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Terry Prone: ‘If I bought shares, my socialist father would turn in his grave’

Me & My Money: Terry Prone, chairwoman of The Communications Clinic

Terry Prone is a leading adviser on reputation management, crisis handling and speechwriting and chairwoman of The Communications Clinic PR group. Her memoir, Caution to the Wind (Orpen Press) is out now.

Are you a saver or a spender?

Instinctively, I’m more of a spender than a saver. On the other hand, I hate, hate, hate being in debt – even minor credit card debt.

Do you shop around for better value?

Never. I did it for a living, once as researcher/writer on the Gay Byrne Hour weekly shopping basket. The item allowed listeners to work out that, on 20 typical items, one supermarket chain was cheaper that week. Useful, but doing it yourself makes no sense – it’s not cost-effective.

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

I bought the first portable computer imported into Ireland. I think it was about IR£2,000. It was the size of a large suitcase and portable only if you were a weightlifter, but I could work from home. I felt like a techie superhero.

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

The Martello tower where I live. Purchase price and pulling it apart to restore it added up to millions but the daily pleasure of the views, touching the stone walls the invalided soldiers would have leant on two centuries ago...

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

Local. I loved the ritual of standing on the marked spaces outside and advancing in an orderly fashion. Of course, I bought stuff other than groceries online, but it wasn’t as much fun.

Do you haggle over prices?

Never. I was with my grandmother, who was from Westport, in Arnotts once when she was buying a coat. She asked the price and, when told it, said, “but what’s the price to me?” and got a reduction. That’s 60 years ago and, even today, I’m breaking out in a cold sweat at the memory of the mortification for a suburban Dublin teenager.

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

Covid didn’t change anything that I noticed in my spending patterns, but then I mostly have merciful amnesia about the pandemic.

Do you invest in shares?

Never have, never will. If I bought shares, my socialist father would turn in his grave.

Cash or card?

Card. It feels safer. If someone grabs my wallet, off with them. I can freeze the cards in it within minutes.

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

Eye surgery at the Wellington Clinic, where I had lenses inserted, and cataracts excised. I now have 20/20 vision, which I’ve never had in my life. Cost something like €1,500, but I’d have paid 10 times as much, willingly, for the life-changing outcome.

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

We kind of saved retrospectively for our first house. Our friend, Bunny Carr, persuaded his Bank of Ireland bank manager pal, Hugh Magowan, to give us a mortgage even though neither of us had a job. We had to live low on the hog for years to catch up.

Have you ever lost money?

Having stayed in the home of friends in Florida, I left an envelope of thank-you cash neatly between two books. Before the friends returned, Hurricane Ian’s storm surge swept away everything on the ground floor, including my envelope.

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

No. My mother used to dream the winner of the Grand National and when I was about seven, I remember the family winning big on a horse named Mr What. After that, she lost the ability.

Is money important to you?

No. I was married to the most generous man who ever lived. It left me with an abiding reluctance to be with mean or even “careful” people.

How much money do you have on you now?

Almost all my jackets have a 20 cent coin in the pocket since the Tesco courtesy desk girl told me they work for trolleys just as well as single euro coins. Add my jackets together and, in cash terms, I may be worth €1.60.

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