Dubai: If you're one of those struggling to save in the UAE, fret not.
You're not alone.
Much has been written and said — with first-person accounts — about people in debt here in the UAE or even the high cost of living. Take this: Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai emerged among the world’s 50 costliest cities in a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit (Worldwide Cost of Living rankings).
But did you know: Many expats manage their money well and ensure they are ahead of inflation and savings curve?
We understand that knowing where to start in the savings journey can be difficult. Now, take a look at our top tips, and what people say about what works for them.
1. Try the envelope budget
I have! Call me traditional, call me conservative, but yes, every month I withdraw a set amount of money from my ATM and put it into an envelope. This is meant for my monthly personal expenses like clothes, shoes, bags and accessories.
Usually I keep a sixth of my salary for this. At the end of the month, when the envelope goes empty, I am not guilty of overspending. In fact, when there is nothing in the envelope, there is no more money to spend for shopping, so I am never over-stretching. What's more, I am never disappointed as I know that next month I will have another lot coming into the envelope.
2. Collect your loose change
"It may be just a dirham or 25 fils, but believe me, when you collect them over a period, they can buy you a sandwich, or a coffee in a mall, or even groceries and jewellery accessories. “I do it every time,” said Filipina expat Analyn Tupas Esma.
Everyday people give us change in coins. I used to collect them in a piggy bank at home
“Everyday people give us change in coins. I collect them in a piggy bank at home. One time I had Dh50 in the piggy bank. It felt so good. I took it to the grocery store below my building and bought some fruits and vegetables with it to buy some fruits and vegetables,” she said.
3. Pay your bills on auto-pay
This way you will not end up in debt anytime. It also ensures all basic expenses are paid on time and in full to avoid late charges.
“This way you don't end up in debt. It also ensures all basic expenses are paid on time and in full to avoid late charges. I have standing instructions online to pay Dewa, Du etc. It is a great way to manage money,” said Irish expat Darren Farrell.
4. Don't compromise on preventive healthcare
Routine dental checkups, for example, help prevent fillings, root canals, and dental crowns, which are expensive and no fun. I personally go to a clinic in Dubai which offers free consultation. They have special rates for children’s treatments as well. Just be on the look-out for good healthcare deals all the time.”
5. Don’t miss visits to flea markets
There are superb bargains here. Coming from France, we are used to taking advantage of flea market sales
And French expat Annettee Ansidei says she never does.
“There are unmissable bargains here. Coming from France, we are used to taking advantage of flea market sales. Last month, I was so excited with a steal deal I made. For a while, I had my eyes on a pair of Veja shoes. But it costed Dh800 in the malls in UAE.
"At the flea market, I found the same pair for just Dh50. There was another super deal with a pair of Massimo Dutti pants. It was new and carrie a price tag of Dh395. The lady at the flea market sold it for just Dh40. Can you believe it, " said Ansidei. "It was a real steal deal. So always be on the look-out for flea markets in the UAE," she reccommends.
6. Service your car regularly
Get your car serviced regularly so you can avoid a major break-down one day. It maybe a machine, but it needs care just like humans do. So go for regular maintenance. Don't be penny wise pound foolish
"How many of us get our cars serviced regularly? If you think you are saving by not getting your car serviced, you are mistaken," says Mitch Perera, a Sri Lankan expat and car lover.
"Get your car serviced regularly so you can avoid a major break-down one day. It maybe a machine, but it needs care just like humans do. So go for a regular maintenance. Don't be penny wise pound foolish," says Perera.
7. Don’t get conned by banks
“It is their job to sell and your job to say no,” said South African Jarryd Goodman. “Don’t fall for banks selling you credit cards left right and centre. s I personally have just one and use it bare minimum. I don’t like overstretching my budget at all.”
It is their job to sell and your job to say no. Don’t fall for banks selling you credit cards left right and centre. I personally have just one and use it bare minimum
8. Maximise your credit card
If you are one of those who cannot help owning one, then make the best use of it.
Irish expat Darren Farrell for one, has turned his credit card into a major saver. His card fetches him rewards and points. This in turn has helped fund several household items.
“I bought my fridge, TV, laptop, micro-wave, all with my credit card points. Through the years, I have collected them to pay tickets to Europe. So make the best use of your card," he said.
9. Don’t hire a cook and maid
French expat Annette Ansidei believes in the DIY (Do It Yourself) concept. Clean your house and cook your own food she says.
“Besides helping you with a workout and letting your creativity flow, it is a huge money saver.” "Hiring domestic help in the UAE comes with a hefty price tag.
Hiring domestic help in the UAE comes with a hefty price tag
Besides a monthly salary which is a minimum Dh1,000, there are other costs attached like visa, yearly travel expenses etc. So don’t waste your money on this, do the work yourself and save, says Ansidei!
10. Look out for package deals
You want that blow dry and feel guilty spending a huge money on it?
Well, ask the parlour for package deals. Unless you have a relationship with the staff in the parlour, not many beauticians openly talk about any package deals. Remember they make more money from you when you pay in full not in a package.
So dig, dig, dig. And you will be pleasantly surprised. I personally booked myself a deal for 100 sessions for a cost of Dh3,149, including VAT.
This means each session or each treatment in the parlour only costs Dh31.49. The treatment includes everything from mani-pedis, facials, body massage, foot massage, hair treatments, waxing, you name it!
This is a huge saver especially if you are a regular parlour visitor.
11. Always budget
“Having a budget can help you save a lot of money. You immediately know when you are going above your spending limit and it teaches you to keep a check. A budget also helps you plan your financial goals better. Always budget your resources and live within your means,” said Annette Ansidei.
12. Save petrol and toll when you can
This is a massive saver.
When you know you can take the metro to a certain place, do it. Don’t take your car, says Indian expat Krishna Mineshkumar Patel.
“You save petrol. If you are driving, use the GPS to help you navigate through the roads which are Salik free. There are several filter options available on your GPS, use them to save you from toll and petrol. Take shorter routes to a place to save on petrol,” said Patel.
Save petrol. If you are driving, use the GPS to help you navigate through the roads which are Salik free.
13. Look for cheaper rents all the time
Pakistani expat Saima Perveen said the rental market has tremendously improved in favour of tenants so everyone take advantage of it. “Negotiate harder with your landlord or look for options in different locales with competitive rents. It is a wise thing to do as rents and school fees are two most expenses for expats in the UAE.
Negotiate harder with your landlord or look for options in different locales with competitive rents
14. Save water, electricity
“How many times have we let the tap flow while brushing teeth? Do you know two gallons of water flow from a faucet each minute. Worse, you are at risk of losing four gallons of water at least when you let your tap run while brushing teeth. Can you imagine the impact this has on your monthly bills? Massive to say the least. So do something about it and save water,” says Indian expat Sonia Patel.
Those living in a villa can take simple steps like fitting automatic irrigation pipes that switch on and off at a given time, this way you don’t have to chase your gardener to switch it off every time for you
“Those living in a villa can take simple steps like fitting automatic irrigation pipes that switch on and off at a given time, this way you don’t have to chase your gardener to switch it off every time for you. Same with washing car. It is best to carry a bucket of water, rather than running a water pipe on it. You lose a lot of water this way,” said Patel.
15. Set aside an emergency fund
While growing up, I saw my parents set aside money for emergency. I used to think it was a negative way of seeing things as it was almost expecting things to fall apart. And then when I started earning, I could not help doing the same! It is wise to invest in saving schemes and there are several in the market. Life insurance schemes or children’s education plans are some "forced savers" that one can take advantage of. It goes a long way securing your future. So go for it we say.
16. Plan your retirement early
This is a huge saver. My mother always stressed on the need to set away money for a rainy day.
I see myself doing the same and advising my children to do as well.
Plan your retirement from the day you start earning as you will find many avenues to spend and could miss out on securing your future. So start early!