Being an expat is never easy, especially when it comes to managing your finances. Aside from having to set aside money for your family back home, you also have to cope with the cost of living in Dubai, which is considerably higher compared to other cities in the region.
We may enjoy tax-free income in Dubai, but let’s face it: our day-to-day expenses requires serious penny-pinching. Also, let’s not forget that starting next year, value-added tax (VAT) will be charged on certain goods and services — all the more reason to tighten our budgets!
How to Save Money as an Expat in Dubai
Our daily budget often includes household utilities, transportation, food, and groceries. In this article, we present several tips on how to save on these common expenditures:
Tip #1. Switch off your appliances when not in use. Better yet, unplug them to save on “standby” usage as well.
Tip #2. Use energy-efficient light bulbs. You will not only be able to save on electricity, but you’ll be environment friendly, too!
Tip #3. Consider adding a “dual flush” button to your toilet; this can help save on water usage. Similarly, installing an “aerator” on your faucets can help regulate the flow and usage of water.
Tip #4. Set your air-conditioning at a temperature of 24 degrees Celsius, as this is the most optimum setting in the UAE. Moreover, use “auto” instead of “on” setting because this is more effective in regulating temperature.
Tip #5. To save energy when doing your laundry, wash clothes at 30 to 40 degrees Celsius only. It is also wiser to wash a “full load” every time.
Tip #6. Minimize your usage of appliances between 12pm to 6pm everyday. According to DEWA, this is the time when electricity charges tend to go higher than other periods. Keep that in mind before you start a movie marathon in the afternoons!
Tip #7. If you have plants around the house, the best time to water them would be early in the morning or late at night.
Tip #8. Since the weather in UAE is generally warm, you don’t need to “warm up” your car for minutes at a time! Even 30 seconds is enough; otherwise, you’d just be wasting petrol.
Tip #9. Speaking of petrol, try buying it early in the morning, late afternoons, or evening. Since the weather is cooler during these periods, the petrol will be denser compared to hotter times, when petrol is less dense. Cool, huh?!
Tip #10. During the cooler months, consider turning the air-conditioning off and opening the windows when you’re not on a highway. This way, you can save energy as well as enjoy the fresh air!
Tip #11. On the other hand, close your car windows if you’re on a highway. This is because an open car window on a highway could increase resistance, which uses up more petrol over time.
Tip #12. Turn off your car engine whenever you need to pull over somewhere or to wait for someone. There’s no need to keep it running and waste petrol during these times!
Tip #13. As much as possible, drive steadily. Accelerating too quickly is a waste of petrol, not to mention it could endanger your safety. Driving steadily at just the right speed is the best way to go.
Tip #14. Don’t press too hard on the brakes, as this is a waste of energy and petrol. By keeping a safe distance from the vehicles in front of you, you wouldn’t have to use the brakes too often.
Tip #15. Make a list before going to the grocery store. By sticking dutifully to your list, you can save a lot of money and focus on the essentials.
Tip #16. As much as possible, eat first before going shopping. Have you ever noticed that you tend to buy more when you’re hungry? Having finished a meal before shopping, you wouldn’t be tempted to buy more food than you usually do.
Tip #17. Plan your shopping route, especially in huge grocery stores. Chart your way around the store with your grocery list in hand, so that you wouldn’t have to be enticed by “tempting” displays of items that you don’t really need.
Tip #18. Whenever you shop for groceries, use a small trolley cart. This way, you can avoid buying things that you don’t need and stick to your grocery list.
Tip #19. Check out the bottom shelves at the grocery. Branded items are often placed at eye-level so that you would see and buy them first. But if you look at the bottom shelves, you will find generic items or lesser known brands that are more affordable.
Tip #20. Compare prices of items per unit or in bulk. In some cases, it would be cheaper to buy an item in bulk. However, if you don’t really need so much of it at a time, then buying per unit is okay, too.
Tip #21. Rather than buying pre-packaged meat or premium cuts that are displayed out front, you can request the butcher for larger or cheaper cuts instead. These are usually cheaper but the quality is more or less the same.
Tip #22. Speaking of meats, consider buying frozen cuts. Thawed meats, which are ready for you to cook, usually cost higher. For a slightly lower price, you can always buy frozen food and thaw these later.
Tip #23. Check your receipt for any double entries or errors. Better yet, watch the screen as the lady at the cash register rings your items. It is better to correct mistakes as soon as possible, rather than having to report them at a later time.
By heeding these practical tips, you can save more money on your daily expenses. Of course, more savings means more money to send back home or to set aside for the future. Meanwhile, here is a guide to banking, taxes, and wills in Dubai, which can teach you more about finances.