1. Pay yourself first
A simple yet brilliant strategy made famous by David Bach, paying yourself first allows even people on measly wages to secure their future, get out of debt and, yes, get rich. Give your bank standing instructions for an automatic withdrawal every month from your account into another savings account. Saving money automatically is a fail-proof way to get a nest egg going.
In times of political instability and volatile markets (as the first six months of 2012 are predicted to be), a balanced portfolio is your best bet. "Spread your investments across a wide range of assets to reduce risk," says Rupert Connor, financial advisor at Acuma Wealth Management. A balanced portfolio will have cash, equities, bonds, property and gold (a good hedge in a volatile market).
3. About the little things…
Financial advisers Candour Consultancy added up the costs of raising a family in the UAE - until children are 18 parents can expect to shell out up to Dh1.14 million, with about Dh400,000 spent on education, Dh300,000 on child care and Dh150,000 on toys and entertainment. In 2012, re-evaluate your focus. "Sort out your home, life assurance, pension and savings first before investing. It is just as important to protect and preserve your capital as it is to make it. If you have family, it is of utmost importance to protect your wealth should anything happen to you," says Connor.
4. Stay on track
The first step to growing richer is to spend less than you earn. Sounds simple, but fiscal discipline is a surprisingly tough act. Track your outgoings and income in a spreadsheet to spot the financial sinkholes in your lifestyle. Eliminate the ‘latte factor' - the daily indulgences that add up to a tidy sum at the end of a year. A daily latte adds up to Dh300 a month or Dh3,600 a year, enough for a luxury weekend break, or if invested at 5 per cent annually and considering inflation, would yield Dh260,000 after 30 years - wow!
5. Renegotiate your lease
In 2012 it's a tenant's market. Renegotiate your lease for reduced rent, pay by more cheques or even look to moving. You will save much more than the money spent on relocating. Consider moving closer to your workplace or a Metro station so you can use Dubai's cheap and efficient public transport system while cutting back on fuel and your carbon footprint.
6. Sell, don't throw
In the spirit of one man's trash being another man's treasure, start selling the stuff you don't need. Dubizzle, Souq, eBay, local flea markets and garage sales are great ways to boost your income. Decluttering has the added bonus of lowering storage and maintenance costs.
7. Ask for a raise
If you are in the still-growing retail, hospitality or manufacturing sectors, you are well placed to get a raise this year. "Be prepared with facts and numbers. State your past achievements, future goals and plans. Be realistic! And remember to talk about the value that you add to the business, as that is what gets paid easily," advises Mandeep Singh, director, strategic services at recruitment consultancy Grant Thornton. If you are changing jobs, Singh advises you let the employer take the lead in the salary negotiation tango. "Never state your expectations at the first go. Rather, ask the employer about their pay grades and ranges. Where does this role fit in their hierarchy? Be flexible yet clear about your worth. Ideally you should know the value of your skill set and experience in your industry - play around that number without going overboard. In a tough economy, job discussions can get derailed because of unjustified salary expectations."
8. Never pay full price again
You may have noticed the recent explosion of group-buying websites that have made life in the UAE full of bargains. Never mind the kooky prose in their deal-of-the-day emails, Groupon has netted us several great deals, as have Cobone, YallaBanana and Living Social. Voucher books from Gulf News (for subscribers only) and The Entertainer are packed with deals for a good time at reduced cost.
9. Plan for rainy days (And holidays)
Living in a land of endless sunshine, it may be hard to imagine saving for a rainy day. Setting aside a little something every month is the best insurance against unforeseen circumstances - a buffer to tide you over in case of illness, accidents or job loss. It doesn't have to be all about saving for bleak times either. One idea I have adopted is buying dollars with any cash left at the end of the month. It goes into my vacation kitty and will be a pleasant surprise when I open it in the summer (and should the dollar go up, that would be the cherry on top). Knowing that I could instead be putting money into an awesome holiday is also a great incentive to cut back on impulse purchases.
10. Play your cards well
When used sensibly, credit cards are a convenient way to track your expenses. Use them for fixed expenses such as petrol, groceries and paying utilities. Cards such as Carrefour's Najm not only save money, but also save time spent in checkout queues (don't forget, time is money!). If you tend to recklessly burn plastic on impulse buys, switch to debit cards instead.
11. Get rich, not greedy
Unlike what Gordon Gekko said, greed isn't good. Connor advises: "Make a simple plan outlining your goals and needs and stick to it. Only invest if you are prepared to see the value of your investments go down as well as up. If something offers you a much higher return than you can get elsewhere, there's risk involved. Ask yourself - are you prepared to take it? Understand the risk associated with the investment so that there are no surprises."
12. Go on a debt diet
If you can't afford it, don't buy it! If you are in debt, pay off the highest-interest loans first. Talk to your creditors. Banks such as Mashreq and HSBC have counsellors who can help restructure a debt so it's easier to manage. The American Credit Foundation, a non-profit organisation, outlines the steps to get out of debt: cut spending; make fixed payments.