x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Howe to save more money in the UAE

Money & Me: the fitness Instructor and life coach Candice Howe says one of the best decisions that her husband and she made when starting a business was to pay themselves a salary, no matter how small.

Candice Howe and her husband decided in 2009 to start their own business. Antonie Robertson / The National
Candice Howe and her husband decided in 2009 to start their own business. Antonie Robertson / The National

Candice Howe is the owner and manager of LifeSpark – a health and wellness company using the Crossfit programme of fitness – which she set up with her husband in 2009. The Briton, 29, had lived in the UAE as a child and returned in 2008.

Describe your financial journey so far.

Since arriving in Dubai, my financial journey has been interesting and somewhat unusual. I arrived with a fresh degree, student loan and no savings to speak of. My husband, Ben, got a great job, earning good money, and we were lucky enough to have family here, so our cost of living was very low. We pool all our money and once I started working, despite a relatively low starting salary, our low cost of living meant we had a high disposable income. We took advantage of this, eating out a lot, spending impulsively and not saving much money. During our first year we made a lot of big-ticket purchases. We could have saved a lot of money over that period, however, a lot of our “big spends” were on things we still own and use – laptops, stand-up paddleboards, cars. In many ways we were establishing ourselves in Dubai. In 2009, the idea to start our own health and wellness business was born. Over 18 months, we focused our financial power on investing in courses, books and knowledge. This also meant leaving my regular job and becoming a commission-based personal trainer. The risk/reward nature of commission-based work made me much more focused on money.

Why did you decide to set up your own business?

When we finally took the plunge with what little savings we had, the response was mixed. Some people thought we were mad walking away from the security of a “proper” job. Others thought we were immensely brave. For us, we felt we had nothing to lose and everything to gain. We started our business on a shoestring and allowed it to grow organically. One of the best decisions we made – and avoiding a mistake that many small businesses make – was to always pay ourselves a salary. In the beginning this was a percentage of what the business made, but however small the amount was, we took a wage each month. As the business grew our salaries first became a fixed amount and over the course of the last three years have increased to a market standard level and developed to include housing and a few other benefits.

Are you a spender or saver?

Honestly a little bit of both. I go through periods of high spending, like Christmas, and also high saving, usually after big spends, so all in all I would say I am pretty responsible. Over the last year, saving has become a bigger priority as we look to diversify our assets. 2013 was all about clearing our credit card debt and starting to save in a meaningful and consistent way. Our aim in 2014 is to diversify our financial portfolio, by investing in property and building up our savings.

Is money important to you?

I view money as a facilitator and a safety net. Once you have enough to maintain the lifestyle that you aspire to lead, I think it is important to place priority on saving and establishing assets of various types. It is very easy, especially in Dubai, to increase your cost of living with every salary increase.

If you won Dh1 million, what would you do with it?

We would probably be sensible and use most of the money as a deposit on a house. We would also go on adventure, probably in Central or South America.

What has been your biggest financial lesson? 

Budgeting. Luckily I have never miscalculated my money, however I am very aware that when you work out what expenses you have you can usually save a lot more than you think, while having to give very little up.

What do you enjoy spending money on?

Like any girl I like my clothes and shoes, but I am not excessive on that front. I enjoy investing in the home, creating a space that works for my family.