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‘When we first moved into our house, we ordered a custom-made bed for €4,800. Pure luxury’

Me & My Money: Margaret Barrett, managing director of Mortgage Navigators

Margaret Barrett: 'I was never a haggler until I met my husband, who will still haggle on a sale item in a store. I now get a guilty pleasure from even getting a few cents off a bill'

Margaret Barrett is a former mortgage manager with Bank of Ireland and now runs Mortgage Navigators, which has specific experience working with professional contractors and self-employed applicants.

Are you a saver or a spender?

I am probably more of a spender. Let’s just say a few bags have been hidden from my husband upon returning home! That said, I try to ensure an emergency pot of savings with a few thousand in it, which means I never borrow for holidays or the like. The kids’ education fund is building away nicely, as is the pension pot. So some done, more to do.

Do you shop around for better value?

I love a good sale rack, but even with utility bills I would always have a look at competitors before I renew. And nine out of 10 times I switch, as there is always a better deal for a new customer over an existing customer, which I don’t agree with.

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

When we first moved into our house, we ordered a custom-made bed for €4,800. Pure luxury.


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

The Ninja Air fryer. Why? Because now there’s no excuse for anyone to say, “I’m hungry, will you cook me something?”

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

I have never really liked shopping, and for quite some time I have always shopped online, from food to clothing. Maybe it’s from being a little time-poor but, unfortunately, my wardrobe features items that should have been tried on first before purchase. Or returned immediately, although I never made it to the post office.

Do you haggle over prices?

I was never a haggler until I met my husband, who will still haggle on a sale item in a store. I now get a guilty pleasure from even getting a few cents off a bill.

How did the Covid-19 crisis change your spending habits?

I spent more during Covid on food, and splurged on nicer things in the food shop, which have now become staples. We became beholden to Cadbury’s Purple Snacks, so it’s now a case of having tea with those rather than vice versa.

Do you invest in shares?

No, but I did invest a few hundred in Bitcoin. No surprise, wrong timing.

Cash or card?

Card every time. I have been known to borrow from the kids’ money boxes for small items such as birthday cards. I got caught short a couple of years back at the Ed Sheeran concert in Limerick when the card machines went down - there was a lot of haggling and Revolut transferring in the beverages line.

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

I had a quick stop at Kildare Village a while ago, intending to buy a frying pan. Instead, I bought a lovely beige trench coat that had nearly 50 per cent off. It is one of those investment pieces that I know I will have in five to 10 years, so definitely a bargain.

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

The one purchase that will stick with me forever was when I saved 90 per cent of my summer salary and with it bought my first car, a four-year-old 1997 blue Ford Fiesta with a sunroof. I honestly thought there was nothing better on the road, with the music blaring and the top 10 songs all recorded on a cassette tape.

Have you ever lost money?

Besides Bitcoin? Not really.

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

I love a scratch card now and then, but that’s as far as my gambling habits go. I have a Lotto syndicate going with some other moms. We keep saying that someday we will be millionaires but looking at the winnings of the past 10 years, I’d say that isn’t likely.

Is money important to you?

No. In some ways, I feel I have been very lucky. I have never been rich, but I have never wanted money for anything, I have always had just enough. I have the rainy day fund and I have made efforts to ensure we can retire reasonably comfortably. Other than this, I believe life is for living. You can’t take the money with you.

How much money do you have on you now?

Zero. If I had to find a couple of euros, I might find it on the car dashboard.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

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