‘Whatever the opposite of a gambler is, I am that’
Me & My Money: Niamh O’Neill, fashion designer
Fashion designer Niamh O’Neill in her Belfast home. Photograph: Stephen Davison
Are you a saver or a spender?
I am naturally a spender, but I have had to learn to become a saver. Since I’ve hit my 30s, I have organised my spending habits to save a certain amount every month. If I want to buy something, I save for it.
Do you shop around for better value?
Through the experience of manufacturing for my own business, I know that value lies in quality. Good quality is a much higher priority for me than price is. So I will shop around to research and compare items in terms of materials used and manufacturing processes, etc. If the better item, in terms of quality, is more expensive, I save for it. It pays in the long run.
What has been your most extravagant purchase and how much did it cost?
Aside from obvious things like our house and my car? For my business, I’ve bought technology items that have been extravagant but necessary. We received great backing from our Local Enterprise Office, who recognised the value of investing in our business.
What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money?
My car. I drive a Volkswagen Golf and it has great fuel efficiency. Most of my journeys would be a minimum of two hours. From an economical point of view, it’s a very easy car to run.
How do you prefer to shop – online or local?
If I’m not travelling too much on a certain week, I’ll shop locally for fruit, veg, meat, and so on. It’s my preference to shop in our local independent stores for food. Unfortunately, if I’m travelling, I get our weekly shop online for convenience. For clothing, I always shop online and I try to buy from other Irish designers, as many of them have great online stores with next-day delivery.
Do you haggle over prices?
I would never haggle with independent retailers as I understand how important a full mark-up is to maintaining their business. It comes back to quality. When you know you are buying good quality, you are happy to pay for it.
Has the recession changed your spending habits?
I graduated from university in 2008, just when the recession hit. In a way, I entered adulthood in the recession, so it has influenced my spending habits. In my early 20s, I would have shopped on the high street, thinking it was financially savvy. However, I realised a few years later that buying less and buying better is a much more savvy option.
Do you invest in shares?
No. There have been people close to me who have suffered great financial losses through shares and others who have had great financial gains. It is quite a risky investment at the moment, in a particularly volatile international economy. I would consider it in the future but it would have to be low risk.
Cash or card?
Always card. I’m one of those people who never has any change to park on the street and ends up in the car park. If I have a certain amount of cash on me, it almost becomes a target amount that I have to spend. It’s safer in the bank.
What was the last thing you bought and was it good value for money?
I bought a good quality pair of stylish but practical trainers that I’ve had my eye on for a while. They are brilliant for running around at trade shows and when travelling through airports. Not an exciting purchase by any means, but great value for money.
Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase?
My husband and I are currently saving for a new house. We have outgrown our current home and we look forward to having some more space. Like most people, it will be our biggest purchase yet, but it will be worth it.
Have you ever lost money?
In the early days I made business decisions that cost me. As a young business person starting out, not every business decision is going to be a great one. I have learned some expensive lessons, but thankfully they were on a smaller scale. If you make mistakes like that, you definitely only make them once.
Are you a gambler and if so have you ever had a big win?
Whatever the opposite of a gambler is, I am that. I have had to force myself to take some risks in business in order to progress, but it doesn’t come easily to me and I’ll lose sleep over the slightest uncertainties. Of course, sometimes it’s necessary to take informed risks in order to move forward.
Is money important to you?
Yes and no. I’ve never equated money to happiness, so in that way it’s not important. However, money obviously allows you to do certain things. It can give you freedom to travel, to have nice experiences, a nice home and so on.
How much money do you have on you now?
Today is a card day, so only €10!
In conversation with Tony Clayton-Lea