x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

At the moment, dirhams are fun

Money and me Catriona Mahmud is still a teenager, so says money is mainly about having fun.

Catriona Mahmud is young enough to see money as mostly about fun.
Catriona Mahmud is young enough to see money as mostly about fun.

I'm still a teenager, so money is mainly about having fun. But in a few years I think that will change. On the one hand, I want to value money. On the other, at 17 years old, I'm not yet at that stage in my life because most of what I need is bought for me. Money is less valuable at the moment; right now I'm happy enough to go into a restaurant like Yo Sushi and order some food without first adding up what it's going to cost. But I know that in the future, when I'm at university and have bills of my own to pay, that will change. I see how much money my parents have spent to raise me, so I do worry about having that much money one day, especially if I have a child of my own to look after.

I don't really get pocket money. What happens is my parents pay for my everyday needs, like clothes, and give me money for taxis and going out when I ask for it. My dad will give me around Dh100 if I ask him, and my mum, because I don't ask her that often, will give me Dh500, which is meant to last a month or two. Compared to my friends I think I get more than average, because I don't have to budget with an allowance that has to cover everything. Other friends whose families earn about the same as mine get around Dh500 per month.

I was born in London, but moved to Dubai 1997 when I was just five years old. My mother is English and my dad is Egyptian. They met at university and studied for years. They like to remind me that they have about eight degrees between them, especially when I got a C in my Science GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education). So I have a lot to live up to, and they push me to do well. During the summer holidays, my parents say that if I want money I should work for it, but during school term they'll give me a bit more if my grades are good. They don't just give me more for no reason - they want me to learn that you have to work hard for money.

I'll help out at my dad's office in Dubai, with filing and photocopying. It's not a "proper job", but I do it to earn some extra cash. It's quite hard for teens to earn money in Dubai because you have to be over 18 to work, so we tend to do jobs around the house or in our parents offices if they have one. My dad runs an architecture and design company called Tangram, with 12 offices around the world.

My mum and dad both come from working class backgrounds, so while their life wasn't exactly rags to riches, they do want me to grow up appreciating the value of money. The recession means dad works six or seven days a week now. He's working so hard. The recession hasn't affected us negatively apart from the fact that he has to work even harder than he did before. I was about 14 when I first started being given money to spend independently. It was around Dh200 per month, which I would spend mostly on going out with friends to the cinema and for meals. If I am eating out with a group of friends, we'll dine at places that each of us can afford. So we might go to fast food places or out for sushi depending on how much money we have. Sumo Sushi is still a favourite of mine, and I'll go there with friends around twice a month, which I think it quite a lot. But it's close to where I live and I love it.

My mum will take me for a big clothes shop around twice a year - winter and spring. I like that she comes with me because if she just gave me the money I'd either buy rubbish or come home with nothing. We shop in Dubai Mall, and there are a few shops where I tend to get all my clothes from: Forever 21, Mango, Top Shop. We'll spend between Dh1,000 and Dh3,000 a time, depending on whether it's spring or winter; winter is a bit cheaper usually because of the sales. I do tend to spend a lot more than I save. When I need something big, which isn't very often, I'll ask for it for my birthday or for Christmas. Last year was the first year that I asked for specific things for Christmas rather than surprise gifts. For example, I asked for GHD hair straighteners, which cost around £150 (Dh896), and I know mum got them in London when she was there recently.

The most expensive thing my mum bought me recently was my prom dress last year. It was from a special shop in Ras Al Khaimah that does one-offs, and it cost Dh1,100. She said I can't have a new prom dress this year so that is one thing I am saving up for - a new dress. Obviously you can't wear the same one two years in a row. When it comes to saving money, Christmas is the main thing I save up for. My brother and I have our own fund and put money in it during the year to save up for our parents Christmas presents. A few weeks before Christmas we'll open it up and see how much we have. It's usually around Dh1,000. We like to get our parents nice things because they spoil us during the year. My dad likes nice things, so last year we got him a tie from Dolce and Gabbana, and we bought mum beauty products.

I have a long-abandoned savings account in the UK. My parents opened it for me years ago and put about £30 in it. I haven't put anything in it so it's earned about £10 in interest since then. I have a debit card for it but never use it because I've forgotten the pin code. I don't have an account here, but I think I will use that account when I go to study in the UK after I have finished my A Levels in Dubai.

Although nothing has been decided yet, I think I will end up studying abroad because unless you want to do something industrial or architecture, there aren't many options here. I want to do English literature, I think. It will be a three or four year course so I think that is when I will finally start having to pay my own bills and manage my finances properly. I imagine my parents will support me in my first year, but that I will have to get some kind of part-time job in my second year onwards. We have a house in England so maybe I'll stay there, but it's still a ways off.

I think I'll be able to manage my money when I'm older. I've done a GCSE in business and we spent a whole term just on finances. I hope once I start having to pay bills I will be OK, but at the moment I don't have those, so I don't need to worry too much about money just yet. * As told to Jola Chudy