much did it cost?
Everyone who knows me will tell you that I'm crazy about the colour mint, and I often buy something just because it's that colour. Last year, I bought the most beautiful pair of Nike Internationalist runners, all because they were mint. They were €150. At the time it felt like the biggest splurge, but I just had to have them! No lie, but I have only recently started wearing them – I used to keep them in the box and look at them every once and a while.

What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money?
My Pfaff sewing machines are without a doubt the best I have ever used. They are expensive but worth every penny. I purchased my first one about 15 years ago and it has helped me to become the designer I am today.


How do you prefer to shop during the Covid-19 restrictions – online or local?
Personal spending is definitely more local. Business-wise, spending has been all online. This has its downsides because you can't tell the thickness or quality of the fabric. Regardless, it's great to still be able to buy essentials so we can keep sewing.

Do you haggle over prices?
The only haggling I have ever done was on holidays and it didn't go well! It's embarrassing to say, but numbers put my head in a spin, so I try and avoid any haggling-related scenarios where possible.

How has the Covid-19 crisis changed your spending habits?
I'm used to working long hours but making so many masks for donation brings a whole different set of challenges, so I'm definitely spending more money on coffee during lockdown.

Is there something in particular that you have either stopped buying or started buying, as a result of Covid?
I haven't purchased any clothes in three months and I don't miss it, and now I couldn't imagine spending so unnecessarily. That's something that I'll definitely carry with me into the future.

Do you invest in shares?
I don't, but I think I should probably invest in shares in Creed, my local coffee shop in Celbridge at this stage.

Cash or card?
Definitely card at the moment. Right now, it seems like the safest option. Customers arrived a few days ago to collect some masks and had cash. I looked at it for a minute laughing to myself – where am I supposed to get change for this? It has been so long since I have had cash in my own wallet, I'm beginning to forget what it looks like.

What was the last thing you bought and was it good value for money?
I've recently gotten into podcasts. I'm mad for true crime and my last purchase was signing up to my favourite podcast's Patreon. I have definitely found it great value for money. My current favourite podcasts are Redhanded and True Crime Obsessed.

Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase?
When I first moved into my studio, I had to have a deposit. I can't even remember how much was needed now but at the time it felt like so much. I was putting money aside for weeks before I even approached the landlord about the empty unit because I knew I would also need to kit it out with furniture and equipment. I have learned so much along the way, about myself and about money, because when you're in college dreaming about being a designer, you think about all the lovely things you're going to create. In reality, most of your time is taken up by admin and paying rent, bills and tax.

Have you ever lost money?
Not so much lost money but I remember when I first started out in business someone was supposed to collect an order from me the week before Christmas. This was before I had any online payments set up and I was going to allow them to pay in cash when they collected. They never turned up or answered their phone. I was devastated as it was for quite a lot of money. It was a very hard lesson to learn, but it definitely made me a better and more savvy business person.

Are you a gambler and, if so, have you ever had a big win?
I have gone a few times to Punchestown with my friends. I would pick a name of a horse that I thought sounded cool so any winnings I ever had were complete flukes. I won best dressed lady once in a pub competition during Punchestown week and won €700. Unfortunately, that's when my winning streak ended.

Is money important to you?
I have always wanted to work for myself so I wouldn't be able to keep that dream alive without enough money, but wealth isn't important to me. I'm making sacrifices to take my business to the next level and I think that's reflected in our mask-making mission at the moment.

I believe that face coverings, especially during a pandemic, should be accessible and affordable for everyone. No one should be profiting on others’ misfortune or vulnerability, so myself and my team of volunteers will continue to donate masks all over Ireland for as long as we can.

How much money do you have on you now?
I just found 5 cent this morning while sweeping the floor of the studio, if that counts. I put it into our charity jar. Between myself and my team, we like to do different things throughout the year to raise money for charity, so when the jar is full it's all going to Fighting Blindness Ireland.