‘We are trying to be more aware of how we use our heating and electricity in the home’
Fiona Uyema is a cookbook author, a guest cook on Virgin Media One’s Ireland AM show, and is the founder of Fused by Fiona, a range of Asian-inspired cooking products. She runs the company with her husband Gilmar, whom she met while working and living in Japan.
After returning to Ireland, she worked as a tax consultant helping Japanese companies with a presence in Europe to manage their tax affairs, and then moved into the food industry. The 43-year-old lives with Gilmar and their two children in Kildare.
How do Irish attitudes and Japanese attitudes towards money differ?
The main difference I’ve noticed is that the Japanese tend to save and pay for things upfront. The Japanese traditionally follow the concept of Kakeibo, which translates to “household account book”.
It’s a practical method of saving money based on very careful and purposeful spending. With Kakeibo, you record all your financial habits in a budgeting journal so you can better analyse your own spending and saving habits.
What did the Covid-19 crisis teach you about money?
Always try to plan for the future and have an emergency fund, as you never know what’s around the corner.
Has your family been affected by the cost-of-living crisis?
Like all families across Ireland, we’ve been affected by higher everyday costs. However, we are trying to be more aware of how we use our heating and electricity at home.
Since Covid, we try to walk or cycle when we travel locally, and since we both work from a home office, we are fortunate to have low fuel costs.
We recently installed solar panels to avail of the GoGreen mortgage interest rate with AIB. This allowed us to reduce our monthly mortgage, and we also got a partial grant from the SEAI for the solar panels.
We estimate that we will have paid for the cost of the panels within 18 months based on the savings we get every month.
What is the most expensive place you’ve ever visited?
Rome! I just remember it being really hot and paying €5 for a small bottle of water on the street.
Do you use any of the digital banks?
I recently started using Revolut. I was a little late to this one, but my family and friends slagging me forced me to make the leap.
What was your biggest ever financial mistake?
To be honest, I’m quite conservative, so apart from overspending on clothing, I have nothing big to report.
Would you buy Irish property now?
Not right now. Prices are too high and interest rates are high. I’d love to buy a holiday home abroad.
Do you have a pension?
Yes. When I started working in the corporate world as a graduate, I remember my boss telling me that he was near retirement and he never thought it would come around so quickly. He encouraged me to start straight away, because then I’d never miss the money. Plus, my company also contributed, so it was a win-win.
Are you better off than your parents?
My parents are small sheep farmers, so probably!
If you won the Euromillions, what would you do with the money?
I would try to keep some normality in my life and still work. I love my job -- for me it’s not about the salary. It keeps me motivated and happy. I’d give all my family and friends a share of it, of course. I’d definitely buy a holiday home in Portugal. I’m currently studying Portuguese so I could live like a local.