Today marks the debut of a new column in the Personal Finance section: Superwomen, by Janelle Malone. Janelle grew up on a farm in Australia, and in her writing on personal finance she combines that no-nonsense upbringing with a fondness for the finer things. Her column, in which a group of fictional friends sorts out their financial issues, will appear each Saturday.
Superwomen, listen and learn.
"It's time to embrace the art of more for less! Desire needn't come coupled with debt! Miracle financially-free days are on their way!" Sasha declared with lavish use of verbal exclamation marks.
"Well, you've inspired me," said Lucy, giving Sasha a mini-round of applause. She was perched on a chair at the end of Sasha's bed wearing her new designer spotted scarf and bright lipstick, and had just listened to her friend's new business spiel.
Sasha was launching a "Life Stylist" service, giving mothers much-needed makeovers and sassy style advice on a budget. "Empowering women to find their mojo without it costing the Earth"- that was Sasha's mission statement. She would look at her client's spending habits, identify areas where they could save and help them work out a budget that works. And it would all start in the wardrobe.
Saving not starving
"Where do I sign?" The two girls laughed. "You see, I get what Abby is trying to teach me with all this 'save first' talk, but when she starts on about it, all I want to do is spend. I feel starved immediately," Lucy said with a big sigh.
"I know what you mean," agreed Sasha. "You feel like you've been stripped of all your womanly joys when you can't go out and just grab that handbag because it's not in your budget that month."
"Absolutely!" said Lucy. "If only Abby knew - the mere thought of saving is actually sending me deeper and deeper into debt!"
More for less
"Listen, Lucy, I think it's all about perspective," said Sasha, "and my business is going to show you how to think more for less." Sasha is a self-taught designer. She knows she is stylish and has bundles of creative flair, but until recently she was painfully aware that she'd lost her way. Now, sharing her business idea with Lucy, she felt invigorated and on track again. She flung open her wardrobe doors. "It's all about uniforms that work."
Curb the cravings
Stella McCartney is always talking about her classic jacket - she's worn the same one to work for the last 10 years - with a white T-shirt, jeans and heels. This is her work uniform. "It's all about good quality, comfort, clean lines and great fabric," Sasha said. "Yeah," grumbled Lucy, "but she's Stella - a great designer and the ultimate of cool. I'm Lucy, the lovable spendthrift who can't keep her purse shut."
Sasha laughed. "Life has taught us to always want the newest things and you, my dear, are the expert. You spend your entire working day creating the craving to want more, but what if we had most of the answers already inside our wardrobes?"
"So what do you call this wonderful wardrobe secret then? Does it have a name?" asked Lucy. "Hmmm, I haven't really thought of one…" Sasha said. "Well, how about Closet Confidential?" Lucy suggested. It was perfect. Sasha whooped with joy and hugged her friend. "Fabulous!" she said.
"And I am going to be your first client! May I book you in to do my Closet Confidential next week? Lucy asked.
"No problem. But you'll have to do a few things for me, too," said Sasha, trying to contain her excitement. "I know you. I know women in general. We can all find fabulous combinations in our wardrobes, but we still need to spend money on new items or accessories to reinvent the old outfits and make them work." Lucy was nodding enthusiastically. "Now, this isn't that different to Abby's financial challenge. To buy these new items or accessories, we need to find extra change in our everyday spending. It's a simple skill - I've called it 'Charm Change', and it looks something like this …"
Definition of charm change
The essential change required for a stylish woman to be stylish. Spare cash can easily be saved by making a few small changes and then spent on a fabulous item for the wardrobe.
The penny drops
As Sasha went through her "charm change" list, Lucy realised that by making small tweaks to her spending habits, such as watching her lattes, she could save thousands of dirhams per month. She was ripping herself off - and nobody likes to get ripped off. Lucy got it. She really got it. Sasha's advice had hit home.
This month, Lucy was on a mission. She couldn't wait for her Closet Confidential session with Sasha.
Janelle Malone is a writer, blogger and commentator on personal finance. Contact her at www.womenmoneyandstyle.com.