Living on a shoestring

We throw a strop over the meagre state of our finances

The Knowledge

Jog on, Abba. Not so long ago, and quite some time after the rest of the world, I suffered a rude financial awakening. In the past few weeks, I’ve felt comradeship with Greece, and even have the vaguest twinges of empathy with America. Almost.

It feels necessary to point out, before my bank manager steps in to relieve me of my credit card, that through no fault of my own I am considerably worse off than I have been since first entering full-time employment. And to my foot-stamping, arm-crossing, bottom-lip-poking frustration, it looks set to continue well into next year.

As a result, I have been (very) reluctantly forced to curtail my spending on the things I most enjoy, namely socialising, eating out and – much as it pains me to be a gigantic cliché – shopping. As far as I’m concerned, these pursuits are fundamental aspects of living in Dubai, and I’ve long since got over the fact they’re all wildly overpriced. If I wanted to spend my free time slobbing around on the sofa, shunning the outdoors and fearful of venturing out after dark, I’d still be living in London. Unfortunately, this is what I find myself growing ever more frequently reduced to. My fear of nightfall has less to do with knife-wielding 14-year-olds and more to do with the price of a glass of grape.

I wouldn’t mind curbing my spending if I had all kinds of grown-up commitments like mortgages, school fees and car loans, but I don’t – I’m an unattached 23-year-old with neither the capital nor business acumen to own property, no desire to have children, nor the need for a car in a country with more taxis than George Hamilton has had spray tans.

I’ve not yet started bulk-buying toilet rolls on special offer in Carrefour or picking out shampoo samples from the pages of (inferior) magazines, but I’ve had to drastically overhaul my carefree attitude to spending. Traditionally, I would have gone to the mall needing underwear, and after three hours wandering dreamily from shop to shop, left with armfuls of tops, sandals and earrings, but no lingerie in sight. And where I used to accept any invitation for a night out, I now have to weigh it up to see whether I’ll still be able to manage the taxi fare to work for the rest of the month.

If you’re feeling at all sorry for this spoiled brat by this point – which you probably aren’t – hold off on the violins for now, because recently I’ve discovered there are upsides to my enforced frugality. I’m forced to miss distinctly average nights out, and getting up in the morning is a breeze instead of a trauma. I’m always up for a morning before 7am, and I’m rediscovering the joys of home cooking, simply because I have to.

It means I’ve accidentally wound up in better shape than I have been for months. Now, if only I could afford to go out and show it off…

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