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First person

Money moves

Fionnuala Jones on her relationship with money…

I have a very specific memory that summarises my relationship with money.


Growing up, I took a lot of trips with my dad to Carlow, where he grew up. My granny and grandad’s house was within walking distance of the Fairgreen Shopping Centre, where I spent many an afternoon stalking Roxy Music and World of Wonder at length. If it wasn’t albums I wanted, it was Bratz dolls. I had compiled a fairly decent collection of dolls up to this point, complete with their wardrobe of jeans and nice tops that were never to be found in real life. But there was always another girl to be bought.

World Of Wonder had a smaller selection of dolls, but that also meant you could happen upon that was less common. That day, I picked a doll – off the top of my head, I couldn’t tell you whether it ended up being a Jade or a Sasha. I handed over €40+ for whoever it was and continued my day of browsing. Two hours later, I went back to World of Wonder to return the doll, wracked with guilt over my purchase, my frivolous spending. I was seven, maybe eight years old.

I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t scared about running out of money. The day I was able to pay my own rent in Dublin was momentous, and yet also came with the plummeting fear that something dreadful could happen, resulting in me losing my job and being unable to cough up. I am the friend that collects stray pennies in the streets in the hopes that it will eventually lead me to a larger sum of money.

Most days, the fear is a motivator. I work very hard. I have a couple of streams of income. I rarely turn down a job, because what if it’s all gone tomorrow? What if I wake up and there’s been Harry Potter-esque hijinks in my current account overnight?

Let’s also be very clear here – if you hadn’t gleaned from the Bratz chat, I’m a woman who enjoys the finer things. I like to eat out. I enjoy getting nice presents for people. I may never buy anything that’s not on sale in fear that it will lead to the ruination of all things – but I will admire from a distance. How can I hate capitalism and love inanimate objects as much as I do?

Being made redundant twice in the space of three years added insult to injury. For a moment, I felt I could be free of the cycle – take some time off, regroup. My brain could not take that for more than a day. All I could visualise was my money disappearing down the drain.

With that said, the feeling of dread that follows my wallet around has allowed me to check in with my own privilege. There are two things about me that have meant I’ve always had a leg up when it comes to my finances – my race and my social status. Not to mention the fact that my parents were squirrelling away fallen money from birthday cards since I emerged from the womb.

It’s fear and shame, niggling and constant.

After my second redundancy, myself and my former colleagues went to Grogan’s to drown our sorrows and laugh at the obscene situation we’d found ourselves in. I ordered a pint and a toastie, before realising that the money I’d transferred from another account to afford such things had not yet hit my account. I sat there, silently screaming over the fact that I was going to have to ask my similarly work-challenged work mate for a lend of a tenner.

And that’s the thing – you always remember the moment when the walls almost caved in. You will occasionally remember how a tenner spent made you feel, be it on drink or McDonalds. But the despair can imprint. I look at threads on how Amazon founder Jeff Bezoz needs only to scratch his arse to earn another million or so. It’s unfathomable money – money that will never ever be in arms reach of 99 per cent of people on this planet. The things you could do, the stuff you could change, the expanse of possibilities is enough to make me want to take to the bed.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep refreshing my bank app to make sure the money’s still there and that it hasn’t been siphoned off under my nose in the three minutes since I last checked.