x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Focus on the prize, watch it materialise

Today is the last day of UAE Saves Week, and boy has it been a fantstic few days. We trended on Twitter throughout the week, even occupying the No 1 spot for a stretch.

Illustration by Gary Clement for The National
Illustration by Gary Clement for The National
Today is the last day of UAE Saves Week, and boy has it been a fantastic few days. We trended on Twitter throughout the week, even occupying the No 1 spot for a stretch.
And what a relief it has been, because it shows me, beyond doubt, that we do care about our lives and are willing to change how we live if we can see how it can be a good thing for us. It also proves that we are willing to share personal information about money, finances and life, and seek support and encouragement, even if it's virtual.
I keep being told that people will not do this. That it's so very private and will always be under wraps. How wrong this turned out to be. Every day people have been posting pictures of their revelations, what they are doing to bring our daily themes to life, and how they are starting to control what they do with money, and therefore where they're headed with their lives.
This renews my faith in mankind - that we will stop, gather information, and take things on board, given a chance. And that we will bother to change - if what we see and hear makes sense to us.
And what I mean by "given a chance" is: if we are empowered and enabled to do so.
It's all about the "why should I care?" and "how do I do it?" being addressed. I find that, all too often, important and obvious money and life issues are put to us in such a scary, disabling way, that we switch off and ignore what we should and could be doing, because it's overwhelming and perhaps disturbing - thinking through our mortality and possible terrible things that can happen to us and our loved ones.
So what we've done is this: keep it simple, positive, and "can do". And in keeping with these basic principles, on our last day, we're asking you to pick one of the themes that have gone out over the six previous days, and for you to stick with it for a year. Hence today's title: Stick With It Saturday.
Taken in isolation, each day's theme, which can be found on my website, could be seen as a trifle boring, but in fact they are key. We all eat, wear clothes, use water and electricity and move around the city. In other words, there is money in our lives, and so when people lament and say that they cannot afford to save, I challenge that. Change the way you do things and you can save some money. It might not be a lot, but it's a start. And it's not just about saving money, the more important thing is for us to change our behaviour with money and attitude towards spend, need and want.
It really boils down to what's more important to you - and one thing that has struck me throughout this year's campaign is that our ambassadors, chosen because they embody the ethos of the day's theme, are mostly entrepreneurs. Successful people who scraped by at the start of their journey, because their dream and ambition was very important to them, and so they lived the cashy way - they made every penny count, they lived well within their means, and they didn't go out socialising for the longest time. They had more important things to aim for in their lives and were willing to wait and have fun later. Their fun was being in control of life and their destiny. And you can do this too.
You can read each ambassador's inspirational story on the website, whether it's Hazel Jackson who founded the biz group: she started out with US$700, had to envelope budget for what must have seemed like an eternity, and has built up an immensely successful business employing and empowering 43 people, or Donna Benton who invented The Entertainer, has created jobs for 70-plus people and is expanding globally as you read, to mention just a couple.
Are you really willing to make changes to your life to achieve certain goals? Because guess what, you can. But will you? Is it important enough to you? That's the question.
So really, when I ask you to think about packing your lunch every Monday, and for you to squirrel away what you'd normally spend on sustenance during the day in a separate money jar or account, or that you save your Sunday's wage for 52 weeks, I'm actually asking you to think through what you want from life, and to make little changes that will take you closer to that goal.
The point is to take a simple pledge that doesn't overwhelm and disable you - write it down, take a photo and upload it to our gallery. Seeing it there will give you renewed conviction to stick with it, as well as inspire others to do the same. And while you're at it, why don't you write down what you're saving for, and post that photo on the gallery too, and stick it up on your fridge as well.
Seeing what you're working towards makes it more real somehow. I could even go as far as saying that this is perhaps the missing link in terms of changing our behaviour when it comes to saving money. We need to be emotionally connected with where we're headed, and have reminders of why it's important. Simple, but vital to making pledges a reality.
I'd like to end with a big thank you to everyone who took part. The UAE Saves Week is a grassroots practical initiative that focuses on sharing information and ideas, and builds upon the reach and workings of social media. It's all about empowering ourselves and each other. Long may that last.
Nima Abu Wardeh is the founder of the personal finance website www.cashy.me. You can contact her at nima@cashy.me