United Arab Emirates -Dubai- Sept. 13, 2009:

BUSINESS: Pass International General Trading, L.L.C., owner Parvin Allen (cq-al), 50, of Sharjah, poses for her portrait at her office in Dubai on Sunday, Sept. 13, 2009. Allen runs a business importing vitamins from the United States to the UAE, Iran and Europe. "I'm not using my credit cards," said Allen of her financial managment. "That's the most important part because of the interests. When you have cash in hand, you're going to think twice about spending it." Amy Leang/The National
 *** Local Caption ***  amy_091309_parvinallen_03.jpg
Before the slowdown, Parvin Allen, 50, would routinely spend Dh700 to Dh800 on shopping sprees at the Virgin Megastore.

I learnt to take my dose of reality

I came to Dubai from Los Angeles in September 2006. It had always been a dream of mine. I had read about Dubai in the news, and I thought the bustling atmosphere would fit well with my personality. At 50 years old, with my two boys by my side, I finally achieved it. However, the move wasn't a simple affair. From 2004 to 2006, as the exclusive UAE distributor for a brand of vitamins and health products - Vitasecrets - I travelled to and from Dubai for business, staying at hotels whenever I came to the Emirates.

At the time, money wasn't an issue at all. I spent quite liberally on luxuries, mostly in the forms of nice dinners, movies and travelling. Even after all of these expenses, I was able to put money aside. The money I was making was almost exclusively from selling vitamins, and business was very good. My savings paid off one day when, while staying at a hotel on a trip to Dubai in September of 2006, I met a man who was in the process of moving out of the city. After we talked for a while, he offered to rent me his office in Deira and his three-bedroom apartment in Sharjah, both for a year, and sell me his used car - for a grand total of Dh160,000. It goes without saying that everything was much less expensive in Dubai at that time.

I paid the full amount in cash. When I saved money, it was always deposited as cash in the bank. I never put much thought into investments, not even safe ones. While I may be extravagant in my spending habits, still spending on movies, dinner, fancy nights out and the like, I always wanted a stockpile of cash, just in case anything went wrong. In fact, I still don't have a credit card. I feel that if I always pay for things in cash, I can really feel the money moving from my hands to someone else's. In America, I fell into the credit-card trap and paid the banks much of my hard-earned income in interest. As a safe replacement, I tried a debit card for a while. Spending with a card still seemed too abstract, so I stuck with using cash. I still kept the debit card for things like online purchases though.

For the first few months in Dubai, at the end of 2006, I still enjoyed a healthy stream of income. However, I spent months dealing with riddling problems, such as registering my business and navigating through all of the red tape I needed to settle in. I was still running the same business, vitamin distribution, but now that I was based within the UAE I had many more requirements to go through. I had to pay for the visa, register my business and rent a post box. I can't remember the exact cost of these things.

My inability to navigate the labyrinth of roads was difficult. I kept getting lost. It was a small thing but it added to my frustration and made this start-up process all the more difficult. The traffic caused me to spend four and a half hours a day commuting to work and taking my youngest son, now 9 years old, to and from school. Through these early months I endured some difficult situations, including the fact that my oldest son wasn't with me. But I knew I could make things work.

As I settled in and worked out the kinks in my business, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel. I was finally able to register my company ? Pass International Trading- a few months after arriving, which focuses on importing vitamin products, specifically the Vitasecrets brand. Once I hired a live-in maid for my youngest son, for Dh2,000 per month, I could relax and enjoy life in the city to its full extent. I couldn't believe how inexpensive a full-time maid was - in Los Angeles, I would pay my neighbour's 16-year-old daughter US$20 (Dh73.50) per hour just for babysitting.

In 2007 and into 2008, I made myself comfortable. After going to the movie theatre at Mall of the Emirates, I used to ride the escalator downstairs to the Virgin Megastore and spend between Dh700 and Dh800 on music. This was quite a regular occurrence. My mobile phone bill alone usually ran about Dh1,000 each month, mostly on long-distance calls to the US. I would even travel to America two or three times a year. Being able to spend lavishly and still save money in the bank was an amazing experience. But I generally limited my expenses to entertainment. I never spend very much on big toys, like luxury cars.

And I don't believe I spend money foolishly. My landlord for our apartment in Sharjah tripled my rent in February 2008, so while I could afford the increase, I still opted to find somewhere else to live. I now live across the street from my old apartment and pay Dh44,000 per year for another three-bedroom flat. I used to get into arguments with friends who ridiculed me for not buying property in Dubai. "It's a sure bet! You can double your money in no time," I would hear. But I stuck to my habits. I rented my apartment and leased a car, while my oldest son, now 26 years old, drove the car I originally bought. When it came to speculating in the property market, there was no way you could convince me to take part.

I believe that my refusal to buy property is the main reason I am still here today. However, I wasn't immune to the market slide. In November 2008, as Dubai realised that it was not exempt from the global economic crisis, everything changed. When my oldest son moved to Dubai from America to live with me and work in the business, it was nearly December. As a seasoned expatriate at this point, I informed him that there wasn't any traffic because everybody was on holiday for the month. I assured him that the roads would clog once again in January.

January came, but the traffic stayed at bay. And so did my customers. Business fell dramatically and I started to get concerned about my future. Luckily, I had money saved for this occasion - but I never felt comfortable living off savings. It was at this point that I made massive cuts in my spending habits. I stopped calling the US on a regular basis and started using e-mail instead. I let go of two employees out of fear that I might run out of money and lose my office.

I ended my unrestrained visits to Virgin. Instead of frequenting the most expensive hotels and restaurants on my travels, I chose less glitzy, more budget-friendly venues. I have visited the US only once this year. Taking into consideration the cuts I made in my personal and business expenses, I have been spending about Dh24,000 less per month in 2009 as compared to 2008. Business was very stagnant for the first six months of this year, but sales started to increase in June, though only modestly.

I believe that, because of the economy, people are less willing to spend their cash at a doctor every time they get sick. Instead, they may start looking for alternative treatments and preventive medicine. My products could fill this niche, so I am hopeful that my business will continue to recover even while the overall economy struggles. However, even as my income begins to rise, I am sure that the thrifty spending habits I've developed this year will continue to guide my future spending.

* As told to Keith Parker

The specs: Panamera Turbo E-Hybrid

Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 hybrid
Power: 680hp
Torque: 930Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
Price: From Dh749,000
On sale: Now

The specs: 2024 Panamera

Engine: 2.9-litre twin-turbo V6
Power: 353hp
Torque: 500Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
Price: From Dh408,200
On sale: Now

Start times

5.55am: Wheelchair Marathon Elites

6am: Marathon Elites

7am: Marathon Masses

9am: 10Km Road Race

11am: 4Km Fun Run

Specs – Taycan 4S

Engine: Electric

Transmission: 2-speed auto

Power: 571bhp

Torque: 650Nm

Price: Dh431,800

Specs – Panamera

Engine: 3-litre V6 with 100kW electric motor

Transmission: 2-speed auto

Power: 455bhp

Torque: 700Nm

Price: from Dh431,800

Masters of the Air

Directors: Cary Joji Fukunaga, Dee Rees, Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck, Tim Van Patten

Starring: Austin Butler, Callum Turner, Anthony Boyle, Barry Keoghan, Sawyer Spielberg

Rating: 2/5

Company Profile

Company name: Cargoz
Date started: January 2022
Founders: Premlal Pullisserry and Lijo Antony
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 30
Investment stage: Seed


The flights

Etihad (etihad.ae) and flydubai (flydubai.com) fly direct to Baku three times a week from Dh1,250 return, including taxes. 

The stay

A seven-night “Fundamental Detox” programme at the Chenot Palace (chenotpalace.com/en) costs from €3,000 (Dh13,197) per person, including taxes, accommodation, 3 medical consultations, 2 nutritional consultations, a detox diet, a body composition analysis, a bio-energetic check-up, four Chenot bio-energetic treatments, six Chenot energetic massages, six hydro-aromatherapy treatments, six phyto-mud treatments, six hydro-jet treatments and access to the gym, indoor pool, sauna and steam room. Additional tests and treatments cost extra.


Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

The specs

Engine: 6.2-litre supercharged V8

Power: 712hp at 6,100rpm

Torque: 881Nm at 4,800rpm

Transmission: 8-speed auto

Fuel consumption: 19.6 l/100km

Price: Dh380,000

On sale: now


Schalke 0

Werder Bremen 1 (Bittencourt 32')

Man of the match Leonardo Bittencourt (Werder Bremen)

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier

UAE fixtures

25 April – Ireland v UAE*
27 April – UAE v Zimbabwe**
29 April – Netherlands v UAE*
3 May – UAE v Vanuatu*
5 May – Semi-finals
7 May – Final
UAE squad: Esha Oza (captain), Al Maseera Jahangir, Avanee Patel, Heena Hotchandani, Indhuja Nandakumar, Kavisha Kumari, Khushi Sharma, Lavanya Keny, Mehak Thakur, Rinitha Rajith, Samaira Dharnidharka, Siya Gokhale, Suraksha Kotte, Theertha Satish, Vaishnave Mahesh.

*Zayed Cricket Stadium

**Tolerance Oval

Herc's Adventures

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


5pm: Abu Dhabi Fillies Classic (PA) Prestige Dh 110,000 1.400m | Winner: AF Mouthirah, Tadhg O’Shea (jockey), Ernst Oertel (trainer)

5.30pm: Abu Dhabi Colts Classic (PA) Prestige Dh 110,000 1,400m | Winner: AF Saab, Antonio Fresu, Ernst Oertel

6pm: Maiden (PA) Dh 80,000 1,600m | Winner: Majd Al Gharbia, Saif Al Balushi, Ridha ben Attia

6.30pm: Abu Dhabi Championship (PA) Listed Dh 180,000 1,600m | Winner: RB Money To Burn, Pat Cosgrave, Eric Lemartinel

7pm: Wathba Stallions Cup (PA) Handicap Dh 70,000 2,200m | Winner: AF Kafu, Tadhg O’Shea, Ernst Oertel

7.30pm: Handicap (PA) Dh 100,000 2,400m | Winner: Brass Ring, Fabrice Veron, Ismail Mohammed

On The Money

Make money work for you with news and expert analysis

      By signing up, I agree to The National's privacy policy
      On The Money