‘I wouldn’t like to start out on the property ladder again’

Me & My Money: ‘I put my energy now into running a successful business but also into my wellbeing’, says travel executive Mary McKenna

Mary McKenna is founder and chief executive of Tour America, and The Travel Suite. Tour America has won Deloitte’s Best Managed Company Award 13 times consecutively (touramerica.ie and thetravelsuite.ie).

Are you a saver or a spender?

I have always saved first and then spent. I lost my job when I was 22 and had no savings, so that was the best lesson I ever learned. As I went on in my career, whenever I got a raise, I pretended to myself it didn’t happen and I would save it.

Do you shop around for better value?

Like everyone, I love value but not at the cost of service. I do the research and I would pay a little bit more if there is a great service attached to it. I also try to support an Irish company, particularly if they are local.

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

In 1994, I bought a painting from a friend of mine who was a fellow hockey player, and also an artist. The painting cost me €250 at the time and it took me a year to pay it off. It’s the most beautiful painting and is placed in my front hall with immense pride.

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

My exercise weights and some gym equipment. I was in a car accident in 2004, and because of that I have a very bad back. I use my weights every second day – they were definitely the best investment in myself.

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

It was probably all local.

Do you haggle over prices?

Not really. I like to do my research on anything I buy, and I will pay a suitable price. Like most things in business, I like to know what I am buying into. If the quality and expectations are right, I will pay the appropriate price.

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

I didn’t spend much money during Covid. Like most people, I was trying to survive it all and keep my business going. It was a very tough time for anyone in the travel industry.

Do you invest in shares?

Very few, mostly for my pension.

Cash or card?

I carry no cash, and if I need it I borrow it from my 15-year-old son.

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

My Fitbit, and yes it’s great value, particularly from the perspectives of exercise and wellbeing. I have noticed significant improvements in my overall health and sleep quality from using it.

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

Yes. I love property, and I bought my first house at 23. The cost was £39,000 (€49,530) and I sold it five years later. I wouldn’t like to start out on the property ladder again, as it seems no matter what you save now it is virtually impossible to get a mortgage.

Have you ever lost money?

Yes, in property in 2008.

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

No, I am not a gambler. As an entrepreneur, however, I take calculated risks, but I do a good amount of research to back it up. Most areas in business are about taking risks and I think if you have the philosophy of always doing the right thing and being kind then it will stand to you.

Is money important to you?

It used to be but not now. I feel I have enough. I put my energy now into running a successful business but also into my wellbeing and ensuring that I can prioritise what is truly important to me. And that is time with my family and staying healthy, fit and mentally well.

How much money do you have on you now?

As of right now, nothing.

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