Bindu Thaha, a 44-year-old Indian expat and single mother in Dubai, insists education costs take up the lion’s share of her monthly household budget. She has been raising her two children, Aftaab (18) and Afreen (12), singlehandedly since 2010 by taking up several secretarial jobs.
“Education is my biggest expense. Although school fees are paid only every quarter, I set aside money every month so I don’t struggle to raise a lump sum. I don’t compromise or cut corners on this expense,” says Thaha. She budgets prudently at the beginning of each month and allocates funds for various expenses.
Until recently, the family of three rented a small apartment in Sharjah for Dh23,000. The bread-winner says housing costs are not much of a concern since the UAE offers a range of accommodation options to suit every budget. After falling on hard times, she has, however, now moved in temporarily with her parents who also reside in the UAE.
She sets aside for Dh1,200 for grocery and food expenses every month. Thaha tries to offer her children the best she can with the limited resources at her disposal. She scours the Internet for good deals on coupon websites. The family dines out once or twice every month. The mother also takes her children to the cinema a couple of times in a month. Even during the Holy Month of Ramadan, the family attends a lavish iftar that’s offered at a discount on coupon websites.
Monthly expense for grocery and food expenses
“I try to give them a good life within my limited means,” she remarks.
Acknowledging the peer pressure children in the UAE are subjected to, Thaha is glad that she has instilled financial discipline in her kids. As a result, the children do not make any unnecessary demands on their mother.
“I have shared my financial situation and mentally prepared them for the ups and downs of life. For instance, when I take my daughter to a shop, she first checks the price of an item before asking me to buy it. My son is also budget-conscious. He hangs out with his friends in venues where entertainment options are not very expensive,” she shares with Gulf News.
Afreen, who has been learning dance from the age of 4, occasionally participates in events where she gets paid for her performance. That helps with her pocket money.
My children act in a very responsible and mature manner when it comes to dealing with finances
“After seeing what I have gone through in life, my kids are keen to study hard and make sure they do well in academics. They act in a very responsible and mature manner when it comes to dealing with finances,” explains Thaha.
As a single mum handling varied responsibilities, Thaha has found it very hard to save for the future. “I never had the spare time to supplement my income since my work involved a long commute from Sharjah to Dubai Investment Park and back.”
Saving for a family holiday
However, she has fond memories of saving up Dh7,000 to take her children on a week-long holiday to Singapore and Malaysia in 2013. She recalls saving Dh1,000 every month for the trip for months together and doing a lot of research to get the best flight and hotel deals.
Spent on a week-long family holiday after saving for several months
“I decided to forgo our annual trip to India that year so the kids could indulge in a holiday. Rather than buy a package from a tour operator in the UAE, which would have been expensive, I chose to purchase deals from local companies in Singapore and Malaysia instead,” recalls Thaha.
Managing healthcare costs
The mother cannot afford to pay big sums of money on hospital visits for her family. Instead, she believes prevention is better than cure. She boosts her family’s immunity with natural, home-made remedies such as honey, pepper, etc., to keep healthcare costs to a minimum.
Thaha is now in talks with education consultants to fulfil her son Aftaab’s dream of becoming an environmental engineer. She has shortlisted universities in Georgia and Malaysia, where the cost of education is cheaper than in India.
Tips to single mothers
“Make your kids understand that life is not a bed of roses. Let them know your struggles so that they work hard towards a bright future. Also, accept their suggestions and be receptive to their feedback. Make your children your strength, not your weakness,” she advises other single mothers.
Make your kids understand that life is not a bed of roses. Let them know your struggles so that they work hard
Thaha stresses that the biggest challenges for a single mother is to ensure job stability and coping with social pressure. However, she is optimistic and prepared to take on her problems head on.
“The biggest lesson I have learnt in my life is that if you have a good career, you can sail through any crisis. Having financial stability is the most fundamental requirement,” she reckons.