Your MoneyMe & My Money

‘Goodwill travels a lot further than a lower price’

Me & My Money: Alison Hackett, Founder/publisher, 21st Century Renaissance

Cork-born Alison Hackett graduated from TCD with a degree in mathematics and economics in 1982 and a higher diploma in Education in 1983. A poet and publisher, she founded 21st Century Renaissance in 2012 with a focus on high-quality print publications.

Are you a saver or a spender?

I’m a saver, for sure, and avoid debt at all costs. In my personal life, that has shown up as being prudent with expenses taken on, including our mortgage. In my business life, I’ve bootstrapped it from the time I began the company 10 years ago. This has been me playing the long game, as I’m now starting to see real benefits from doing things this way.

Do you shop around for better value?

My immediate response here is: define value. I always consider the financial risk and the scale of purchase. I also value quality highly. I certainly don’t go for the cheapest option, as my decision-making centres around a lot more than cost.

What has been your most extravagant purchase and how much did it cost?

I enjoy my clothes and jewellery shopping. No specific sums to share, but here too I place a premium on quality and I’m happy to pay the price. The initial price might be high, but on a cost-per-wear basis I’m coming out way ahead. In my home, my husband and I treated ourselves many years ago to an artwork we both fell in love with at a cost of a few thousand euro.


What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money?

Our home. There is something elemental about walking in the front door, closing it and being home. My wish is for every person in Ireland to have this experience.

How did you prefer to shop during the Covid-19 restrictions – online or local?

I was a local shopper before Covid-19, and the pandemic only strengthened my resolve in that regard. Local shops are intrinsic to happy, robust communities. For all my saving ways, I’m not shy to admit I invented some purchases during the lockdown times to support my local shopkeepers.

Do you haggle over prices?

I never haggle. I do occasionally enter into careful negotiations with the individual I’m dealing with for a product or service. However, again value is top of mind for me and I’m always aware that goodwill travels a lot further than a lower price will.

How has the Covid-19 crisis changed your spending habits?

Like everyone else, there was a long break from buying clothes as I prefer to touch and feel what I buy. Now, perhaps, a bit of the buzz has worn off from clothes shopping, but when I do shop, I’m still zealous about quality and buying local as far as possible.

Do you invest in shares?

No, I did once and got my fingers burnt!

Cash or card?

Card most of the time.

What was the last thing you bought and was it good value for money?

I’ve recently had two lovely experiences at restaurants, celebrating special events with loved ones. I’ve always had a deep respect for the people who work in the service industry, and, as we know, hospitality got hit hard by the pandemic. I know they are still facing a big strain, but having our restaurants back feels wonderful to me. In both cases, I left a large tip for our waiter – it truly reflected how grateful we were for the exceptional service received.

Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase?

My husband and I were diligent in saving for our house. We still had to get a mortgage. Once we did, for a few years our focus was on getting the mortgage down as far as possible and any extra money had only one destination – being lodged against the mortgage.

Have you ever lost money?

Yes, with those shares…

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

No. I feel guilty if I win and hate if I lose. But I seem to have a dangerous knack for it. Years ago I was at a fundraiser for our children’s primary school – a virtual racecourse. I won everything on offer that night, from the races to the two big-ticket items of £100 each. I’d brought £20 with me to lose, but no matter what I did I won – people were betting however I was betting. A great night and a great memory (not least feeling the gambling buzz!). In the end, I donated the lot back to the school – it was too embarrassing to walk away with it all stuffed in my pocket.

Is money important to you?

Yes, having enough money to provide a decent quality of life is important. I believe everyone should have a place to live and be able to feed themselves without anxiety, and this requires money. Having a roof over my head and being able to put whatever I want into the shopping trolley makes me feel incredibly wealthy. I’m lucky.

How much money do you have on you now?

I have €8.19 on me in cash. The more valuable item in my purse, however, is the crab claw my grandson gave me from a beach in west Cork, where we visited in the summer of 2020.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture