How to survive (gracefully) tough financial times

Including advice from the industry’s top players
By Lubna Hamdan
Tue 11 Jul 2017 02:08 PM

Prices are skyrocketing, debt is growing and layoffs are mounting. Meanwhile, everyone from employee to employer is trying to keep their head above water. Payment deadlines and demanding costs do not help, further adding to the rollercoaster effect, leaving UAE residents feeling stressed. But what do you do on a rollercoaster ride? You hold tight and try to enjoy the ride. While you may not find much fun in this adventure, you can try to make it as painless as possible.

Here are 8 tips on how to survive gracefully tough financial times, including advice from some of the industry’s biggest players.

1. Distinguish wants versus needs – then be brutal

You’d be surprised how many things we spend on that we don’t actually need. When it comes to nonessentials, extras and indulgences, experts advise on being “brutal” in your decision-making process. For example, are you fully using your mobile phone package or are you paying too much for data that you don’t need? It’s a given to cut expenses when the economy is not doing well, but few realise the power of small changes. Another example is if you spend too much on your car’s maintenance, it might be time to sell and opt for a more affordable option.

2. Revise your finances

Even the biggest players are reviewing their finances. Patrick Chalhoub, co-chief executive of retail giant Chalhoub Group, told Arabian Business in April he is reshuffling the firm’s business model to become more productive and optimise costs. “Stupid things like our credit cards; we were paying a rate of 1.3 percent. Today, by challenging our bankers, we are paying 0.3 percent,” he said. On a smaller scale, you can keep a list of your expenses and look for ways to reduce payments or eliminate them altogether.

3. Set up a personal emergency fund

Instead of leaning towards credit cards when you’re faced with unexpected bills, keep an emergency fund that you can turn to in times of dire need. Make sure it’s personal and not for business purposes. You might find you don’t have enough cash for a medical bill or school payment. One way to save for the fund is to shave off automatically a percentage of your salary every month. Set it up electronically so you’re less tempted to back down. Add any bonus or raise towards the fund to grow it faster.

4. Make yourself visible and indispensable

If you’re an employee, make sure you safeguard your job by staying eager, dedicated and passionate. Keep a high profile so others feel you are indispensable. While everyone is replaceable, some are harder to substitute. If you’re a business owner or are looking for a new opportunity, find time to network. You never know who you might meet and what role they might end up playing in your career. Additionally, update your professional profiles regularly. Check out top tips from LinkedIn, on how to improve your profile here.

5. Always be alert and on the lookout

And that includes looking for new opportunities as well as advancements in and outside of your current position. Even if you’re satisfied with your current job, it helps to know where you stand in the market and what your options are. If you’re a top executive or a business owner, it is vital to remain at the top of your game. The chief executive of Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, for example, launched a 2017 transformation plan comprising 45 initiatives aimed at adapting the firm to new market challenges. “I want to be ready. I don’t want to miss opportunities,” he told Arabian Business in a recent interview.

6. Confide in a close friend

Be it a close family member or a friend, confide in someone you trust to help release any negative thoughts and frustration that builds up during the course of the day. Choose someone who tends to have an optimistic view on things and who can offer helpful advice or, perhaps, just lend an ear to your troubles.

7. Take a break every now and then

And we’re not talking about a vacation, though those do help. It’s important to take a break from the stress you go through when surviving a financial rut. One thing that could help is developing a hobby you’re passionate about, preferably, one that doesn’t cost much. For example, instead of taking a dance class, learn salsa on YouTube. In this digital age, everything and almost anything can be learned online. Rizwan Sajan, founder and chairman of the Danube Group, starts his morning with a short swim to prepare himself for a busy day in the office, where he fights to maintain record turnovers of $1.4bn per year.

8. Trust that everything will be okay

Things might not turn out as good or as bad as you expected, but having a positive attitude can make it easier to deal with whatever outcome you may come across. Recall difficult situations that you managed to pull through and remind yourself that you are capable of just about anything.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.