x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Teenagers have got to shop

For this group, shopping for prudence is a fool's errand.

We gathered in the school canteen a few days ago, all desperately hungry but strapped for cash. There were five of us, and after emptying every pocket and Hello Kitty keyring wallet, all we got after pooling our assets was barely enough to buy a plate of hummus and pitta bread. Our resources depleted, we could only gaze longingly at the dazzling array of cakes and chocolate also available. That was when we decided that something had to be done. The answer, the economists among us declared, was "proper management of finances".

This grand plan involved spreadsheets and tables that took into account our weekly income, spending habits, savings and debts. We all stared at the piece of paper Jess had been drawing complicated figures and symbols on. And stared. After a few minutes, we realised this wasn't doing any good and that finance management was not our forte. Instead we should concentrate on just going home and demanding more money.

That was not a wise move. We have millions and billions of self-help/parental care books, waiting to trip us up. According to one particularly nasty-looking tome, 14 is the right age to educate bratty teens about good spending and saving habits. So having now passed this magical age, in my parent's eyes I am simply a grossly under-educated being who is still unable to look after her pocket money. I felt a lecture coming, so I left it at that.

It was time for Plan B. In this, my friends and I would analyse exactly where we spent our money and how much we owed our stingy benefactors, the next time we trotted out for a trip to the mall. Turned out, we weren't squandering away any hard-earned wealth at all, simply spending when it was absolutely necessary. To ensure that we are not hungry, we paid a visit to Pinkberry when the shopping bags got too heavy. Occasionally we would stop at a store, just to be sure that we weren't in danger of having to go about dressed in a tablecloth for the next couple of weeks.

A little splurge at New Look would do us no harm, we were sure. It's never wise to ignore your female intuition. At that point, my intuition was screaming at me to snap up those shoes that could easily pass for Louboutins. And of course, everybody knows that you can't concentrate on homework and the like unless you are in a peaceful environment, so a couple of pretty strawberry-scented candles were thrown in, being vital as they were for our wellbeing.

It was a shocking revelation when we found that the amount we had spent on a single trip to the mall was enough to buy us a month's worth of edibles from the school canteen. While we were battling the big bad world and just staying afloat out there, we only had to come to school to find that we hadn't a penny left. It didn't seem right. My parents, both of whom have degrees in finance, refused to understand our plight. "If you want more money to spend," they said very seriously, "then don't spend until you find something you do want to spend on." Which, as you'd expect from a pair of overqualified accountants, didn't make much sense. They were clearly under the impression that I use my weekly allowance of dirham notes to practise origami.

And then it struck. I had read a Warren Buffett quote in this newspaper that began, "By periodically investing in an index fund…" Well, the gist of it was that you could get very rich. I informed my fellow sufferers of my stroke of genius and we got to work looking though the business pages. The maximum amount of money any of us had, though, was a paltry Dh100. Jess told us all we had to diversify and buy a load of different stocks, but none of us had any idea how to go about diversifying. We all looked very intently at the graphs, not having the foggiest idea of what we were supposed to do with them, but optimistically believing we would scrape at least some profit if we hummed and hawed and nodded gravely at the phrase "Dow Jones" enough times.

It didn't work. The future looked bleak. Sighing and giving up, we set off for some retail therapy, diversifying our stocks with shoes, jewellery and clothes from at least 10 different stores - with borrowed money. At least that didn't fail to up our morale.

The writer is a 15-year-old student in Dubai.