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Is it time to revert to the age-old approach of stashing money in envelopes to limit expenses? Picture used for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Here is a list of six proven popular practices to manage living expenses when residing in the UAE.

Have no-spend days

A method to cut spending is to simply decide you aren't going to buy anything at all. While you can't do this for an extended period, you can aim for some no-spend days each month.

When you have a no-spend day, you commit to buy nothing. If you try a no-spend month, you commit not to buy anything other than absolute necessities, such as food to cook at home.

No-spend days not only save you money on the day you keep your wallet away, but also help change mind-sets over the long term, which experts add is turning out to be a popular beginner approach to reining in costs.

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Try an envelope system approach

An envelope system can also help you make sure you live by your budget or by spending limits you set for yourself.

When you use an envelope system, you literally put the cash you want to spend on different categories of purchases into an envelope.

For example, you may have an envelope for groceries and one for children's activities. Once the envelope is empty, you don't spend on that category anymore.

There are apps, such as Mvelopes, that allow you to use a virtual envelope system. You can try those to see if they're as effective as having a physical envelope to restrict your spending.

Set a per-use spending limit

Another tried and tested method to make sure you're limiting your spending to things you get value from is to set a per-use limit and figure out how much each item you're considering costs per use.

For example, you may set your per-use limit at Dh1. When you look at a product you're considering, think about how many times you'll use it and divide the price by that number to see if it fits in your per-use limit.

If you're thinking about buying a Dh500 TV that you'll use once per day for the next two years, you'd get 730 uses out of the TV. Divide the Dh500 price by 730 uses to see your per-use cost of Dh0.68 - within your Dh1 limit.

Limit what you buy with ‘buy-one/rid-one’ rule

To make sure you don't buy unnecessary items, enforce a buy-one/rid-one rule. When you put this rule in place, get rid of one old item for every new item.

While this won't work for everything, it works for most one-off purchases. You can sell the items you're giving away to help defray the cost of the new items, avoid clutter, and limit what you buy with this technique.

Look at total costs for any purchase

Many of the things you buy probably have ongoing costs to use and maintain. If you buy a costly car, you have to pay for expensive insurance, maintenance, and repairs.

To make sure your purchases aren't committing you to a lifetime of big spending, consider how much they'll cost to operate or maintain when you decide to buy. Else skip the item or buy a version that's cheaper to maintain.

If you'll be financing, factor in interest charges, too. If you can rent to own a Dh500 washing machine for a so-called ‘low cost’ of Dh50 a month for 18 months, for a total of Dh900, that’s not good for your pocket.

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Link saving with splurging

It has been widely seen that trying to completely cut out splurges is likely to backfire and will probably make it impossible for you to stick with your budget.

Instead, allow yourself the occasional splurge -- but set a rule that you'll link the expenditure with accomplishing a savings goal, like for every Dh500 impulse purchase you make, you'll move Dh200 into your savings account.

When you do that, your random spending turns into an opportunity for you to set aside money for future goals. And you can only make purchases if you also have enough cash to invest for your future.

Search for discounts and cheaper prices increase during pandemic
Shopping online became the new normal during the coronavirus-induced movement restrictions, with many residents quickly adapting to browsing for items on their phones and laptops and a survey indicating a 50 per cent increase in UAE residents comparing prices online before a purchase.

Some consumers are choosing to stick with the digital option, partly to reduce their exposure to other shoppers, but also to cut the cost of a basket of items by using savings and discount coupons.

Although coupon websites are ubiquitous in the UAE, shoppers often need to scour the internet to manually search for and verify discount codes that offer the best savings.

Helwa is a free app that finds a suitable coupon code online and automatically applies them to your purchases, while through Pricena.com, users can save up to Dh600 by purchasing a mobile phone online.

Pricena.com is a platform which refers shoppers to third party online retailers. For high-priced appliances such as fridges and TVs, users can save up to Dh2,000 on the comparison website.

A number of coupon websites in the UAE help users save on costs. When using stand-alone coupon websites, such as Groupon and Cobone, be aware of exclusions before making the purchase.

From blackout dates and short validities in terms of expiry dates, to no guarantee of availability, buyers must read the fine print before buying a coupon/voucher.