Gary Clement for The National
Gary Clement for The National

Diets and budgets - to thine own self be true

One of the great things about the dawning of a new year is that for a brief moment all things seem possible, which is why we make solemn resolutions that most of us will not be able to even remember, much less stick to faithfully, by the time spring rolls around.

The most common pledges have to do with making our waistlines thinner or our wallets fatter, but conjure images of a commitment to an ascetic lifestyle of bread and water, followed the next day by leftover bread and water, and so on and so on until we end up either skinny or rich. These quests are so joyless that it is little wonder so few of us cross the finish line.

There are certainly similarities to dieting and creating a lean budget, but the latter is actually a much more effective tool.

One thing they do share in common is that gimmicks do not work.

Numerous studies have shown that fad diets - only eat radishes in the morning, or drink six smoothies a day - do not work in the long run and usually only result in a small weight loss at the outset, which is quickly regained along with a few extra pounds. Some researchers argue that the evidence indicates people would have been better off not dieting at all because of the stress that gets put on the body.

There is an abundance of research that shows the most effective way to lose weight is to exercise more and eat generally in moderation, usually in smaller portions and with a few vegetables thrown in the mix. That's not to say it is easy - just that there is no previously undiscovered secret that will be revealed anytime soon to an obscure nutritionist with a publishing contract.

Similarly, for the financial-minded, it is unlikely that goals will be achieved through novel means, such as one that arrives in the form of an e-mail suggesting a new business opportunity.

The key to saving money is spending less than we earn. If we want to improve that ratio, we need to find ways to earn more or spend less.

Most resolutions focus on the latter, with too much focus on the sacrifice and not enough on the fun for my tastes. Many people sit down and create elaborate spreadsheets finding ways to carve a few dirhams here and there out of the budget through behavioural changes. "Drink coffee at home each morning instead of paying Dh15 for a cup at Starbucks or Gloria Jean's" or "bring lunch to work" are two common techniques.

Those are two admirable strategies and I hope to employ them on at least an occasional basis this year. But I also know myself fairly well after all these years, and I recognise that I'm unlikely to change my habits so drastically - good news for shareholders of Gloria Jean's and Subway.

What's easier for me, and for a lot of other people, is to make an extra effort to earn more money by working extra hours or taking on outside jobs that could bring in a few extra dirhams each month.

Further, it is easier for me to put in that extra effort if I know I will be rewarded with something fun. My wife and I are hoping to visit some friends in Tanzania later this year, so any extra money I can earn this year will be earmarked for that trip.

But that works for me because I make a steady monthly salary with a good handle on my income versus my expenses. When I worked as a freelancer for seven years, the biggest mistake I consistently made was not being realistic about what I could expect to collect each month.

My budget was always based on a best-case scenario that rarely materialised because of payments that were delayed and assignments that fell through.

Particularly for those who freelance or are paid largely through commission, the newest generation of budgeting software can be quite effective. But again, it does not work unless the user is realistic about what is coming in and going out.

Another trick I prefer to crunching numbers is to take advantage of automatic withdrawals. Our increasingly cashless society often works against well-intentioned savers because paying for goods and services only requires a swipe of the card rather than handing over paper currency. It does not seem real.

However, this technology can be turned in our favour.

Automatic bill-pay and transfers to investment accounts can overcome the common human impulse to delay expenditures or make purchases simply based on the current account balance.

Finally, I find that an annual or semi-annual audit of spending patterns produces more savings than depending on changes to your daily habits. A couple of years back, the US magazine Consumer Reports looked at the spending of average American families and found that each could save around US$500 (Dh1,835) by analysing six different areas for savings: car insurance, life insurance, bank fees, credit-card fees, internet and phone plans and grocery shopping.

This is not about sacrifice, but simple efficiency. A quick check of the bills at least once a year can easily produce a few hundred extra bucks, or enough to cover dinner at Hakkasan in Emirates Palace.

That's a diet I can get behind.


Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Company Profile

Company name: Namara
Started: June 2022
Founder: Mohammed Alnamara
Based: Dubai
Sector: Microfinance
Current number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Family offices

Tour de France Stage 16:

165km run from Le Puy-en-Velay to Romans-sur-Isère

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Company profile

Date started: January, 2014

Founders: Mike Dawson, Varuna Singh, and Benita Rowe

Based: Dubai

Sector: Education technology

Size: Five employees

Investment: $100,000 from the ExpoLive Innovation Grant programme in 2018 and an initial $30,000 pre-seed investment from the Turn8 Accelerator in 2014. Most of the projects are government funded.

Partners/incubators: Turn8 Accelerator; In5 Innovation Centre; Expo Live Innovation Impact Grant Programme; Dubai Future Accelerators; FHI 360; VSO and Consult and Coach for a Cause (C3)


Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5


Directors: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods

Stars: Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman

Rating: 2/5

Our legal consultants

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

'Falling for Christmas'

Director: Janeen Damian

Stars: Lindsay Lohan, Chord Overstreet, Jack Wagner, Aliana Lohan

Rating: 1/5

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Our legal consultants

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.


Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside


Draw for Presidents Cup fourball matches on Thursday (Internationals first mention). All times UAE:

02.32am (Thursday): Marc Leishman/Joaquin Niemann v Tiger Woods/Justin Thomas
02.47am (Thursday): Adam Hadwin/Im Sung-jae v Xander Schauffele/Patrick Cantlay
03.02am (Thursday): Adam Scott/An Byeong-hun v Bryson DeChambeau/Tony Finau
03.17am (Thursday): Hideki Matsuyama/CT Pan v Webb Simpson/Patrick Reed
03.32am (Thursday): Abraham Ancer/Louis Oosthuizen v Dustin Johnson/Gary Woodland

The specs

Engine: four-litre V6 and 3.5-litre V6 twin-turbo

Transmission: six-speed and 10-speed

Power: 271 and 409 horsepower

Torque: 385 and 650Nm

Price: from Dh229,900 to Dh355,000


All kick-off times 10.45pm UAE (+4 GMT) unless stated

Sevilla v Maribor
Spartak Moscow v Liverpool
Manchester City v Shakhtar Donetsk
Napoli v Feyenoord
Besiktas v RB Leipzig
Monaco v Porto
Apoel Nicosia v Tottenham Hotspur
Borussia Dortmund v Real Madrid

Basel v Benfica
CSKA Moscow Manchester United
Paris Saint-Germain v Bayern Munich
Anderlecht v Celtic
Qarabag v Roma (8pm)
Atletico Madrid v Chelsea
Juventus v Olympiakos
Sporting Lisbon v Barcelona

UAE athletes heading to Paris 2024

Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, Abdullah Al Marri, Omar Al Marzooqi, Salem Al Suwaidi, and Ali Al Karbi (four to be selected).

Men: Narmandakh Bayanmunkh (66kg), Nugzari Tatalashvili (81kg), Aram Grigorian (90kg), Dzhafar Kostoev (100kg), Magomedomar Magomedomarov (+100kg); women's Khorloodoi Bishrelt (52kg).

Safia Al Sayegh (women's road race).

Men: Yousef Rashid Al Matroushi (100m freestyle); women: Maha Abdullah Al Shehi (200m freestyle).

Maryam Mohammed Al Farsi (women's 100 metres).

Our legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

The specs: 2018 Nissan Patrol Nismo

Price: base / as tested: Dh382,000

Engine: 5.6-litre V8

Gearbox: Seven-speed automatic

Power: 428hp @ 5,800rpm

Torque: 560Nm @ 3,600rpm

Fuel economy, combined: 12.7L / 100km

The biog:

Favourite book: The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma

Pet Peeve: Racism 

Proudest moment: Graduating from Sorbonne 

What puts her off: Dishonesty in all its forms

Happiest period in her life: The beginning of her 30s

Favourite movie: "I have two. The Pursuit of Happiness and Homeless to Harvard"

Role model: Everyone. A child can be my role model 

Slogan: The queen of peace, love and positive energy

Five famous companies founded by teens

There are numerous success stories of teen businesses that were created in college dorm rooms and other modest circumstances. Below are some of the most recognisable names in the industry:

  1. Facebook: Mark Zuckerberg and his friends started Facebook when he was a 19-year-old Harvard undergraduate. 
  2. Dell: When Michael Dell was an undergraduate student at Texas University in 1984, he started upgrading computers for profit. He starting working full-time on his business when he was 19. Eventually, his company became the Dell Computer Corporation and then Dell Inc. 
  3. Subway: Fred DeLuca opened the first Subway restaurant when he was 17. In 1965, Mr DeLuca needed extra money for college, so he decided to open his own business. Peter Buck, a family friend, lent him $1,000 and together, they opened Pete’s Super Submarines. A few years later, the company was rebranded and called Subway. 
  4. Mashable: In 2005, Pete Cashmore created Mashable in Scotland when he was a teenager. The site was then a technology blog. Over the next few decades, Mr Cashmore has turned Mashable into a global media company.
  5. Oculus VR: Palmer Luckey founded Oculus VR in June 2012, when he was 19. In August that year, Oculus launched its Kickstarter campaign and raised more than $1 million in three days. Facebook bought Oculus for $2 billion two years later.

Manchester City 2 (Mahrez 04', Ake 84')

Leicester City 5 (Vardy 37' pen, 54', 58' pen, Maddison 77', Tielemans 88' pen)

Man of the match: Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)

Stamp duty timeline

December 2014: Former UK chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne reforms stamp duty land tax (SDLT), replacing the slab system with a blended rate scheme, with the top rate increasing to 12 per cent from 10 per cent:

Up to £125,000 – 0%; £125,000 to £250,000 – 2%; £250,000 to £925,000 – 5%; £925,000 to £1.5m: 10%; More than £1.5m – 12%

April 2016: New 3% surcharge applied to any buy-to-let properties or additional homes purchased.

July 2020: Chancellor Rishi Sunak unveils SDLT holiday, with no tax to pay on the first £500,000, with buyers saving up to £15,000.

March 2021: Mr Sunak extends the SDLT holiday at his March 3 budget until the end of June.

April 2021: 2% SDLT surcharge added to property transactions made by overseas buyers.

June 2021: SDLT holiday on transactions up to £500,000 expires on June 30.

July 2021: Tax break on transactions between £125,000 to £250,000 starts on July 1 and runs until September 30.

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