It was March 10, 2020 – two days before the shocking announcement by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar of the closure of schools and colleges in a bid to fight the coronavirus. Musician Mundy was flying to Canada that day for a concert in Toronto this weekend – as well as a cross-Canada tour with artist Irish Mythen that month.
I went there with a maximum of credit card – I was quite broke as January and February are always very quiet [workwise]Mundy said. “As I was flying over I said to myself that I shouldn’t go – because we could feel the storm [the Covid-19 crisis] it was on the way. My first gig was at the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto on March 12th – this gig took place. Then the tour with Irish Mythen was canceled and I finally got a return flight on St. Patrick’s Day.
Days after Mundy’s return home, Ireland would experience its first and possibly toughest Covid-19 lockdown – with non-essential workers ordered to work from home, gigs and gigs canceled, people over 70 years invited to Cocoon, many businesses (including pubs and restaurants) closed, a 2 km travel limit for exercise, and parents of school-going children facing months of home schooling.
Ireland has entered and exited Covid lockdowns since the first restrictions struck in mid-March 2020 – although the worst of the pandemic is now hopefully behind us. It has taken its toll on people’s livelihoods and finances – here are some of the financial challenges faced and lessons learned by some well-known Irish personalities.
MUNDY: WASTE NOT WANT NOT & BACK TO BASICS
“The pandemic has hit me in a big way,” Mundy said. “I started 2020 hoping to have a better year than 2019. I was planning to pay off some debts. This does not happen.
The Offaly native said he would have been “goose” without the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP). “You still have to fill the fridge,” said Mundy, who lives in Dublin with his wife and two daughters. “I was on and off the PUP throughout the pandemic. There were pockets of time [when I made some money throughout Covid] but you only really catch up with each time a few pounds kick in. If that [pandemic] lasted another year and a half, I don’t know if I could do it mentally or financially.
The pandemic has forced Mundy to explore other ways to make money.
Last month, for example, he was busy selling “July” t-shirts – tops designed around his hit song. July. He released a new track, Dark long enough, last year – a song he describes as “a positive approach to existence”.
“I’m not on the PUP anymore,” Mundy said. “I think outside the box [how to make money] but you have to think really hard outside the box these days. It’s so difficult for everyone in music.
When asked if the pandemic had prompted him to change his approach to money, Mundy said, “Not that I’m extremely extravagant, but extravagance is definitely something I will think twice about. after Covid. You will now look at a tenderloin steak much differently. I like cooking. I don’t like to waste stuff. ‘I don’t want to waste’ is one of my mottos and I’ve always been that way – it’s something I grew up with – but it has become more relevant to Covid. It’s a homecoming. I try to survive on things that are not too expensive in terms of food and drink. The pandemic has also taught me that we all live by the seat of our pants. I don’t know of anyone who was prepared for Covid. “
MARIE COUGHLAN: CHANGES IN SPENDING HABITS
Although Covid – which sounded a knell for the gigs and gigs that so many musicians relied on – presented huge financial challenges for singer Mary Coughlan, she is grateful to the PUP.
“Have 350 € per week [from the PUP] was a lot easier to manage than the way I used to make money before the pandemic, ”said Coughlan – who participated in A woman’s heart, one of the best-selling Irish albums of all time. “Before the pandemic, you could have 12 weeks of concerts and then nothing for a few months, maybe a few concerts over the summer – and then you would depend on the few concerts coming up until Christmas.”
Coughlan from Galway has released a new album – Life stories – during the pandemic. She had to cut spending throughout Covid – and the pandemic taught her how much she had previously spent money on things she didn’t need.
“Before the pandemic, I used to go to Dundrum for groceries – I would buy things that I didn’t particularly need that would do me good for a minute,” Coughlan said. “I would go to Dunnes stores and buy cushion covers [that I didn’t need]. I stopped buying things like this because I haven’t spent any money – and I don’t think I’ll start spending like this again [when normality returns]. “
Coughlan found his mortgage to be a challenge throughout Covid. “I got a three month break on my mortgage and the bank then lowered my interest rate for three months after that,” Coughlan said.
When asked what her financial priorities would be once Covid is behind us, Coughlan – who lives on the mountain side of Little Sugar Loaf in Co Wicklow – said she would like to become more energy efficient.
“I have a well-insulated house, but it depends on a stove and oil for heat,” Coughlan said. “When work resumes [fully] and things to get back to normal, I would like to make myself more efficient in this regard. So when I can afford it, I would like to have a geothermal unit and good solar panels. I will become less dependent on bottled fuels. I would also like to spend some of my money on a sunny family vacation, where we are all together by the water.
MARIE O’ROURKE: ENJOY ANY LITTLE JOY IN A DAY
Mary O’Rourke, former TD and deputy chief of Fianna Fáil, said Covid taught her the value of the simple things in life. Shortly after resuming indoor meals last month, she went out for dinner with her family. “I had so much fun going out to eat with my family – it’s a simple thing that I would have casually seen before,” said O’Rourke. “The pandemic has taught me to take every little joy I get every day and not to plan too far in advance. It taught me to be more grateful for the simple things in life – and that the most important thing is to have your health.
Like many people, O’Rourke spent less money on the pandemic. “Before the pandemic, I had been on a lot of public outings because people invited me to speak at events – so I always bought jackets and clothes, etc.,” O’Rourke said. “When the pandemic happened, all public events stopped and I didn’t spend a lot because I wasn’t going out in public anymore. I bought a lot of books while in lockdown. I don’t know how people my age got through confinement without having a great interest in reading. “
As a person in the early 1980s, the pandemic was an anxious time. “I was so worried about having Covid – because at my age I would have a good chance of dying if I had it. I’ve only gotten over that horror and fear now, but it made me more careful about things. “