Money & Me: Dubai expat's housekeeping keeps the finances tidy

Denise McGinty is the founder and general manager of HouseKeeping Co, a Dubai-based provider of cleaners and other domestic staff for offices and homes that she started after the crash in 2009. The 45-year-old Edinburgh native came to the UAE 17 years ago on holiday and “loved the place”. After a spell in property and asset management in Dubai, the crash eventually steered her towards entrepreneurship.

How did your upbringing shape your attitude towards money?

I had an entrepreneurial mother. She ran English-language schools for foreign students in Edinburgh at a time when everyone thought it was only done in London, so she was revolutionary for her day. It was quite an enterprise – The Edinburgh School of English. A couple thousand students every year … education was always important. My first degree was in hospitality management from Napier University. I then did a degree in export marketing with French and Russian and got an MBA over a 10-year period at the same university.

How much did you get paid for your first job?

I worked from when I was 13, a newspaper route and in shops. I can’t remember the amount for sure – might have been £3 (Dh14), might have been £13. But it was a weekly wage in a brown packet and I remember feeling so great that I had worked hard to earn money.

Are you a spender or saver?

Both – we need to do both to enjoy life at its best. I save whatever I’ve got leftover, but as an entrepreneur and business owner I don’t earn on a regular monthly basis, so you save when you can, when the returns are bigger.

What is your most cherished purchase?

My auntie gave me my grandmother’s engagement ring, that’s my most cherished possession. It’s a solitaire diamond in a platinum band.

Have you ever had a month where you feared you could you not pay the bills?

After the crash, I didn’t earn for three years and I was on my own without any support network. It was back to basics, a year of damage limitation, I stopped buying expensive make-up, that kind of thing. And hoping and praying … I eventually tapped my savings to start my business and didn’t look back.

Where do you save your money?

I save from the income of some assets in UK, some property. I’m not a sophisticated saver, I don’t do stocks, don’t play the markets. I have some savings in the bank and some in managed funds.

Do you prefer paying by credit card or in cash?

I love it both ways. There are things you just need to pay with a credit card. But I always pay off my credit cards every month. I always love having cash in hand too because you know what you are spending.

What has been your best investment?

Property in the UK. It’s just historically done very well.

What do you most regret spending money on?

Goodness, as a woman I regret all the clothes I buy. Every year during Ramadan I give away so many clothes … I’m actually ashamed.

What financial advice would you offer your younger self?

When you are young you are taught to save, save save. I think there is a bit of madness to that. Sure, you should put some aside but you also need to give back, share as much as you can. Be thankful that God has favoured you more than most, and take responsibility to help others in need. The rest will take care of itself.

Do you have a plan for the future?

I’m working on social and ethical enterprises. This is through a recruitment and management programme to help stop abuse. In my business, the abuse originates from country source with unethical recruitment processes. I want to work to alleviate that.

If you won Dh1m, what would you do with it?

Bank it.

What would you raid your savings account for?

Flights, I always leave them to the last minute and end up paying through the nose … so occasionally I raid the savings account.

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Anthony McAuley

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