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‘After Eircom I decided I should stay away from things I know nothing about’

Me & My Money: Rachael English, broadcaster and author

Rachael English is a presenter on RTÉ Radio One’s Morning Ireland. Her latest book, Whatever Happened to Birdy Troy?, is published by Hachette Books Ireland.

Are you a saver or a spender?

A bit of both. A few years ago, I switched to working part time in RTÉ so I could have more time to write. The trouble with writing is that the income is highly unpredictable. A respectable year with decent royalties might be followed by a really dismal one. That makes it harder to save.

Do you shop around for better value?

I would like to think I do, but when I’m busy, shopping around falls by the wayside. I also find that the price gap between shops has narrowed.

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

When I started presenting radio programmes full-time, I spent several thousand euro getting my teeth fixed. The ones at the front were fairly crooked, so I needed an assortment of crowns and bridges. It was an extravagance because I didn’t need to get it done, but I’m very glad that I did.


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

Gosh, that’s a difficult one. I think my best investment was actually made by my parents. I went to college in DCU in the 1980s when third-level education was relatively expensive. Investment in a college education is invaluable. In my case, it introduced me to working in radio, something I wouldn’t have considered possible. It also introduced me to lots of great people.

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

Mostly local. I’ve never bought groceries online and during the lockdowns, going to the supermarket was almost as good as a day out. I did buy clothes online, but I can’t ever imagine abandoning real shops. I like the old-fashioned bricks-and-mortar experience.

Do you haggle over prices?

No. I’m a terrible haggler. It makes me feel slightly embarrassed. I would also make a very poor salesperson.

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

Obviously, for a time it was almost impossible to go out, so I found I spent less. That quickly changed when life began to return to normal again. I also became more conscious of shopping local. That said, I’ve noticed I now buy and listen to more audiobooks.

Do you invest in shares?

The only shares I ever bought were Eircom and we all know what happened there. After that, I decided I should probably stay away from things I know nothing about.

Cash or card?

I swore I’d try to stick with cash but increasingly shops don’t seem to want it. This means that when I do need coins, I’ve nothing to give. Several times recently, I’ve reached into my pocket to give money to a charity or a busker and found nothing there.

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

A heavy winter coat. I walk a lot and over the past few weeks, the coat has proven its worth.

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

Like many people, I saved to buy a house. I never thought I’d see the day where having a mortgage would be a privilege, but that’s where we are. I also remember the joy of saving for my first big holiday. I’d been working for a couple of years and, along with two friends, I went to Kenya. Money was tight, so we flew with Aeroflot via Moscow, Cyprus and Yemen.

Have you ever lost money?

Apart from the Eircom shares, no. I’ve never made any fancy or complicated investments.

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

Very occasionally I might back a horse, usually in the Grand National or one of the big races at Cheltenham. My dad and most of his family follow racing, and he always cautioned against throwing money at something you know nothing about. I think online betting has changed everything and made gambling far more dangerous.

Is money important to you?

It’s never been my main motivating force, and I know that I’m fortunate to have two jobs that I love – broadcasting and writing. At the same time, I’ve found that people who say money doesn’t matter tend to be those who’ve never known what it’s like to go without. Having enough money gives you freedom, and that’s important.

How much money do you have on you now?

A debit card and €8.50.

In conversation with Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

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