There’s an assumption to those outside the UAE that expats living here are stinking rich – but when it comes to my family, I can assure you that after we’ve paid our rent, school and nursery fees, and done a few weekly shops, we certainly aren’t driving around in a gold-plated rolls or dining in Dubai’s version of The Ivy every night. We have to save money wherever we can, which is why I’ve become quite savvy at finding ways to stretch the cash.
Here’s my list of ways to do it – and if you have ideas, I’d love you to list them in the comments!
1. Air Miles Middle East. I told you about this company in a recent blog post here – and I genuinely think it’s one of the best ways for families in the city to save money. To put it simply, you download the app (search “Air Miles ME” in the UAE store or click here), collect miles when you shop in certain places, and then use those miles to pay for things. We build ours up to help pay for biannual or annual flights home (we saved thousands this summer), but you could use them for grocery shopping, cinema trips, staycations, family dinners and much more. It’s easy to build them up if you regularly shop in participating outlets, such as Spinneys, The Toy Store, and Booking.com – and if you have a HSBC Credit Card, you can get double the points every time you use it at those outlets. Have a browse at www.airmilesme.com for all the info.
2. Guzzle App. If you enjoy the odd night out, but don’t generally have the funds – let me share a little secret… Download an app called “Guzzle” for free – and you will have access to a plethora of 2-for-1 drinks offers around the city. No need to pay for a package – all you have to do is download and register. Then click redeem when you want to save on a number of offers, such as ‘2 for 1 glasses or bottle of grape’, ‘2 for 1 bottle of hops’, and ‘2 for 1 mixed drinks’. Venues include the likes of Mahiki, Belgian Beer Café, The Balcony Bar, The Gramercy and much more.
3. Baby Bazaar. Most of us have heard about this bi-monthly baby and kids market, where other parents sell their unwanted items – but have you attended yet? Everything costs money in Dubai – and inflated prices in Dubai stores have made the whole ‘buying for number three’ process a little daunting. I’ve considered dressing her head-to-foot in her brother’s outfits (and she will definitely wear a large chunk of it), but I do want a few girly things too. Step forward Baby Bazaar, where you can shop until you drop at a fraction of the price of the shops. And as a Mummy myself, I know that babies wear outfits very few times before they move up a size – so most of my buys are nearly new. Details here.
4. Free Play Areas. The absolute best way to save money on entertaining your kids during the hot summer months is to “like” every Facebook page for play areas in the city to keep in the loop when they run promotional free play sessions for kids and tots. For example, Kids HQ in Umm Suqeim (where Stanley recently had a brilliant 4th birthday party, see here) runs a free play session every Sunday between 11am and 3pm (call 04 379 4233 for details). There are also a number of indoor play areas in the city that offer completely free access, including IKEA Festival City; a small area for tots in Hamleys, The Dubai Mall; Pan Emirates on Umm Suqeim Street; Elevation Burger on Al Wasl; and Fat Burger on Beach Road. And don’t forget the free fun to be had in malls – we love visiting The Dubai Mall for a cheap morning of entertainment – a visit to DubaiDino, gazing at the fish in The Dubai Aquarium, watching the skaters at Dubai Ice Rink, and finishing with a frozen yoghurt. The boys feel like they’ve had a brilliant morning out and it cost us no more than 50 AED.
5. Shop the sales. This sounds obvious, but simply timing when you make big purchases can save you hundreds (if not thousands) of dirhams. For example, if you need to make a big purchase now (such as furniture), you should wait a few weeks, when the DSS festival kicks off (Dubai Summer Surprises). Taking place every year, this 43 day festival promises huge savings in almost every store in the city – and this year it’s taking place between 9th July to 20th August (details here). If you don’t need it right now, wait! There will be some huge savings announced soon! Meanwhile if you need a new car (like my family, with a third baby, gulp), now is an excellent time to buy with all the Ramadan offers on. You’ll find a round-up of deals here. Being savvy is the best way to shop in the UAE – there are savings to be made, but you just need to know when to be patient.