Escape To The Country’s Jules Hudson’s cash hit by Covid-19

TV presenter Jules Hudson says the coronavirus outbreak has had a ‘devastating’ impact on his finances – and he would like the Chancellor to do more to help self-employed media workers like him. 

Hudson, 50, who has had to stop filming BBC One’s Escape To The Country due to the lockdown, also reveals that he once lost £1,600 to a scammer on eBay and for a hobby collects military weapons. 

From his 16th Century farmhouse in Herefordshire, he spoke via phone. His latest book, The Escape To The Country Handbook, is out now. 

Appeal: Jules Hudson, who has called for more help for the self-employed, says 2012 was his best year financially because he had four TV programmes on air

How have you been affected by the coronavirus outbreak? 

It’s been financially devastating. I’ve lost a lot of expected income. My diary is absolutely empty. Normally, I’d now be filming Escape To The Country and I was planning to go on a tour to promote my latest book. 

But, of course, all that has been cancelled. This quarter, I’ve lost between £50,000 and £60,000 of anticipated income. The only upside has been spending more time with our five-year-old son Jack. He is a real little helper to me and my wife Tania.

What did your parents teach you about money? 

To be prudent with it. My parents are careful with money and I have tried to follow their example and not take too many risks. My dad was an engineer and my mum ran a bed and breakfast. I’d say we were comfortably off. 

They put me through boarding school, but we were by no means wealthy – we weren’t the sort of family who went to Spain every Easter and skied every winter. 

Have you ever struggled to make ends meet? 

Yes I have, absolutely. When I first started out in TV in 1996, I was a runner – a general dogsbody. I think I got something like £120 a week. To keep my living expenses down, I lived on my dad’s old wooden boat. In those days you could park a boat in St Katharine Docks in London for £50 a week. 

I was in among all these super-duper yachts while living on Fray Bentos pies out of tins. I lived like that for more than two years. But it didn’t feel like a great hardship. It felt like an adventure. 

I was 26 by then and was quite used to roughing it because I had been in the Army. I came out because the regiment I was going to join after Sandhurst got chopped in some defence cuts. 

A friend of mine, Dan Rivers – who is now an ITV news reporter – told me about the wonderful world of media. I thought it sounded really exciting. And that’s how my career came about.

Have you ever been paid silly money?

Yes. I can command quite good sums of money hosting corporate gigs. There have been occasions where I have earned a week’s wages in an afternoon. They’re good fun and I’d love to do more of them. 

What was the best year of your financial life? 

It was 2012. I was presenting Escape To The Country, Cash In The Attic and Britain’s Empty Homes for BBC daytime – plus a series called Dig 1940. There were days when I was on TV three times on three different programmes. 

I would rather not say exactly how much I earned but it was a low six-figure sum. I’m one of those people – and I get this from my parents – who is happier the longer and harder I’m working. Don’t get me wrong, I love to switch off and relax – but I do also love going to work. 

I think that’s what makes this time so frustrating for so many people. It isn’t just the lack of income, it’s the fact that we are missing the people we work with and the intellectual challenge of what we do. I think, in general, work helps to define us.

What is the most expensive thing you bought for fun? 

I’ve always loved Land Rovers so last year, when I thought I had enough money, I bought our son Jack his own ‘mini’ Land Rover for Christmas. It cost £2,500 from a company called Toylander. 

He drives it every day to get firewood and terrorises our two labradors with it. 

What is your biggest money mistake? 

I once bought a quad bike for £1,600 on eBay thinking it was too good to be true – and it was. I was ripped off by a scammer in Spain. I transferred the money directly into his account and learnt a hard lesson. That bike never existed.

The best money decision you have made? 

Buying my first house in Wales for £29,500 in 1997 when I was 27. It was in Llanddewi-Brefi, a small village in the countryside and dates back to about 1800. 

It was a total wreck, I rebuilt it from scratch with the help of a redevelopment grant. I sold it eight years ago for £250,000. As well as being a brilliant financial investment, it helped me get my job on Escape To The Country.

The head of daytime BBC knew about it and suggested I would be the perfect person to get involved with the programme. So it laid the foundations not just of my love affair with property, but also my career. 

Do you save into a pension? 

No. I have never worked for anybody who’s ever provided a contributory pension so I was never incentivised to do it. Plus, both my parents invested in pension schemes which went bust and they lost their money. Having grown up with that, I have always favoured bricks and mortar.

Do you invest directly in the stock market? 

I have money invested in stocks and shares Isas, but I have opted for simple investment funds that track the stock market. 

I’d love to be one of those people who could analyse the peaks and troughs of the stock market coming and make a fortune. Sadly, I’m not. My investments are probably on the floor right now. I daren’t look. 

Do you own any property? 

Yes, my home on the Herefordshire border. It’s a late 16th Century timber-framed farmhouse with five bedrooms. We bought it in 2012 for £600,000 and we have spent about £100,000 on it. 

I would estimate it has gone up in value by at least £100,000 since 2012, but it’s our forever home, so we’re not too bothered if we spend a bit more on it than we think it is worth. 

What is the one little luxury you treat yourself to? 

 Deactivated war weapons. I have a 1910 Maxim machine gun in my hallway and a whole collection of other British and American militaria, including a Sten gun. 

I’m a keen military history buff and I add to my collection every couple of years. What I find interesting is the emotional story behind each weapon and the person who carried it – I wonder about what they were thinking, what they saw and witnessed. 

The weapons are not worth a fortune, but they don’t go down in value and as objects they are great talking points at dinner parties.

If you were Chancellor what is the first thing you would do? 

I would do more to help people who are self-employed like me and work in the media. Everybody thinks that just because you’re on TV, you’re worth a fortune and you earn a huge amount. That’s not the case. At the moment, my crew and everybody else is really struggling. 

What is your number one financial priority?

To get rid of the mortgage and have enough money to feel secure. We are not there yet, sadly.

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