It may seem expensive to raise a family in Dubai, but there are plenty of ways we can save money on the cost of living. We’ve consulted a panel of experts for tips on how to cut costs at home, on days out, when buying clothes and toys, and when travelling overseas.
By Keren Bobker, Senior Financial Consultant at Holborn Assets LLC (www.financialuae.com)
• Planning ahead for your grocery shopping can save time and money. Try buying larger items in bulk, such as washing powder, toilet rolls and cleaning products, from stores such as Union Cooperative or Lulu Hypermarket where they are usually cheaper. Keep a note of special offers and weekly sale days.
• Many imported brands are pricey, but you can usually find a cheaper equivalent. Look for lesser known or local brands, as most will be just as tasty. Your kids may want the comforting favourites they’ve always had, but get them involved in the shopping and cooking and they’ll be keen to try new foods and different flavours. Regionally grown food is often fresher - and if you have a balcony or garden, you can even grow your own vegetables for super fresh, tasty and cheap food!
• Shocked by your utility bills? Try adjusting your air conditioning by a degree or two. Most people will be comfortable resting in 24c, so you will save money by turning down the chill. Consider investing in ceiling fans as air circulation significantly reduces the need for air conditioning.
• Whilst it’s lovely to have a large garden, it costs a lot to maintain in Dubai, so consider if you are getting value for money. How often do you genuinely use the space? Would a cheaper villa with a smaller garden suit you just as well? Or even an apartment with a large balcony? After all, Dubai has a number of parks, as well as beaches and communal areas if the kids want to run around.
• Get fed up with the kids asking for expensive treats in the supermarket? Why not let them do some of the shopping, but on a budget? Ask them to find certain items at the best price and value. Not only will you save money, but the kids get to practice their mathematics too. You may be surprised how quickly they learn to shop smartly.
Clothes, Toys, and Baby Items
By Natalie Humphrey, founder of Baby Bazaar; a monthly market held on the last Friday or Saturday of the month at Times Square Center (www.babybazaar.org)
• Organise a book and toy swap with friends. Permanent or temporary swaps are a great idea. Things like moses baskets and newborn clothes are only needed for a small timeframe, so you could borrow from a friend and return washed and good-as-new just a few months later.
• You can find cheap, but good quality clothes in shops like Carters and Carrefour. Given the rate kids grow out of clothes, there’s really no need to pay sky-high prices for something they might grow out of in a matter of weeks.
• Scour Dubai Flea Market (www.dubai-fleamarket.com) for bargains or try Baby Bazaar (www.babybazaar.org), which specialises in Baby and toddler clothes and items. When it comes to buying or selling your own clothes, check out www.myexwardrobe.com.
• If you have visitors in town and need an extra car seat or cot, check out www.rentacrib.ae. They provide a rental service for these items and even drop off/collect baby items you want to rent.
By Kellie Whitehead, founder of mamavents and www.mamaknowsdubai.com
• Buy The Entertainer (www.theentertainerme.com), which is packed with ‘two for one’ vouchers to give great savings on activities for the kids. By purchasing just one book and using the local water park voucher, you’ll already have covered the purchase price!
• Keep an eye on Facebook groups in Dubai, as they very often share ideas for affordable days out. Hotels, businesses, activity providers and restaurants all tend to run weekly competitions, with generous prizes including meals, cinema tickets, and other family friendly experiences. Pages by local publications, such as Time Out Kids, have busy Facebook pages where they share offers, discounts, and contests that you won’t see in the magazine itself.
• Take advantage of all the parks and beaches in Dubai. Entrance is usually free or next to nothing – and the space, facilities, and cleanliness is something families in other cities would be delighted to discover.
• Try different venues for your play dates or coffee mornings with friends. Many soft play areas offer free or heavily discounted periods during the week.
By Daniel Evans at Al Arabi Travel Agency (www.alarabitravel.ae)
• When planning flights, always look carefully at local or international holidays. Due to seasonal demands, periods such as Eid and Christmas tend to see a fairly hefty increase in flight costs.
• Instead of flying ‘home’ for every family event, try to consolidate your travel back to your home country to once or twice a year. For a family, the cost of flights represents a pretty major sum of money, so it’s a good idea to travel for longer and less frequently.
• When you’re abroad, keep an eye out for restaurants that give discounts or free food for children and don’t be afraid to ask! A colleague of mine was recently on holiday with her son who has picky tastes. She asked the restaurant if a discount was applicable and her son ended up eating for free for the entire hotel stay! Early bird dinners can also save money.
• Travelling during school holidays? Aim for the latest dates you can manage. The first few days after school breaks up tend to be the most expensive due to heavy demand.
• If your family is travelling on a low cost airline, look carefully at terms and conditions. Baggage allowance, seat selection, priority boarding (often important for families with young children) and credit card fees are often seen as extra charges.
• Renting a car to drive your family around a particular country? Ask for a diesel option. Diesel is a fair bit more efficient than petrol and can save you a lot of money.