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Hugh Wallace: ‘I lost a lot of money during the financial crisis. Once you get badly burned, the fear never leaves you’

Me & My Money: Hugh Wallace, architect, founding director of Douglas Wallace and television presenter

Hugh Wallace will attend the PTSB Ideal Home Show, RDS Simmonscourt, Friday-Sunday, April 26th-28th with Electric Ireland Superhomes.

Are you a saver or a spender?

Both. I’m a pensioner so my pension comes under the “save” column, and life generally is under the “spend” column. I was never a big saver, though. I remember 40 years ago getting a credit card and a limit of IR£2,000 (€2,540) to spend, but after a month a woman took the card off me and cut it up. That was the end of that. However, I have a debit card for bigger purchases.

Do you shop around for better value?

No. If I see something I like, I buy it. However, I now know the price of milk and butter, which I never knew before 2008 – in the not-too-distant past, we had a very limited budget, so we had to shop around to get the most for your fiver.

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

My partner, Martin, was the most extravagant purchase, and he costs a fortune to run. On a serious note, we both love art. Our most recent piece was purchased last September – a stunning seascape from a wonderful Cork artist, Cora Murphy. Ten years ago, we bought a Louis le Brocquy painting, which is the most extravagant piece of art we have purchased.


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

I shop locally. I hate online as I love to be able to touch and feel things, so during Covid I really didn’t buy anything that wasn’t groceries.

Do you haggle over prices?

Oh, I love it, I actually haggle in Brown Thomas. You have to establish a value of what a thing is worth for yourself. What’s the worst that can happen – they say no?

How did the Covid-19 crisis change your spending habits, and was there something in particular that you either stopped buying or started buying, as a result?

Covid made me very conscious of food wastage. That was the big change – I’d rather spend more money daily and throw nothing out. We now buy non-perishable food in our half-weekly shop and then buy fresh daily. It adds a few euro to the weekly budget, but we will take that to cut down on food wastage. It’s become a real bugbear of ours.

Do you invest in shares?

Never. I feel if you want to invest in shares you need great knowledge, so putting life into the mix with its ups and downs, I feel shares just aren’t for me. I invest in art, although we never buy art with the aim of the item increasing in value.

Cash or card?

God, I just love cash. I love when the notes are rolled up in the rubber bands. When I was younger, I worked in Algeria, and the only way we got paid was in cash, and I still remember the feeling of seeing my first £500 note.

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

A pair of shoes from Ferragamo, and they are fabulous. I also got four belts for the price of one because, yes, I haggled. The shoes aren’t cheap, but I have shoes that are over 20 years old. I get them reheeled with a cobbler, so the cost-per-wear analysis I get is very good value for money.

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

Yes. Not unlike many people out there, Martin and I saved up to buy our house and do it up. We bought the house four years ago and it’s a total fixer-upper. We are still doing the job but aiming to be in for September. I sincerely hope this won’t be the last house purchase we make, but you never know.

Have you ever lost money?

Unfortunately, I lost a lot of money during the financial crisis of 2008. I lost everything, and it took years mentally and financially to get back on an even keel. However, through those times the opportunity to forge a television career came to me, so you live and learn, and often opportunities present themselves when you least expect them. Once you get badly burned, however, the fear never leaves you.

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

No, I’m not a gambler. I don’t like gambling. I play poker, but it’s 20 cent openers. I am no big roller, and somewhere like Las Vegas is of no interest to me.

Is money important to you?

Yes it is. Money is relative, you have to have enough of it to be secure, but it’s not a preoccupation of mine. After what happened to me in 2008, you put stuff in perspective. We have lived in a small space for the past four years with a 20ft container in storage holding all our possessions, but what I have learned is that we can be exceptionally comfortable on very little. That’s a real life lesson for both of us.

How much money do you have on you now?

I have €65. As I said, I am cash over card any day, every day.