'My wife has a PhD in haggling. She thinks it should be an Olympic sport'

Me and My Money: Irish Tenors singer Finbar Wright

Finbar Wright: “At various times in my life I have survived on very little money.”

Finbar Wright: “At various times in my life I have survived on very little money.”

 

Are you a saver or a spender?

My Aunt Mathilda had about 10 cats on average and almost a hundred hats of every style and shape. Every night she sipped a finger of whiskey. She always had a little put by for those essentials. Other than that, she considered it ‘tempting fate and testing God’ to be saving too much. I liked her style.

Do you shop around for better value?

When it comes to interesting pieces of furniture, we always poke around the antique shops where there is great value to be found and fine craftsmanship. Likewise, particularly in big cities, there is value and wonderful food to be found by seeking out the hidden gems of restaurants off the beaten track.

What has been your most extravagant purchase and how much did it cost? When I left the priesthood in 1987, I bought a small house in Portobello, Dublin, for the princely sum of 16,000 Irish pounds. The market had collapsed at the time, but, as I was broke, the cost seemed astronomical and extravagant. With a little help from my friends, I got by.

What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money? While living in Portobello, I bought a bread knife from a lovely woman up in the Liberties. She told me it would last a lifetime. We still cut the bread with it today, 30 years later.

How do you prefer to shop – online or local?

I like to feel and touch and smell. I’ve learned a lot from the French when it comes to buying either food or clothes. Furthermore, in the tradition of Maeve Binchy, eavesdropping on chat and gossip always brings added value to the local shops. However, online is fabulous for the unusual items like old records or spare parts for a lawnmower.

  Do you haggle over prices? My wife has a PhD in haggling. She thinks it should be an Olympic sport. She will never pay the market price for anything. Sometimes, out of pity for a trader, I have had to intervene, only to receive one of those looks my mother used to give me, saying ‘I’ll deal with you later’!

Has the recession changed your spending habits?

For those in the entertainment business, a recession is no mystery. Experience teaches you caution. You ride the storm and think of sunny days.

  Do you invest in shares? I have a neighbour, a farmer, who has a passion for trading in shares. Even while boiling the potatoes, she’ll be watching the prices scrolling on the TV through the steam, ready to wipe her hands on the apron and call the broker if she smells a bargain. I ride on her coattails and make a few bob now and then.

Cash or card? Definitely card. Cleaner and easier to keep track of everything. However, in the USA with the ubiquitous tipping culture, you have to carry a stash of cash to stay alive.

  What was the last thing you bought and was it good value for money? I bought a 10 kilo bag of peanuts last week in Maxi Zoo to feed the birds during the winter. Half the cost of buying in small bags. On cold, frosty mornings it is satisfying to see them enjoying the feast.

Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase? When I was eight years old I had a yearning for a three-speed bike. Most bikes then had no gears. It took me two years of saving from odd jobs, tips from being an altar boy, and begging my mother for a loan, to eventually get my hands on a secondhand one. It was a smooth operator, and the hills were much more enjoyable.

Have you ever lost money? I’ve lost money at tollbooths, I’ve lost money to corrupt Spanish traffic cops, I’ve lost euros in shopping trolleys, but most of all I’ve lost money betting on Ronan Tynan’s horses!

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

My colleagues in the Irish Tenors get itchy feet whenever we are within striking distance of a casino in the USA. They love to gamble and are both very lucky. I prefer a good book.

  Is money important to you? At various times in my life I have survived on very little money. Growing up on a farm we were largely self-sufficient, so fresh food, beautiful flowers, interesting people and good friends are top of the list of good things in life. I see money as a necessary evil.

How much money do you have on you now?

Now that you mention it, not as much as I thought I had. In my house, my wallet is like an ATM where everybody withdraws as the need arises. No pin number needed!

In conversation with Tony Clayton-Lea.

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