Many expats arrive in Dubai and assume a tax-free salary means they will be in a position to save for the future and still have plenty of money left to burn every month, enjoying the social playground that is our city.
However, the cost of living can be surprisingly high and many people find themselves caught up in enjoying the luxurious lifestyle too much, meaning they spend more, save less and possibly even plunge into debt.
Brunching or heading out for dinner more frequently than you can actually afford could leave you short, and with rent prices still showing no sign of decreasing, you could find your dreams of saving shattered pretty quickly.
There are ways to get back on track, and stay there, and live a cost-efficient lifestyle in the UAE; which will allow you to enjoy the social side, while also putting some of your hard earned cash aside for the future.
Consumers should always compare prices before taking a final decision. Buying something on impulse will almost always lead to overspending. Compare prices for your necessary purchases, especially bank products, rents, insurance, transport, food and travel. You might find that just five minutes of research will save you greatly.
The below tips will help slash your bills and cut costs of living:
Don't choose the first apartment you look at. Do your research and look around. Some areas are more expensive than others and you could end up paying too much rent and living in an apartment beyond your budget. A plush pad is all well and good, but having to eat baked beans every night to live there is far from ideal. Aim to spend no more than 25 per cent of your salary on rent. Work out what that figure is before you start looking, it will ensure you don't start looking at apartments outside your price range or be tempted to take a dangerous plunge.
Look at what packages are available from both du and etisalat and decide whether a pre-paid or post-paid deal would suit your lifestyle more. Once you sign a post-paid contract, you're locked in for a certain amount of time, so make sure you're not paying for data/minutes you don't need. Messages aren't the same as making a call, but try using an instant messaging service like Whatsapp to stay in touch with friends and family as much as you can. Use your home phone instead of mobile to make overseas calls. The rates are much better. Skype is also a great free way to stay in touch.
Tip: Turning off automatic push notifications on some apps will save data and money.
Leaving lights, TVs and taps on when you don't need them is akin to throwing away money. It may only be a small amount each time, but those small amounts add up. If you don't need it - turn it off.
We're all guilty of doing food shopping at whatever supermarket is closest to our home or office. That 'it's easy to go here' mentality could see you spending way more than you need to. Rather than just getting a few things every few days, consider making a trip once a week to a more affordable supermarket and stock up for the week. Buy things that will last and can be used in multiple recipes or meals.
If credit cards are used and managed wisely, you can benefit from rewards, offers and discounts. Some offer air miles and cash back, which most of us definitely wouldn't say no to. Do your research and find the right card to suit your lifestyle. Check the fees and read all of the small print so you don't get stung with hidden costs or high interest.
Always pay off the debt fully every month. Only paying the minimum payment or some of the total due will incur charges. That's a vicious circle you don't want to find yourself in because it can quickly spiral out of control.
Most bars have happy hours and many of the restaurants have special deals on certain days. Adjusting the time or days you head out could save you greatly. Also look out for things such as The Entertainer - the 2-for-1 meal and brunch vouchers offered are a great way to enjoy a full social life for less.
Also, there are so many amazing activities available in the UAE which cost nothing. Take full advantage of beaches and parks which are either free or cost only a few dirhams. Load up a cool box with snacks and drinks from home and you'll find you've had a really nice, fun day out for very little money.
When you're planning to travel, always make sure you look at the calendar to check there are no local or international holidays. As with anywhere, flight prices are hiked up considerably during holiday periods. Being an expat means you're going to frequently be asked to attend weddings and family events in your home country. Of course, you will want to go, but be realistic. You can't go to everything, nor can you probably afford to. So, aim to head home once, maybe twice a year. Again, remember if you select a credit card which offers air miles, this could come in very handy for the big trips.
By Jon Richards
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