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Generous Emiratis also need to save for those rainy days

We Emiratis live in the land of plenty, and just as we are surrounded by endless temptations that urge us to swipe our credit cards, and write those bank cheques, we are also blessed with numerous options to save money, says Manar Al Hinai.

Another month has passed and neither I nor my friends have won the monthly Dh1 million (US$272,500) draw from one of the leading UAE banks.

However, the thrill of waiting for the announcement of the winner's name at the beginning of every month is exciting enough. It is nice to see that many of the draw winners were Emiratis, which proves that they are saving more than they have in the past.

As Emiratis, we are not exactly the number one savers in the world. We are generous and love the finer things in life, which unfortunately drowns some of us in bank debt.

Many have blamed the personal loans offered by major banks that tempted some people to take out loans that they could not repay, resulting in them asking for charity from behind prison bars.

Luckily for us, we live in the land of plenty, and just as we are surrounded by endless temptations that urge us to swipe our credit cards, and write those bank cheques, we are also blessed with numerous options to save money.

These options became even more prominent after the 2008 global economic downturn that hit our local economy. But it was a great life lesson for young Emiratis to save and be prepared in case an economic crisis occurs again.

Over the past two years, many of my friends opened up savings accounts in different banks across the country.

Many of these offer to put the names of depositors into a monthly draw in exchange for depositing their money, with prizes ranging from Dh10,000 to Dh2m. The more money deposited, the more saving certificates issued and the higher the odds of winning.

It made sense to my friends who opened up saving accounts back then from an emotional point of view, despite the relatively long odds.

The global economic backdrop and UAE job market openings were heading nowhere but south, and they were tempted more than ever to save, as they anticipated a call from the bank at the beginning of every month.

What I really admired is that even after more than three years since the global financial crisis, some Emiratis did not give up on the idea of saving.

Just a few days back one of my friends headed towards an Emirati bank in Khalidiya Street, Abu Dhabi, to open up a new saving account.

She told me that she would not ask the bank to provide her with an ATM card or a debit card so that she does not spend what she had worked hard to save.

Other young Emiratis formed cooperatives with their friends to deposit Dh5,000 per month for a year, and every month a different person receives the whole amount deposited - another great idea to save for those who cannot stop themselves from spending.

Sukuk are perhaps the most popular option of many young Emiratis, with banks such as Al Hilal issuing $500m worth of Islamic bonds this year.

But the most impressive saving initiative I have come across so far was that from SaveUp.com, a free website launched last November in the United States.

Here's how it works: registered users securely link their existing accounts to the website.

None of the money is transferred to the site, but SaveUp is notified every time the user pays off a credit debt or a bank loan.

The more debt paid, the higher the reward credit is earned. And they are not just any rewards. There is a jackpot of $2m and also monthly prizes such as cars, electronics and exotic holidays.

I love the fact that the site encourages people to be more involved in their finances, and quickly pay off their debts. Who can argue with this kind of saving approach?

There are different approaches to the same solution - saving. You just need to find what motivates you best.

Manar Al Hinai is an Emirati fashion designer and writer. She can be followed on Twitter: @manar_alhinai

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