‘Who has time to stop off at an ATM?’
Me & My Money: Arwen Foley of AA Roadwatch
Arwen Foley: I’m ambitious and now that I’ve joined AA’s digital team, the plan is to keep growing
Are you a saver or a spender?
I’m a saver. I started babysitting at the age of 14 and I used to save up my money to buy Christmas and birthday presents for my family. I made £10 a night minding two children for about six hours, so when I started earning £2.50 an hour, plus tips as a lounge girl in my local pub at 16, I really thought I was doing well. I’ve always been good at saving for holidays, too; giving up on nights out or bringing my lunch into work to pay for flights, etc.
Do you shop around for better value?
Value does factor in my decision-making but, if I can, I try to buy products that have less packaging and, if possible, are Irish. My husband, Brendan, is from Zambia, so I do get a little excited when buying Zambian chillies in Tesco!
What has been your most extravagant purchase and how much did it cost?
When we were in our early 20s, my husband and I went to Singapore and decided to splash out on a fancy restaurant on the 80-somethingth floor of a high-rise building overlooking the city. I’ve eaten in some excellent restaurants, but this was anything but. The scallops could have been useful in a game of handball, and the wine tasted like a rubber dinghy. We’d brought twice as much cash as we thought we might need and it still wasn’t enough. A dip into the emergency credit card was required to get us out of there.
What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money?
Definitely our Nest, our smart home heating device. It keeps our house at a comfortable temperature and it knows when we’re away, so we don’t have to worry about the heating bill being extortionate. Last March, when we were over visiting Brendan’s family in Zambia, we came back to snow. It was wonderful to be able to turn on the heating from my phone when we landed and then to walk into a nice warm house.
How do you prefer to shop – online or local?
I would prefer to buy locally, but logistically it’s not always possible. I have a three-year-old son and a year-old daughter, an energetic dog and a full-time job. If spending more time with my family and friends means shopping online, then that’s what I’ll do.
Do you haggle over prices?
No, I leave that to my husband. On the opposite end, I’m the one who overtips the waiter because I know how hard the job is. I hate when people leave less of a tip because the food wasn’t up to standard: the person serving you wasn’t to blame.
Has the recession changed your spending habits?
I was lucky to hold on to my full-time job in AA Roadwatch during the recession, whilst media jobs were scarce. At the time my husband, who is a pilot, had to move back to Zambia for two years for work so I saved as much as possible to visit him. It taught me to be budget-conscious; work to live, and save to live better.
Do you invest in shares?
No, my parents were bitten by the Eircom shares debacle so I’ve since been a bit too scared to dip my toe into that ocean.
Cash or card?
Card, for almost everything. Who has time to stop off at an ATM? I’ll probably start using my phone to pay for things when I get a new one in the sales. I need to replace my iPhone. It has a home button that only works on occasion – my year- old daughter is at the throwing stage!
What was the last thing you bought and was it good value for money?
My last purchase was the big shop. I do my supermarket shopping online. After a long day at work, and when I finally get the kids to bed, the last thing I want to do is patrol the grocery aisles.
Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase?
Our biggest purchase has been our family home. I know we’ll always have to work hard to pay for it, and technically the bank will own it until we finally pay it off when we’re of retirement age, but it’s ours and it’s the best thing we’ve ever bought. Our little cottage, five minutes from my parents and 15 minutes from my brother’s family, is my haven. We worked really hard to get it and I’m very proud of it.
Have you ever lost money?
I’ve never lost a large sum of money. My credit card was scammed when we were in Canada and some eejit spent over €1,000 in the pizza restaurant he worked in. Needless to say, he was caught and the insurance company returned my money.
Are you a gambler and, if so, have you ever had a big win?
It’s certainly not my forte. Whenever there’s a bit of gambling on the speeches at a wedding or someone decides to play cards for money, I’ll throw my tenner in the mix. I never win, though. I’m very unlucky when it comes to these things.
Is money important to you?
I’m ambitious and now that I’ve joined AA’s digital team, the plan is to keep growing. I want my kids to go to good schools, I want to travel all over the world and experience new things. It’s not money that’s important to me but what I spend it on. Finding the balance between climbing the corporate ladder and being a great wife and mother is a daily struggle, but I’m determined to do it.
How much money do you have on you now?
After emptying my wallet, I’ve discovered €6.14 in small coins. To be honest, I’m surprised it’s that much. I rarely have cash and the few coins I have are usually pilfered by a set of three-year-old fingers, with the aim of filling his piggy bank. I guess he’s a saver like me!
Arwen Foley is the digital content manager of and spokeswoman for AA Roadwatch