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Picture used for illustrative purposes. The personal trainer thinks the most expensive aspects about living in Dubai are his monthly car payments and the money he spends on food. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

How I spend my money is a series that we’ve created on Gulf News for the Your Money section that will put anonymous UAE residents under the spotlight to look at exactly what they spend their money on. We’re asking readers to share with us how much they earn, how much they save (if they can save) and how they spend their money on a weekly or monthly basis.

Dubai: Meet Alex. Alex is a personal trainer based in Dubai. He moved to Dubai in 2019 from South Africa and got a job as a personal trainer at a Dubai-based gym. He is 24 years old and knows that he spends beyond his means.

Salary

Alex earns a base salary of Dh3,500, but can make up to Dh6,000 with commission, if he has a good month signing clients on.

When Alex moved here, he was given a two-month grace period to mingle at the gym and start getting clients. It’s always tough when you are new and don’t have word of mouth working for you.

Rent

His company offers discounted accommodation at Dh2,000 a month in a mid-range income housing area in Dubai. He shares a flat with five other trainers, and shares a room with one of them.

Editor’s note: We informed Alex that he was being grossly overcharged for rent and that for Dh2,000 he could get a studio apartment or a single room for himself in a more premium neighbourhood.

Transportation

But, Alex chose to live in the company accommodation as soon as he arrived, since everything was set up and everything was taken care of, including water, electricity and internet. Living in employee housing also meant he could take the company shuttle bus to work. It meant he didn’t have to spend on transportation, but the downside was that the bus would pick him up at 5am and drop him home at midnight. He was hardly getting any sleep during those days.

Alex eventually had set a goal to get his own car. This would provide him the freedom to drive to work whenever his clients were there, rather than be tied to the company bus, which meant he was only getting five hours of sleep a night.

When Alex started to get more clients, his salary slowly increased. With the help of his dad, he was able to put a down payment on a second hand car. His monthly car expenses add up to Dh1,600 a month, including gas, Salik and car loan charges.

Dh1600


Monthly car expenses, including gas, Salik and car loan fees

Meals

Alex thinks the most expensive aspect about living in Dubai are his monthly car payments and the money he spends on food. Cooking at home isn’t really an option, since he works early mornings till late at night. Additionally, he doesn’t know how to cook, so his gym is in close proximity to a high end supermarket, which isn’t ideal as it’s one of the most expensive supermarkets in Dubai. However, at the end of the day, it is more affordable than ordering delivery, or eating at a restaurant. He usually picks up sandwiches, fruit or some meals from their hot food section. He spends approximately Dh400 a week to eat.

Miscellaneous expenses

Alex tries not to spend frivolously. “I don’t really spend much money on the weekend. I don’t go shopping or go to expensive concerts. I will have some dinner one night out and maybe have a drink or two. I only have one day off, so I try and enjoy myself as much as possible.”

Phone bill

He also spends around Dh200 on his mobile phone bill, which includes data, calls and international calls, so he can get in touch with his family back home in South Africa.

A day in his life

“My typical weekday begins at 7am.

“I wake up pretty early every day. I get dressed and go downstairs to walk the dog with my girlfriend. It is her dog, I personally can’t afford the upkeep of a pet.

“I am usually at the gym by 8am or 9am, depending on my clients.

“At 1pm, I am starving and ready to eat, so I walk to Waitrose and get some food. I usually eat healthy, which is always more expensive than junk food, but it’s important to me to eat clean.

“Sometimes after lunch, if I have some time, I like to take a nap in our break room. I sleep for about an hour.

“At 4pm, the gym starts to fill up and some of my clients come.

“I usually stay in the gym until 9pm, unless I have to close up, which means I stay until 11pm.”

Savings

Alex doesn’t have any significant savings at the moment. Over the last nine months or so, he has managed to scrape together around Dh2,000.

If he is lucky enough to have a steady stream of clients, he wants to trying to save Dh1,800 every month, so that by the end of the year, he can have just over Dh20,000 of savings. Easier said than done obviously. But here’s to always getting better.

Breakdown

  • Salary: Between Dh3,500 and Dh6,000 a month, depending on his clients and commission
  • Car expenses: Dh1,600 a month
  • Monthly rent: Dh2,000 including water, electricity, Wi-Fi and furniture
  • Monthly phone bill: Dh200
  • Health insurance: Paid for by work
  • Eating out and groceries per week: Dh400
  • Total spending: Dh5,400 a month
  • Savings: Around Dh200 to 300 a month, which have added up to Dh2,000 over the last nine months.
  • Financial goals: Try to save Dh20,000 by the end of 2020