Short of cash? Check out these Dubai money-saving tips for 2011
The expat allure, anywhere in the world, has always been about the promise of a better lifestyle – as well as the chance to save funds to eventually enjoy a better life in your home country (if you ever make it back there, that is). And, recession or not, this is still true of Dubai: 79 per cent of foreign residents are saving more in the UAE than at home, according to a recent survey by HSBC Bank International. But not all the stats are that rosy: 77 per cent of Dubai’s expats also said the economic situation has deteriorated for them over the past year, with 50 per cent spending more here than they would at home. Plus, the average Dubai expat now has debts of US$28,483, compared with US$7,110 in 2000.
The city also ranked as the 55th most expensive in the world for American expats in a recent Mercer survey (FYI, Luanda in Angola came first; Karachi, origin of many of Dubai’s expats, was last). Let’s forget the numbers and cut to the bottom line for a moment: everyone in Dubai would like to spend less without feeling the pinch in 2011. Here, we bring you expert tips on how this can be done from Keren Bobker, a senior consultant with Holborn Assets Insurance Brokers, and Richard Hextall, senior manager of Lloyds TSB Middle East. We also have insider tips from the Time Out team and our readers, split into the different areas of your life, so that this year you can afford that holiday/flat/car. May you now go forth and stay frugal!
...in your social life
Become a loyalty cards fiend Many coffee shops, cafés, food courts and supermarkets offer some sort of card that will lead to money back or freebies after a certain amount of swiping. We’re fans of Caffè Nero (one free coffee after you’ve bought nine), Juice Master (a free smoothie after you’ve had nine), The Nail Spa (on completion of treatments worth a certain value, you get more free), Kitsch Cupcakes (after 36 cupcakes you get six free) and the UAE’s ‘first group-buying website’ GoNabit’s new customer loyalty programme (www.gonabit.com). Invite or referral-only, it enables users to see and do the most exciting things in Dubai for less.
Get a Time Out City Card Our card offers more than 100 discounts in restaurants and spas – all for free. Go to www.timeoutdubai.com/citycard, fill in the form, wait for the notification then pick your card up from the Time Out Tickets office in Media City. A 20 per cent discount on food and drink at hundreds of venues? What’s not to like?
Do lunch Many high-end restaurants offer reduced-price lunch menus at half the price of the dinner menus or even less. Try Zuma (three courses for Dhs110!), Rivington Grill (two courses for Dhs80!), and Reflets Par Pierre Gagnaire (set lunch for Dhs180!).
Come dine with us On Sundays, BBC Lifestyle screens five episodes of UK amateur cooking show Come Dine With Me back to back, and it’s creating a bit of a stir. Not only are the UAE’s viewers obsessed with it (mention the programme’s title in your office and we predict excited chatter about the latest shows), but various expats are suggesting setting up their own CDWM in the UAE. Why not round up some keen friends, blessed with culinary finesse or not, then take it in turns to host dinner parties? The bigger the group, the more free meals you can tuck into – and the winner can judge next time.
Avoid hotel cars The fancy limos that doormen always try to usher you into are up to 30 per cent more expensive than regular taxis, and are liable for Salik tolls (which other taxis aren’t).
Maximise ladies’ nights Offers include some freebie drinks given out at weekends, such as bubbly for those wearing pink at Tamanya Terrace on Thursdays from 5pm, free bubbles at Boudoir every day from 9pm until midnight (9am to 3am on Tuesdays), and four selected drinks at Aussie Legends on Thursdays, from 8pm to 11pm.
Swap brunches for picnics Do you ever get bored of meeting at the same hotel buffets every weekend, no matter how good the food? Instead, pack a cool bag and head to the beach or park for a picnic. It’s cheaper, healthier (you know exactly what’s going in it), and, according to Vogue, picnic-inspired clothes are very on-trend. ‘Timing subtly affects weekend picnic attire,’ says market editor Emma Elwick-Bates. ‘Hazy [Saturdays] require neat shorts with a silky blouse or a masculine shirt.’ Think Marc by Marc Jacobs to nail the look. Get into art We’re talking about looking at it, rather than buying it. You’ll never have to pay to mooch around a gallery and, according to the UK’s NHS, it’s good for your mental health. ‘The new Traffic space in Al Quoz is well worth a look,’ says Time Out art and culture editor Nyree Barrett. ‘Take a trip to Al Serkal Avenue in Al Quoz. Green Art Gallery has just opened there, which brings the area’s total gallery count to six, alongside Carbon 12, Portfolio, Mojo, Isabelle van den Eynde and Ayyam. There are even two more openings scheduled for March. Just take a cab to Al Serkal Avenue, then stroll from one gallery to another.’
Reconsider the gym We must be the only magazine advising against gym membership in January, but think about it: do you only ever use the running machines? If so, jog on the beach or in the parks instead: save the fees and burn more calories.
Listen to cheap, good live music ‘Jam Night on Tuesdays at The Music Room in Bur Dubai is only Dhs25 – well worth it just to catch main band Flipside,’ says Time Out’s music and nightlife editor Holly Sands. ‘Think Snow Patrol meets Foo Fighters. Other amateur acts are then switched in every week.’ Call 04 501 2534.
Go ‘glamping’ You’re lucky if you can find a decent hotel offering a room for Dhs250 in Dubai. Instead, experience some glamorous camping (‘glamping!’) at Wadi Bih in Dibba for the same price, including breakfast, dinner and comfy bunkbeds inside canvas huts amid the mountains with Absolute Adventure. Call 04 345 9900 or see www.adventure.ae.
Enter Time Out Dubai competitions Every week we give away five-star hotel stays, gym memberships, VIP tickets, celebrity meet-and-greets and much more – and it just takes a minute to enter. See www.timeoutdubai.com/competitions.
...While planning your holidays
Save up and pay cash Try to pay upfront for your holiday, and leave the credit card at home (or clear the balance as soon as you get back). If you pay Dhs1,000 for a holiday on a credit card and the interest rate is 24 per cent, you’d expect to pay back Dhs1,240. However, if you make a monthly payment of Dhs50 and add on compounded interest, it could end up costing closer to Dhs1,300.
Go off-season Destinations are cheaper when you dodge the crowds. Check out www.offseason.com, a brilliant international website that lists hotels and their rates in any city during, yes, off-peak season.
Visit friends Travel somewhere to visit a friend or relative and you’ll not only potentially save money on accommodation and transport, but they’ll also advise you on the most reasonably priced places to visit. Alternatively, try Couchsurfing.com or Airbnb.com – these international sites list people who are happy to offer their sofas, spare rooms, apartments and houses (even converted planes) for more reasonable prices, or even for free.
Seek out soft-opening hotel prices Dubai’s government aims to attract 15 million tourists a year by 2015 (the city lured nearly six million during the first nine months of 2010). And what does that mean? New hotels. And new hotels mean lower rates during soft openings. For example, One&Only Palm Jumeirah is currently offering three nights for the price of two until February 11.
...With your long-term savings
Have a goal Having a target is a really motivating factor when trying to save cash, whether you’re squirreling money away for a major life event, such as a house deposit or a wedding, or making a ‘deal’ with yourself to save an amount each week, month or year.
Make more interest Shop around for deposit accounts: interest rates vary between banks. Lloyds TSB Middle East offers accounts with competitive rates – up to 2 per cent on its Bonus Saver account (www.lloydstsb.ae). Alternatively, RAK Bank has decent interest rates (comparatively speaking!), with the Fastsaver account paying 3 per cent (www.rakbank.ae).
Consider National Bonds The return is usually higher than deposit rates, plus you’ll gain the chance to win cash and other prizes. National Bonds Corporation PJSC is a Dubai-based private joint stock shareholding company that’s regulated by the UAE Central Bank and offers bondholders the opportunity to win Dhs1 million on the last Saturday of every month. That could come in very handy. See www.nationalbonds.ae.
Try alternative investments In 2011 you may get a better-paying job or receive some inheritance, giving you the chance to save more and to take advantage of other investment opportunities, such as a juicy bar of solid gold. The financial crisis proved that investing your money in commodities guards it against shocks in the market, and resulted in a huge spike in the value of gold, which doesn’t look like it’ll fall any time soon. Plus, the UAE is home to 20 per cent of the global demand for gold, and Emirates Bank now offers a one-stop shop for customers looking to invest in it. Gold!
Keep an eye on exchange rates If you’re sending money home, time it when the currency conversion is in your favour. No time to currency-watch? Website www.ratesfx.com/rates/alarm.html will send an alert when a currency hits your desired level. When sending larger amounts home, check local transfer services. Many offer wholesale rates without charges, and are often cheaper than using your own bank.
...Around the house
Turn off the TV properly According to the BBC, ‘newer LCD and plasma screens are higher users of energy, with the largest models consuming up to 400 watts when in use and about four watts on standby.’ The same can be said of DVD players and computers. What does this mean in monetary terms? Leaving unnecessary items on standby costs households an average of about Dhs210 a year.
Check out www.swapstyle.com This international website puts people (mainly women) in touch with each other to trade homewares, clothes, accessories and more. There are currently two UAE members: we need more!
Food shop wisely Lulu, Aswaaq and Union Co-Op supermarkets are commonly believed to offer the lowest prices in town. Also, buy local brands and shop seasonally.
Buy second-hand books… …or join a library. Dubai has both: House of Prose is located in Jumeirah (04 344 9021) and Ibn Battuta Mall (04 368 5526), and offers 50 per cent back if you return books once you’ve read them. Search ‘library’ at www.timeoutdubai.com for the full contact details of the city’s book banks.
Buy plants that can cope with arid desert conditions This cuts down on watering. The yellow/maroon desert hyacinth (Cistanche tubulosa) and the molded wax agave (Echeveria agavoides) are natural local plants.
Have a ‘bundle’! Telecom providers Du and Etisalat offer deals that combine home and mobile phone services, as well as internet offers to help you save on the monthly bill. Just ensure there are enough minutes or bandwidth for your needs.
Purge your TV During an average week, make a note of the TV channels you use. Are you paying for channels that you never watch? Be honest and reduce the package to save money.
Go pre-paid If you can’t control your mobile phone calls, switch to pay as you go (pre-paid) rather than a contract phone, so you know exactly what you’re spending.
Use free phone applications If you have an iPhone, check out Viber, which allows free calls between Viber users. If you have a BlackBerry, use the free messenger service to chat to other BlackBerry users instead of sending pricey SMSs.
Recharge your credit online Top up your Etisalat Wasel pre-paid phone account online, which gains you 10 per cent free credit every time. See www.etisalat.com
Don’t buy dry-clean-only work clothes If it costs Dhs12 to dry-clean one shirt once a week, that’s Dhs624 over a year – which could be a new suit. Check the label before you buy.
Dodge the salik gates When heading to the Marina from the Bur Dubai end of town, get off Sheikh Zayed Road at Umm Suqeim to dodge the toll. If going to Trade Centre, head off Sheikh Zayed again and take Al Wasl or Diyafah Street instead. Rather than Garhoud Bridge, take Business Bay or the Floating Bridge. When coming from Sharjah, take the Dubai Airport Tunnel and go through Festival City and over Business Bay bridge, or head down Emirates Road to Arabian Ranches. Finally, when coming in from Mirdif and Al Rashidiya, take a short ride on Emirates Road and turn right to Ras Al Khor road, joining Sheikh Zayed Road via the third or fourth interchange. Dhs8 Salik a day adds up to roughly Dhs2,080 a year – that’s a lot of petrol money.
Ask for a pay rise on a Tuesday afternoon According to a survey by recruitment firm Office Angels, ‘four out of five employers were more receptive to requests for a salary increase or a promotion in the middle of the week, because they considered that to be the most humdrum part of the working week’. Another handy tip: never asking for a pay rise during an appraisal, as these are to focus on personal development and performance, though they can be used as an opportunity to initiate the idea of a salary review afterwards.
Buy a flask, insulated mug and coffee percolator Stop buying skinny lattes and make your own. One Dhs16 latte every work day = Dhs4,160 a year. Save that, minus the Dhs100 or so for your new coffee equipment.
Go Metro It’s greener, it’s 10 times cheaper than a cab, and it gives you time to start reading again (well, we find it does, anyway). Plus, a short walk to your destination at either end of the journey is no problem during these cooler months.
Your money-saving secrets
We asked you to send in your personal tips, and were overwhelmed with responses
‘It’s difficult to save if the money is in your hands, so invest it. For example, Invest in education (upgrade your skills), or buy a property.’ Nabeel Ahmed
‘Visiting the Burj Khalifa observation deck? Book online at www.burjkhalifa.ae at least seven days before you go. Advance tickets are Dhs100 instead of Dhs400, and you don’t have to queue as much.’ William Welsh
‘Do any event or sport in a big group. You can get group discounts.’ Chintan Shah
‘Wait for “Summer Special” deals in local hotels. I’ve stayed at Al Maha, Bab Al Shams and Emirates Palace with big discounts!’ Elizabeth Wardle Walker
‘Try to save 30 per cent of your salary each month: put this in another account and forget that you have it.’ Masoomeh Atyabi
‘You can save Dhs1,000 a month if you cook at home for a family of four. Takeaways take a big chunk out of the budget.’ Mahwash Fatima
‘Write down everything you spend using an Excel spreadsheet so you know how much you spend on food, coffee shops, etc. You can register on discount websites such as www.cobone.com for decent offers too.’ Marwa M Maher
‘Don’t get inspired to eat out by Time Out’s restaurant reviews!’ Khadeeja Nanji
‘Make rich friends…’ Sarah Walton
'Calculate your income and spending. Buying things on installments or credit card isnt helping you. Beside that beaches and parks are cheap or free so enjoy a day outside instead of malls.' Tobias Speer
'Buy fish/meat/veg/fruits from markets like Deira fish market and the likes....if u live far away, u can do bulk shop for meat/fish for the month. Also if you buy paperbacks or used books instead of new ones/hard cover you can save.' Nadia Rasheed
'Stay with people you love. Have time with them inside your home. Talk, laugh, listen to music, watch TV/movies at home. It is cool and if you have a wholesome time with your family at home you will save. Going outside from home will let you spend more'. Ailyn Salvana
We should spend 10% of our savings in either donating, or contibuting somewhere or helping the needful. You will get 10 time returns of what you will spend. This may sound a bit weird to you but this is a fact. Nishant Goel