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My Money: Greg Jackson

What was your first job?

A milk round when I was 14. I earned £15 a week and spent the money on electronic components, which let me to do things such as turn my lights on and off from my computer.

Your best investment?

I discovered the coffee shop near my flat was going to be sold and become a kebab shop, so I bought it with a partner. We trained the staff to make better coffee, improved customer service and extended opening hours so people could buy a coffee on the way to the Tube without queuing. That tripled the turnover. We had a lot of happy customers and I sold it a year later for a lot more than I paid.

What would be your money-no-object purchase?

A wing suit, but I’d need to learn to parachute and sky dive first. The videos of people jumping off mountains and soaring at incredible speeds are amazing.

What luxury won’t you give up?

I drink 12 lattes a day. I couldn’t give that up.

What’s been your biggest financial regret?

Getting a credit card as a student. Four years after I graduated I was skint and I was still paying off a Super Nintendo I’d bought years before. So for nine months I lived off pasta while I paid off my card. Then I cut it up and I’ve never had one since. The Nintendo should have cost £150, but ended up costing me £600. It was stupid.

But don’t they tell you to have a credit card for your credit rating?

Yes, they do, and it’s outrageous. Banks and credit card companies are big customers of the credit agencies who are the ones who say ‘get a credit card to improve your credit reading’. It’s outrageous to encourage people to use a dangerous debt product to improve their credit rating. I haven’t had a credit card for 20 years because you end up paying massive amounts of interest on small purchases. A lot of credit agencies are now going to use your rent payments as a way of improving your credit rating.

Are you a spender or a saver?

A spender. I make investments. I invested a six-figure sum to start Octopus Energy. I’ve invested most of my personal assets in it but, because I’m in control, I’m comfortable with that. We set it up three years ago and our mission is to bring people locally generated, low-cost green energy. Energy is like credit cards — most energy companies have a teaser introduction rate and then hike it. With us we start with a good-value tariff and it stays good value.

Do you consider yourself savvy with personal finances?

Yes. I spend ages working out the best value way to make a purchase. I’d owned my house for several years and phoned the energy company and said my bills seemed a bit high so they said ‘OK’ and put me on a lower tariff. The same thing happened the following year and they cut them again — and they expected me to be grateful about the deal they gave me. But I said no — why are you putting my bills up all the time? All the big energy companies use ‘tease and squeeze’ pricing. They’ll put you on an introductory tariff then put it up but disguise it by sending you complicated bills.

Your last impulse purchase?

I bought an Apple Watch because it has a great heart rate monitor. It’s also useful in meetings because I can see who is phoning me by looking at my watch rather than being rude and picking my phone up.

Cash or card?

Debit card and Apple Pay. I find it’s more difficult to keep track of cash.

Greg Jackson, 47, is founder of independent energy supplier Octopus Energy. He was a video games programmer before studying economics at Cambridge.