Are you a saver or a spender? I am definitely more of a spender. I spend a lot of money on golf balls as I lose so many off the tee every week in Cork Golf Club!
Do you shop around for better value?
Yes, but mainly for clothes. The best value is the Eaton Centre in Toronto. The prices are typically 20-25 per cent cheaper and there always seems to be an excuse for the retailer to offer various discounts for birthdays, various seasons of the year, Canada day, coupon rebates, you name it.
What has been your most extravagant purchase and how much did it cost?
Regretfully, 15 years ago and on the spur of the moment, I decided to purchase an apartment in Almeria in Spain for around €140,000. I sold it 10 years later for €75,000 and was lucky to get it! On top of that, we never furnished or used the apartment so not my best decision – as my wife keeps reminding me. Thankfully, other investments worked out okay.
What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money?
We were lucky during the early stages of the Celtic Tiger to purchase and renovate a number of properties in Cobh.
How do you prefer to shop – online or local?
Outside of my Canadian “casual” clothes purchases, I am a huge supporter of local Irish retailers. In relation to food, we love to purchase in the local markets, and, please God, they will never disappear. The big advantage of purchasing in the markets is the plentiful supply of fresh and organic produce on sale with little or no plastic packaging. I mainly shop online for items such as travel, hotels, and business books.
Do you haggle over prices?
I am not a great haggler except for expensive items where I believe there is room for negotiation.
Has the recession changed your spending habits?
Yes. Some people “lost it” in the Celtic Tiger and became too ostentatious, traits that we never associated with the Irish DNA. One positive is that we are now much more willing to change our buying habits whether it is retail shopping, travel, utilities or banks. More and more traditional businesses have been disrupted by new market entrants such as Uber, Airbnb, Amazon, etc. These are good for the consumer in the short term but lots of questions are being raised with regard to their negative impact on employment and work conditions, not to mention the closure of local family run businesses.
Do you invest in shares?
During the dotcom era, I purchased shares in a variety of new and unknown start-ups under the general assumption that they would double in value within a four to six-week period. Suffice to say most of these shares and companies vanished without a trace. The result is that I haven’t purchased shares since the dotcom bust, and have invested mainly in properties, bonds and securing my pension.
Cash or card?
Over 90 per cent of my regular spend is via card rather than cash. The downside is that I have had to cancel my cards a number of times as they have been compromised when travelling abroad. It has really made me more aware of not leaving my cards out of sight at restaurants and shops – something I had ignored in the past. Equally, I am much more aware of covering my pin number at ATM machines. I am still amazed though at the card scammers and how they can use my card number to purchase a lawnmower and toilet brush in downtown Manchester when I am drinking a pint in PJ’s in Toronto.
What was the last thing you bought and was it good value for money?
I bought a Fitbit 12 months ago and it initially gave me the motivation to change my habits and lose 10 kilos.
Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase?
Yes, I purchased a 15-year-old Triumph Toledo from my brother-in-law back in the 1970s, and I remember religiously saving £65 a month from my salary when working in Verolme Dockyard. It definitely made the purchase more exciting and meaningful in order to achieve my dream purchase.
Have you ever lost money?
I lost money from investments over the years, mainly in shares, but also made lots of gains. My biggest loss, by far, was purchasing Eircom shares when they initially came on the market.
Are you a gambler and, if so, have you ever had a big win?
The last time I gambled was when I joined Masstock in Saudi Arabia in 1994. In those days, we got paid in cash in the local currency, Saudi riyals. Regretfully, the more established and very smart gamblers in our compound arranged a game of poker and I was horrified to lose my first month’s wages in the space of one hour. I have never gambled to any extent since.
Is money important to you?
No, my passion and drive are directed to my family and my business, since its establishment in 1995. The business has been very successful and money was a consequence of this rather than the motivation. I truly believe that, if you treat your customers and employees with respect, work hard and have a passion for what you do, money will look after itself.
How much money do you have on you now?
I currently have €50 in my wallet. Within five years, I forecast that all retail outlets, traditional and online, will accept cards and bitcoin, and that cash will fast become a thing of the past.
in conversation with Tony Clayton-Lea