Tim Connor and Francesca Armstrong both have a weakness for fancy designer shoes, with Fran owning hundreds including her favourite – Louboutins.
But aside from that, the highly successful entrepreneurs don’t live the Champagne lifestyle you’d probably expect them to.
The couple live in a nice three-bedroom townhouse in the leafy London suburb of Surbiton – a well-to-do set up in most people’s books but fairly modest in a millionaire’s. They rent because they don’t feel owning in the city is great value. And despite their handsome net personal worth of around £15m, they admit they “watch every penny” they spend.
For their weekly shop, the pair opt for Aldi and Lidl over Harrods and Selfridges, and Tim says he’s a stickler for negotiating over the bill in restaurants. They shop around for their energy bills, get their clothes mended and use coupons to get the best deals on their online purchases.
Tim says his frugal attitude stems from his upbringing – his wealthy parents made him pay for his own school PE kit – which he credits with his success in turning the business he started with nothing from his bedroom in 2008 into a £10m international operation.
And despite being busy running the Connoco Group, which employs more than 500 staff in nine countries working across the hospitality, ticket solutions and residential property sectors, Tim and Fran still make time to be careful with how they spend their hard-earned cash.
Tim told iNews: “It’s ingrained in me to be frugal and I think the more successful I’ve become, the more careful I’ve become. We will splash out on things we really want, like nice shoes, but we always think hard about whether we really need or really want something so we don’t just waste money.”
Shopping around and haggling
The couple do a lot of travelling for business – around 200 days a year – and tend to opt for economy flights rather than luxury first class travel, which brings the sort of benefits such as complimentary bubbly, gourmet dining, flat beds and duck down duvets.
“Whether we’re spending our own money, or billing a client for our travel costs, we will look for the best hotel deal,” said Tim, 30. “We’re always using sites such as Topcashback and Voucher Codes.
“We will make sure we go to a convenience shop to buy water because it’s often a rip off buying them in hotels.
“When we eat out I will look online for a voucher to get a half price meal or I always ring ahead and ask the restaurant to negotiate a discount or get a free drink thrown in. In the US, they nearly always say yes. We have a Taste Card discount card too.
“We’ll mend clothes when we can instead of chucking them and buying new ones. When we travel we will get our clothes and shoes mended in Asia where it’s much cheaper.
“I tend to get my tailor-made suits in India or Thailand where it costs half as much as an off-the-peg suit here in the UK. I love the sales and every year I’ll try to get bargains on Boxing Day.”
Fran, 29, looks after the couple’s day-to-day finances. She sits down with a spreadsheet and plans how they’ll stay within their budget. A keen cook, she will plan their meals for the week and make sure they use any leftovers.
“Because we travel a lot, we don’t want to come back to rotten food and we’ve found that Aldi and Lidl are the best for longer sell-by dates. I’ve always loved cooking and I hate waste so I’ll cook a batch of something and freeze it or freeze leftovers,” she said.
“I will use comparison websites to get the best deal on our bills and go for offers with cashback and M&S vouchers for instance.
“I’m also careful about not wasting money on every day treats such as coffee. I have one in the house before I go to work, otherwise you’ve spent a tenner in Starbucks before you’ve even started your day.”
Parents charged me interest as a child
Fran says she comes from a comfortable, but not wealthy, background which has shaped her approach to spending.
“My parents were both teachers and taught me the value of money,” she says. “We didn’t go on holiday every year but when we did we appreciated it more.”
Tim’s parents – who run a wine and food company – were intent on bringing him and his brother up to appreciate the value of money.
“I had to buy my own PE kit, and so I would wash cars to pay for things like that. My parents would provide the basics of we needed, for example value range shoes and told us that if we wanted the latest designer ones we had to earn the extra money for that ourselves.
“So as a schoolboy I started a sweet shop. My parents lent me the money to do it, but they charged me interest. They taught me that money costs money! I knew all about APRs, loans and credit cards at a young age.
“At the time I hated it but now I’m very grateful for the way I was brought up because it’s taught me the importance of working hard for what you want. And if Fran and I have children, I’d bring them up exactly the same.”
Fran agrees. “People do say to us why do you bother saving money when we can afford many things. But we still question why we need them first. A lot of people get caught up in buying material things to show off to others and that’s not what we’re about.”
Indeed, while Tim once owned a Porche and a Maserati, he now drives a BMW and a considerably less flashy Smart Car.
“We lease the cars, because I’m reluctant to buy because they mainly tend to depreciate,” he said.
“Sometimes we do without cars and take Ubers as it works out cheaper. “We rent our home in London, because that way means we can invest in rental properties up in the North where you get a better bang for your buck.
“When I spend money I always think about if it’s going to be an investment or a liability.”
This story first featured on our sister site iNews.