Looking for a way to reduce the amount you spend? Dubai’s experts in cost efficient living share their tips.
Many expats arrive in Dubai dreaming of streets paved with gold and of leaving with savings in their pocket. But the relative expense and luxurious temptations of the city mean many find themselves spending more and saving less and even plunging in to debt. As recent reports cite the spiralling costs of rent, we enlist Dubai experts to learn how to lower our cost of living. Though we recommend you seek advice from your own advisor or accountant before making big changes to your finances, there’s huge potential for reducing your outgoings. From deals on dining to free haircuts, we’ve tapped the expertise of financial advisors, fashion bloggers and everyone in between to bring you 83 tips to help slash your bills.
Regional director at Acuma Independent Financial Advice www.acuma.ae (04 332 8582).
Phone bill: Try using your home phone instead of your mobile phone as there are generally better rates for landline phone usage. Alternatively try using an instant messaging service to chat with friends overseas instead of via your mobile phone.
DEWA: You should be mindful of leaving the lights and the TV on in your house. You’ll be surprised at how much electricity and therefore money this wastes. Also be mindful of how much water you’re using. Do you have extra-long showers or even baths? Do you let the water run when you brush your teeth?
Rent: Are you paying too much rent and living in an apartment beyond your budget? The rule of thumb is that you shouldn’t spend more than 25 percent of your income on rent. Consider how much you can afford and don’t spend beyond your means.
Transport: Consider how much money you are spending towards car maintenance, petrol and taxis. Taking the metro is friendlier towards your wallet and the environment too.
Shopping: Ask yourself the question ‘do I need this new shirt or do I want this new shirt?’ If it’s the latter then you should bypass it. Better yet, bypass shopping malls altogether because window shopping often turns into actual shopping. Don’t tempt yourself.
Personal loan: If you have a personal loan, initiate a conversation with your lender to see if the monthly or annual fee can be waived or reduced. Banks are often open to the idea of renegotiating lending fees, so it certainly won’t do you any harm to ask the question.
Dry cleaning: Instead of paying for dry cleaning, think about whether or not those clothes will clean themselves in the washing machine. This may seem like a minor cost, but it all adds up. If you must get your clothes dry cleaned, make sure you do as many of your clothes at once as possible.
Insurance: You should ensure you always have adequate insurance. If something were to happen to your health and you were unable to work, or if you injure yourself and were handed a hefty medical bill, you will feel the financial pinch. It’s best to insure yourself and have peace of mind that if something were to happen to you, your finances will remain in order. Remember that some costs are worth it.
Founder of SCAFA Follow @SCAFAltd on Twitter, www.scafa.ae (04 379 4044).
Eating Out: Learn to make all those fabulous things you love to eat in restaurants for yourself. You can take a beginners class at SCAFA. Stir fry, spaghetti Bolognese, baked potatoes and bangers and mash are all dishes that are quick and easy to make and only need a few, cheap ingredients.
Groceries: When it comes to food be smart about your cooking and use what you have. Don’t buy one batch of herbs and never use them again. Look into how you can apply them to a number of recipes.
Shopping: Buy store brand items. These are usually just as good as the fancy ones, especially for items such as chopped tomatoes or baked beans.
Asset and wealth manager at Pinnacle Asset & Wealth Management, email@example.com (050 884 1799).
Itemise: Keep the receipts for everything you buy, if only for a few months. Start making a list of what you bought, when and for how much. Add in the regular payments you make from your bank account or credit cards. It will not take too long for a pattern to emerge and to work out where you are wasting money.
Going out: Most bars have happy hours and most restaurants have special deals. By simply adjusting the time of your social plans you will start to save money.
Credit cards: Make sure you clear the debt on credit cards at the end of each month before you pick up charges. Never use them to draw cash from an ATM. Use your debit card for that and you will have fewer costs.
Founder, Blue Planet Green People www.blueplanetgreenpeople.com (04 369 5209).
Groceries: Buy local-organic products where possible, especially vegetables and fruit. It is not only 30-40 percent cheaper than imported organic vegetables in the supermarket but also fresher.
Shopping: Go with a list and stick to it to help avoid impulse buys.
Shopping: Don’t fall for bulk-buying bundle offers – it just leads to wastage with half empty-bottles forcefully finished or binned out of frustration.
Cosmetics and cleaning products: Try DIY and simple homemade alternatives. For example, use shea butter as moisturizer, organic cold pressed coconut oil on skin and hair, lemon, baking soda and vinegar for cleaning and so on. It is completely toxin free and also more economical.
Founder and managing director of Continental Group www.continental-intl.com (04 335 3433).
Food: Pack a lunch and breakfast – the minimum you would probably normally spend on meals in a working day would be Dhs20, which adds up to a total of Dhs4,800 a year. You can cook for yourself and pocket the difference and treat yourself later on.
Odd jobs: Making extra money on the side can make saving money a lot easier. Figure out what you have to offer. You could do dog-walking, babysitting, knitting, or start a shop on Souq.com.
Spring clean: Sell anything that you own and don’t use on sites such as Dubizzle, Souq.com or at the Dubai Flea Market.
Bills: Minimise high-interest debts. Pay off all credit cards with low interest loans.
Small change: On average, people accumulate around Dhs3 a day in the form of coins. Store these in a money box at the end of every day and with time it will turn into a much larger amount. Using it at the end of the month could pay off almost 30 percent of one of your utility bills.
Shopping: Plan your purchases to coincide with discount and sale periods, especially during festivals such as Eid and Dubai Shopping Festival, to get maximum value for the money you spend.
Senior financial consultant at Holborn Assets Follow @FinancialUAE. www.holbornassets.com (050 558 1223).
Food: Like fine-dining but not the prices? Check out the lunch offers many high-end places have, which are often a fraction of the price of the evening menus.
Food: If you’re organizing a dinner or brunch for a large group, ask the restaurant manager if you can get a discount. This works best at newer venues that are keen for customers.
Shopping: It sounds simple, but go shopping with cash, not a debit or credit card. If you don’t have it, you can’t spend it.
Bills: Is that monthly bank standing order costing you Dhs25 or more every month? See if there is an alternative payment method.
Shopping: Books can be pricey, but look around and there are frequent second-hand book sales. Feline Friends usually runs two a month, with paperbacks at just Dhs10.
Grooming: This may be heresy in Dubai, but it is possible to paint your own nails from time to time…
Stylist and blogger www.styledrifter.com (050 656 9640).
Shopping: Caring for your clothes will help them last longer. Use gentle detergents, avoid the dryer when possible (always when it comes to jeans) and hang and fold clothes properly. Care tags are there for a reason – read them.
Shopping: Building a wardrobe around one or two colours can help you figure out what to buy (and avoid). Don’t buy anything that won’t go with at least two items you already own.
Shopping: Spend the bulk of your wardrobe budget on quality pieces you can update around and look for deals on the trendier looks. Some trends seem destined to pass quickly and should be avoided by the budget-conscious shopper.
Head of wealth management and group benefits at National Bonds www.nationalbonds.ae (600 52 2279).
Shopping: Don’t spend to impress. This is a common cause of living beyond your means. Stop and think about what you are trying to gain by it. It is hard, but so is bankruptcy.
Shopping: Don’t be sad. Research shows that if you go shopping after watching a sad film, you are likely to spend more. Make sure you only watch those tear-jerkers when your money is tucked away somewhere safe.
Shopping: Boredom is a major shopping trigger. If you’re online, make sure you set yourself a limit. In Dubai’s malls, ask stores to hold things for you for a few hours. Only buy things that you still really want after that period of time.
Consultant at Professional Investment Consultants www.pic-uae.com (04 392 7333).
Daily expenses: Have a local bank account for daily expenses only and no more than three times your income should be left in this account. Open an offshore account and put your excess money in there.
Savings: Save up to 50 percent of your disposable income with advice from a consultant. This means you can still have fun with the balance, but saving half of it will enable you to build up a lump sum in the future. Make sure you save it somewhere where it takes you at least five days to get it.
Work bonuses: Invest your work annual bonus with financial advice yearly. With this in mind you’ll be able to build up a lump sum over time with proper asset allocation or spread your money across different investment classes, such as, cash, fixed interest, equity and property and a diversified portfolio.
Founder and CEO of souqalmal.com Follow @souqalmal, www.souqalmal.com.
Bills: According to DEWA, turning that temperature dial up by even one degree will help you save on your cooling costs by 9% – try setting your AC to the recommended 23°C.
Bills: If you find that your DEWA bill is getting on the high end, check for leaks in the pipes under the ground. One of our regular users found out that there were 5 leaks in their backyard after seeing their bill go up from Dhs1,500 a month to Dhs4,000 within a few months.
Bills: Invest in LED light bulbs, which are more energy efficient and do not generate any heat and choose the lowest wattage that you need. Friendly to youw budget and the world.
Bills: Waste as little water as possible by never watering your garden in the heat of the day. Stick to early morning or late evening watering sessions, when it is less likely to evaporate straight away.
Shopping: Leave the kids at home when you grocery shop has the potential to save you hundreds on your weekly shopping bill. Once they have nagged you for treats, the bill can be dearer than expected.
Parties: Host your own birthday party. Organising your own games, baking your own cakes and party food and putting together your own party favours can dramatically reduce the cost.
Banking: There are balance transfer offers on the market with zero percent balance transfer rules that can give you a break in interest payment. However, make sure that you look at all fees associated with transferring your balance to another card such as transfer fees or processing fees.
Credit cards: Cash-back cards are great if you are someone who pays off their outstanding balance fully (otherwise it can get expensive) with cards having up to 10 percent discount on dining and as much as 50 percent discount on cinema tickets.
Kids: Keep kids entertained on the chreap by letting them be chefs for the day. Give them dough to play with, roll and cut their favourite shapes. If you do not have time to make the dough at home, you can get them at different bakeries on Al Wasl Road or Waitrose has a cookie dough pack in its fridge section. Cost effective, fun and a great way to keep away from the heat.
Time Out team tips
Leisure: Funky Lanes at the Arabian Centre in Mirdif (04 239 3636) is now offering free bowling to ladies every day of the week throughout summer, from 10am to 2pm.
Shopping: Do your weekly shop at supermarkets that offer a reward programme. Carrefour’s My Club offers a range of benefits for points collected, including shopping vouchers with no minimum spend requirements.
Travel: Sign up to newsletters from airlines that fly in and out of Dubai, and be the first to know about flight sales. You could save yourself thousands of dirhams on your next holiday or trip home.
Grooming: Get your hair cut for free. Formul’A French Hairdressing Academy in Knowledge Village (04 438 0122) offers free cuts to men and women by students in training. Cuts by staff start from Dhs50 and colour from Dhs100.
Savings: When you get a pay rise save the extra and continue to live on the same amount. At the end of a year you will have a lump sum that will make a difference to your life. It takes some self-discipline, but watching your savings grow each month is a wonderful incentive to keep at it.
Discount card: Register for a Time Out City Card. The card is free and offers discounts at restaurants, spas and bars and more. Sign up at timeoutdubai/citycard and see more on facing page.
Groceries: Before heading to the supermarket, download the Sallety app launched by the Department of Economic Development. It allows you to compare the cost of products at supermarkets in Dubai. Download at www.sallety.ae.
Change your route: In July, the Dhs24 maximum daily charge for Salik was removed. Change your usual commute to use alternative routes such as Al Khail Road to save money on Salik tolls.
Vouchers: Look out for the voucher issues of Time Out Dubai, as well as the voucher in the back of each week’s magazine. They offer a 2-for-1 discount on services across the city, from yoga lessons to brunches.
Go online: Have your weekly shop delivered to you by ordering online. Most sites will deliver for free and you can save on petrol and transport costs. Géant has recently launched an online delivery service at www.geantonline.ae.
Travel: Check your credit card for benefits. Standard Chartered offers Krisflyer Miles for Singapore Airlines and Emirates NBD offers Skywards miles for Emirates Airlines.
Go veggie: Eat less meat and consider going vegetarian for at least one day a week. Not only will this cut the costs of your grocery shopping, but it can also benefit your health and the environment.
Transfers: If you are transferring money abroad, shop around before you do and use companies that specialise in these services, such as Al Ansari Exchange or Western Union, since their charges can sometimes be less than from the average bank.
Travel: Eight weeks before departure is considered the optimum time to book flights for the cheapest prices and travelling on a Tuesday or Wednesday is best for cheap flights. www.skyscanner.net is a useful website for comparing flight options.
Seasonality: Consider making your lifestyle at home seasonally appropriate. For example, do you need soup for dinner and to sleep under a heavy duvet in the height of summer? Moderating your lifestyle according to the season will reduce your need to blast the air con and save on bills.
Savings and credit cards: Shop around for lower interest rates on credit cards and loans and higher interest rates on savings with local website moneyshop.ae, which compares products from all major UAE banks.
Shopping: If you live close enough to the supermarket that it’s feasible, walk to do your shopping rather than drive. The fact you have to carry your groceries home will discourage impulse buys that will make the bags heavier.
Bills: If you don’t mind having a satellite dish (and your neighbourhood permits it), you could save hundreds on your monthly TV bill by getting your services directly from OSN, rather than through your telecoms provider.
Workout: In the cooler months, save money on gym membership by taking your exercise routine outside. Areas such as Safa Park have free to use exercise equipment outside.
Yoga: Friends of Yoga holds regular free sessions. Visit www.friendsofyogaglobal.org to learn more about the schedule.
Top reward schemes and loyalty cards
Miles can be earned at more than 120 stores across the UAE, including Sharaf DG, Spinneys and Adidas. Extra air miles are available to HSBC cardholders.
Apply at www.airmilesme.com.
Coffee shop cards
Pick up a loyalty card at Costa Coffee or Caffe Nero, and earn a free coffee once you’ve collected nine stamps.
Apply in store.
Grazia Insider Card
Get 20 percent off at selected stores, including American Eagle, Rvier Island, Valleydez and Topshop.
Apply at www.grazia.ae.
Loyal One point is earned with every Dhs10 spent on food, beverages and room charges. Points can be redeemed against hotel rooms, dining and Diamond car rental. Minimum spend of Dhs1,000 at the hotel to become a permanent member.
Apply at www.habtoorloyal.com.
This Hilton scheme sees members earn ten points for every Dhs4 spent on dining, spa treatments and stays at the company’s properties, which can then be redeemed against future stays.
Apply at hhonors3.hilton.com.
Members get five points for every Dhs4 spent at Hyatt hotels, which can be redeemed against free stays, room upgrades, meals and spa treatments.
Appy at www.hyatt.com.
IHG Rewards Club
Earn ten points for every Dhs4 spent on stays, spa treatments and dining. Earn 2,000 points for each stay at the InterContinental Festival City. Points can be redeemed for reward nights and use of hotel facilities. Valid for InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn hotels.
Apply at www.ihg.com.
Le Club Accor
Valid at Novotel, Sofitel, Pullman and Ibis properties, spending Dhs50 will earn rewards starting from 20 points. Once members earn 2,000 points, they will receive Dhs195 to spend on all hotel facilities except conference events.
Apply at www.acor.com.
Earn ten points for every Dhs4 spent on hotel stays (excluding facilities used while there) and redeem against future stays to save now and enjoy later.
Apply at www.marriot.com.
The Nail Spa
This loyalty scheme at the ladies-only salon allows customers to earn one point for every Dhs1 spent. Once customers have earned 850 points, they are entitled to a free treatment, Sunday to Wednesdays.
Apply at www.thenailspa.com.
This scheme has three tiers – the first two are free. Classic cards get patrons two points for every Dhs1 spent (except on restaurant reservations), while Select cards offer complimentary late check-out and VIP guest room amenities, plus two points for every Dhs1 spent in all facilities, except Al Mawal and Chi Zen outlets.
Apply at www.rotanarewards.com.
Accumulate points at stores across the city. Rewards for spending Dhs10 range from two to ten points, depending on the store. Once you’ve earned 100 points, you can redeem them for Dhs25 worth of products. Members must have a minimum of 500 points in their account at all times.
Apply at www.shukranrewards.com.
With this free scheme, guests earn one Sirius point for every Dhs12 they spend on dining, shopping, spa treatments or hotel stays at Jumeirah hotels, resorts and residences worldwide. Points can then be used for stays, upgrades and dining.
Apply at www.jumeirah.com.
Starwoods Preferred Guest
Get two points for every Dhs4 spent at any Starwoods hotel in Dubai (except Le Méridien Dubai, Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Le Méridien Fairway and The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina). Points can be redeemed against hotel stays, room upgrades and activities.
Apply at www.starwoodshotels.com.
Collect a stamp every time you order a six-inch sandwich, and once you’ve earned eight stamps, your next sandwich is free with the purchase of a soft drink.
Apply in store.