Saturday 14 December 2019

My money: 'I pretend I'm very spiritual - but don't take away my phone!'


Michael Harding
Michael Harding

Michael Harding is an Irish playwright and novelist. Originally from Cavan, Harding is currently living in Leitrim.

He has published several novels, including Priest, The Trouble with Sarah Gullion and Bird in the Snow. His latest novel, Chest Pain, was published in autumn 2019. In this novel, he reflects on his life before and after a serious illness.

For more details on his latest book, visit

What's the most important lesson about money which your career has taught you?

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To read the small print in documents, to keep your money in a jar under the sink and to spend your money one penny at a time.

The best advice you ever got about money?

If you mind the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves.

What's the most expensive thing about being a parent?

Education. For four or five years, you have to fund your children's living accommodation in a city, give them a weekly stipend and then pay the fees. The cost is enormous.

What's your favourite Irish coin or note?

I loved the Irish coins with the animals. The hen and the rabbit and the fish. The fish was the one I liked most. I forget what coin it was on. My favourite thing about today's coins and notes is the fact that I can use them in Warsaw or Tenerife.

What's the most expensive country you ever visited?

England. I think London is expensive, although I rarely go there now. The sterling coins are like toy money and very small, so that you don't notice what you're spending.

Apart from property, what's the most expensive thing you have ever bought?

I bought a camper van just recently. I sold a smaller camper I previously owned, and I sold a Skoda 181 - all to have the money for the new camper. The new camper cost me everything.

What was your worst job?

I worked as a telephone receptionist once and lasted about three hours. I got it through an agency when I was doing holiday work in London, and I was replacing a girl who had been drunk and told the CEO he looked like Noddy. So she was thrown out and I was landed in, an hour later.

The other person on the switchboard was her friend and wouldn't tell me how the switchboard worked. I had been bluffing to get the job so I was stuck. I lasted until lunchtime.

What was your biggest financial mistake?

Investing in Eircom shares.

What was your best financial killing?

My best investment was and is always education. What you spend on the children [for education] is worth every penny.

Are you better off than your parents?

Yes. They lived in an authoritarian Ireland. I live in a more relaxed Republic. Same injustices, but more chances to change things for the better.

Have you ever made an insurance claim?

I went up the back of another man's car. There wasn't much damage, but the insurance company paid through the nose.

What was the last thing you bought online?

A book from Amazon.

Would you buy Irish property now?

No. Our house is on an acre of land and surrounded by trees. That's enough for me.

Do you ever haggle?

Yes - my grandfather was a pig dealer. So it must be in the genes. Or else it's because I'm from Cavan and we always like a bargain.

Are you a materialistic person?

I pretend I'm very spiritual - but don't take away my phone!

What three things would you not be able to do without if you were tightening your belt?

Porridge. Fish. God.

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