Close to two-thirds of UAE shoppers expect to exceed their Christmas shopping budget this year, according to the results of a survey by money transfer firm Western Union. Around 64 percent of shoppers said they expect to blow their budget on Christmas presents for family and friends this year, despite the dire warnings for the global financial economy. Out of the 500 UAE residents surveyed, 63 percent said they would prefer to receive a cash gift rather a physical present of the same value. A further 33 percent would prefer to save or invest the money with, 19 percent wanted a treat for themselves and basic necessities like gas, groceries or bills was desired by 17 percent. “The UAE has a tradition of giving gifts of value, therefore it comes as no surprise to learn from the survey that giving and receiving cash is the most preferred gift. For those giving, gifting cash is a suitable option as it helps in controlling budgets, and avoid unforeseen costs and time commitment associated with physical purchases. In addition, cash gifts enable recipients to use it in the best way they see fit, whether it means buying a gift of their choice, saving or investing,” said Sobia Rahman, Western Union’s regional vice president for the Gulf, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The lack of awareness regarding financial planning was highlighted earlier this year by the CEO of National Bonds Mohammed Qasim Al Ali. “The consistency in the lack of awareness about the importance of savings and the lack of their being a financial plan is epidemic across the GCC countries,” he told Arabian Business. “That’s where the gigantic task is ahead of it.” Tough economic conditions, including the soaring cost of food, could threaten citizens with an already unstable financial situation, he believed. “Our mission is to alert the decision makers that this is a national crisis that could have dire results somewhere down the road.” “People are having a short-term view about their financial health because they are locked into a certain living standard. There is a mental defeat that says ‘I can’t save as I don’t have enough money to save’ but if they start thinking about how structured their approach should be when it comes to handling their own financials I know they will find ways. “A small kid in Europe maybe knows far better how to handle money or the importance of money than somebody in the Middle East and we need to build on their experiences through the last 40 or 50 years and import such culture of changes into our environment,” he added.