‘Now that I’m self-employed I haggle much less’

Me & My Money: Finn Ní Fhaoláin

Finn Ní Fhaoláin, chef and author of ‘Finn’s World’.

Are you a saver or a spender?
A bit of both I'd say. I'll get really good at saving for a goal and then I get easily sidetracked by an exciting trip. I've had a credit union saver account since I was a teenager, and find it helpful to put even just €25 a week into it. It's small enough not to feel a pinch but big enough that it can build up, and it's great for a holiday or if a bigger purchase pops up.

Do you shop around for better value?
Absolutely. I'm a big fan of buying "refurbished" when it comes to electronics – the same item, with the same warranty but hundreds less than the brand-new model. For food, depending on what I need, I usually shop firstly in discount supermarkets, then ethnic markets and finally normal supermarkets or health food shops. By shopping around, I find it brings the cost of my groceries down from an average of nearly €90 a week to €50.

What has been your most extravagant purchase and how much did it cost?
A skydive in Byron Bay, Australia, this summer. It cost 500 Australian dollars in total (for the dive and the video). We planned and booked it only the week before. The dive itself from the plane, taking off and then back to the ground, couldn't have taken more than an hour. It's certainly the most frivolous purchase I've ever made, but it was in one of the most beautiful places on earth. I was with my best friend and we were literally flying – easily one of the best days of my life, so well worth it, in my mind.

What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money?
My Mac laptop. It's a refurbished one that I wrote my cookbook Finn's World on. I've carted it all over the world and do all my writing, admin and creative work on it. While it was expensive compared with other laptops I've previously owned, I cannot believe the degree to which it sped up and reduced the stress of my daily work.


How do you prefer to shop – online or local?
Local all the way. I love chatting to people you know in your local shops. As I often work from home, it's important to be out and about. The only purchases I tend to make online are cookbooks that aren't available in Ireland. Also, at 5'2" I haven't a hope of finding clothes that fit right if I order online.

Do you haggle over prices?
I used to, but now that I'm self-employed I do it so much less. I know I've worked so hard to get my prices right with my work, so I no longer haggle with small sellers or anything like that. I'll still go for it on things like phone contracts or with big companies, though.

Has the recession changed your spending habits?
Certainly. When I was a teenager in the Celtic Tiger times, there was such an obsession with brand and designer names on everything from clothes to make-up, even food items. Now I want the money I spend to reflect the quality (as well as the sustainability and ethical accountability) of the item I'm purchasing. For clothing, this means buying only second hand and from companies that have clear ethical and environmental policies. Buying this way means I actually spend way less than I used to but the quality and durability of my wardrobe has greatly increased. For food, it means choosing to purchase plastic free where possible and buying what's in season or good quality, not just from big brand names.

Do you invest in shares?
Not yet, but it is something I'd be interested in in the future. I wish it was something that we were taught about more; I'm only beginning to read up on different ways to invest now.

Cash or card?
Cash for home – it's a handy way to keep a tally on your weekly spending. Card for holidays – I'm less worried about it than being the tourist wandering around with a wad of holiday cash in my bag.

What was the last thing you bought and was it good value for money?
Well, I just literally bought some diesel. This October bank holiday, I'm travelling to Savour Kilkenny, during which I'll be doing a cooking demo, so I'll need to make sure my tank is full for that journey as I travel from Donegal to Kilkenny.

Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase?
I have a very exciting new business venture planned for next spring and have been saving like mad for it. Watch this space.

Have you ever lost money?
I once took out a €2,000 loan for a J1 summer, and had to come home early because I got sick (before I managed to work enough to pay it off). As my granny would say, that was "bought sense". I haven't taken out a holiday loan since.

Are you a gambler and, if so, have you ever had a big win?
No, I don't gamble. I like playing cards, but we bet with snacks! Back in the day, I did win an iPod in a raffle, not bad for a €2 ticket.

Is money important to you?
The security as well as the freedom to travel that money provides is important to me, but amassing large sums of money for the sake of it within my lifetime is not.

How much money do you have on you now?
Let me check. I have €47 and a random pearl in my wallet.

In conversation with Tony Clayton-Lea

Finn Ní Fhaoláin, author of Finn's World, is appearing at Savour Kilkenny, Thursday, October 25th until Monday, October 29th, savourkilkenny.com