Phelim Drew is an actor and son of the Irish folk singer Ronnie Drew. He is performing in Piaf, currently at the Gate Theatre, Dublin, until Saturday, February 4th.
Are you a saver or a spender? I’m a spender when I have it. You don’t enter life as a performer for the money – not in this country, anyway. Theatre work is well-paid in comparison to the UK, but with regard to royalties and residuals for film and TV work, Irish actors are disgracefully exploited. If you do happen to get a few quid, ironically, the impulse is to live it up a bit because you never know when you’ll get the chance again!
Do you shop around for better value? I don’t like wasting time and energy trying to save €20, but If something is of good quality, will last and I feel it’s reasonably good value, then I’ll go for it. I’m pretty shrewd when it comes to shopping for the house with regard to hard goods and general groceries. I don’t mind going to different places to get all the bits and pieces. It’s quite social, too.
What has been your most extravagant purchase and how much did it cost? My most extravagant purchases would probably be clothes. When asked to read at a ceremony in Dublin Castle last year, I immediately thought: ‘I have to get a decent coat!’ So I went out and spent €400 on one. I also spent a right few bob on a Belstaff motorcycle jacket a number of years ago. It was probably more valuable than the bike. What can I say? I like dressing up.
What purchase have you made that you consider the best value for money? We got some major work done to the house back in 2014 and a new boiler was installed incorrectly, which gave us years of heartache. However, through a friend, we were put in touch with a company that supplied and fitted a Viesmann boiler. It was expensive, but it feels like we did the right thing and that peace of mind is priceless.
How did you prefer to shop during the Covid-19 restrictions – online or local? Shopping during Covid was about the only experience, apart from walking the dog, that felt normal. I’m not a big online shopper. I see the amount of waste with regard to packaging, and it really puts me off. But, having said that, I did a lot [of shopping] online for Christmas. Given the time and resources, I’d rather shop in person with or without the restrictions of a pandemic.
Do you haggle over prices? I’m brutal at haggling but I will ask if there’s anything they can do about the price. The general response is no, and I say: ‘Okay.’ I just find the whole thing so embarrassing and then I come away feeling like a fool. Darn it, they got me again!
How has the Covid-19 crisis changed your spending habits? It definitely did immediately afterwards, but as we get back to life as it was pre-Covid I can feel myself sliding back to the kind of habits that I had before. I like to cook and feed the family at home and that was reinforced by the Covid experience, so I’m even more of a homebird than I was. If I’m going out for food in a restaurant, it’,s generally for a special occasion, so I look for somewhere that is good fun and where the staff are happy. For me, those qualities in any business are as important as the product.
I couldn’t live/work without an overdraft facility, so the old card is your only man
Do you invest in shares? I have a share in the house in which I live and I’ve invested in the lives of my children, but no I don’t invest in shares. That’s for other people, as far as I’m concerned.
Cash or card? Both. I couldn’t live/work without an overdraft facility, so the old card is your only man. However, cash is still so tangible and, I believe, important so I try to have a few quid on me most of the time.
What was the last thing you bought, and was it good value for money? I bought a bottle of Prosecco for some friends as a surprise for their interval drink during Piaf. It was the best value for money because they sent me a pic of them all enjoying it, and I got to see them afterwards and revel in their enthusiasm for the whole evening. They’ve decided to start a theatre club, which I hope to join once I’ve finished with Piaf.
Have you ever successfully saved up for a relatively big purchase? Not really, no. If my affairs are in order and I have some money and feel like something is more of a necessity or a quality-of-life purchase, then I’ll take the plunge.
Have you ever lost money? I was the victim of an online scam when trying to buy a caravan during Covid. I’m very grateful to Sue, my ever-loving wife, for her understanding and support. I try not to dwell on it, but I did make every attempt to get the money back, but without success. Next!
Are you a gambler and, if so, have you ever had a big win? I love the excitement of the horses and boxing but, apart from that, I’m not big into spectator sports. When it comes to gambling, I expect to win and am bitterly disappointed when I lose, so to save myself the pain I don’t bother.
Is money important to you? Yes, definitely. Money worries can eat away at you like cancer, so it’s really important, unfortunately, to be ahead of the posse as much as possible. The old man had a saying that went: “The love of money is the root of all evil, but a certain amount of it is very good for your nerves.” That says it all, I believe.
How much money do you have on you now? Nada. The kids have cleaned me out. And Mrs Drew. I seem to be the only one that has the readies!
in conversation with Tony Clayton-Lea