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My money… Alexis Conran

ALEXIS CONRAN is an actor, writer and TV presenter, known for BBC Three show The Real Hustle and now presenting Shop Smart: Save Money on Channel 5.

What was your first job?

A paper round. I grew up in Greece and then me and my mum moved to Holland when I was 14. Most kids in Holland do a paper round at that age, and I did as well. I used the money to go out with my friends.

What has been your best investment?

All the money I spent when I first got into magic in 1998. I was an actor at the time and shared a dressing room with a magician, which opened my eyes to it. I wasn’t making much money as an actor, so spent all of it on magic books, learning to be a magician. It meant instead of working in a pub on Friday nights for £50 I could do card tricks for two hours and earn £350, so it was a huge return on investment. I was a table-hopping magician for five years.

What would be your money no object purchase?

A house on a Greek island. There are some really beautiful, secluded islands and the older I get the more drawn back to Greece I feel.

What luxury wouldn’t you give up?

Buying playing cards. I always have two packs of cards on me. I have 600 decks in my office. Most people will have had the same pack of cards for 40 years but when you practice sleight of hand every day you get through a pack a week. Now it’s become a collection. There’s a huge variation between back and face designs, and then I don’t use them because I want to keep them.

What’s been your biggest financial regret?

Not seeking out financial education when I was younger. I fell for the classic scam of taking out credit cards at an age when I didn’t know how to use them properly. Once you run up credit card debt it’s difficult to get yourself out of it. I’d move the balance from one card to another and it took over ten years before I got on top of it, just because I never had enough extra earnings to pay off large amounts of the balance. And when you’re self-employed you never know where your next pay cheque is coming from. No matter how well established you are, it can all end in six months. There can be a change in the business, a personal change. You have no financial security at any time.

Are you savvy with personal finances?

I’m getting better. I’ve stopped doing the bad stuff but I’m not that skilful at ‘making my money work for me’ yet. I read Yanis Varoufakis’s book Talking To My Daughter About The Economy, which was fascinating. No one educated me about finance — like most people, I understand very little about it.

What was your last impulse purchase?

A pair of bluetooth headphones. I didn’t need them but I had to get them at that moment. When I did my consumer phone-in show on Talk Radio we covered Black Friday. The amount of stuff people buy on those days, that they don’t need or want, is extraordinary. They get sucked in thinking ‘but it’s 75 per cent off.’ But it’s 75 per cent off something you didn’t want.

Cash or card?

I still use credit cards because there are some consumer guarantees you get with a credit card, but I pay it off every month. I still use cash. Sadly, we’ll probably see the demise of cash. We’ll get to a point where every transaction is monitored by an app, or a server, a huge invasion of privacy, but that’s the way it’s going.

Alexis Conran is a presenter on Shop Smart: Save Money on Channel 5