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Living beyond means: Why have Saudis lost their savings habit?

Many families are finding themselves in precarious financial situations as a result of not knowing how to save

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Saudis are generally big spenders and with all sorts of national and international consumer goods finding their way into the Kingdom, many Saudis spend willy-nilly, a habit that often leaves them in heavy debts.

The ramifications of constant spending beyond one’s means are serious. Many families are finding themselves in precarious financial situations as a result of not knowing how to save, budget and spend frugally, Al-Riyadh newspaper reported.

Nawal Al-Bishry, a public sector employee, said ordinary Saudis have no understanding of how to save money or budget.

“The Saudi families of today are heavy consumers. Shopping malls are constantly full of people on a daily basis.

If you survey shoppers at a mall, only around 30 percent of them are actually out buying necessities, the rest are there shopping just to pass time,” said Al-Bishry.

“Saving money helps one relax and live a stress-free life. By saving, people can feel confident when making choices and secure when emergencies appear,” she added.

Al-Bishry believes that positive spending habits need to begin from the time when people get married.

“Couples should work together. They should plan their expenditures and incomes and set goals that can be realized according to their priorities.

In our society, there are only a few families that plan ahead,” she said. Um Shumokh Al-Adili, a teacher, said saving money helps families and removes a lot of stress.

“Financial problems can ruin marriages. All married couples must understand that saving is the responsibility of both husbands and wives.

If couples keep this in mind, they will work together to build a stable income for themselves and their children,” said Al-Adili.

Abdulaziz Al-Shadoukhi, a businessman, said most people who spend needlessly tend to be housewives who pamper their children and decorate their homes with accessories that they do not really need.

“When such families are in need of money, you’ll see them borrowing cash and getting into debt. That, in itself, is a waste of money.

Without a strong financial basis and know-how of saving cash, these families will simply keep spending and fall into a spiral of debts,” said Al-Shadoukhi.

Retailers in the Kingdom are well aware of the spending habits of Saudis and take advantage, he said.

“They, however, end up spending needlessly on unnecessary things in their daily lives which then makes things even more complicated.

The heads of these households then find themselves in debts for years and this leads to stress and other family and domestic problems,” he added.

Sarah Al-Quaie, a housewife, said a lack of saving and unaccounted spending lead to stress and broken families.

“People should be careful and not fall into the trap of advertisements. Wives have a responsibility of managing their husband’s finances while ensuring all needs are met,” she said.

Hasnaa Ibrahim, a saleswoman at a beauty shop in Hail, said unnecessary spending is a common problem in Saudi society.

“It is the main reason behind many people falling into debt. Saudis don’t know how to save money. Some spend compulsively for reasons ranging from lack of self-esteem to wanting to keep up with the Joneses or showing oneself to be of a higher class,” she said.

Lamia Al-Jirais, a businesswoman, said it is very important to teach children how to save money from a very young age.

“I believe this is crucial so that they don’t grow up and get into debts. In today’s consumer age, financial skills have become a necessity.

Financial planning is paramount to any sort of stability. Poor planning will lead people to get into debts and stress,” she said.

Wujdan Al-Qahs, a family consultant at Hail King Abdulaziz National Dialogue Center, said despite the great advances we have witnessed, we still lack knowledge on how to save and budget.

“Many families do not think of saving. When the end of the month approaches, you find them begging for money from friends or buying goods on credit using credit cards and the like,” said Al-Qahs.

“Moreover, after many years of work many find themselves with meager pensions. Successful families are those that plan their finances and involve their children in that,” said Al-Qahs.

This story was originally posted on the Saudi Gazette on Dec. 27, 2014.

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