Camilla Hajek, 32, British, mum of two
“From spending Dh800 to Dh1,000 per week feeding a family of two adults, two infants and one nanny, I’ve cut down to Dh2,000 for the whole month. I write a list of all meals for the month ahead, allowing one night a week for takeaways. I then write a comprehensive shopping list with every ingredient I’ll need and head off to the hypermarket. Meat goes in the freezer and the only items I buy weekly are fresh vegetables and milk. I choose Carrefour because I also use its loyalty card to collect points and every two to three months I get a voucher for Dh50 off my bill.
I used to spend Dh80 to Dh100 a day on breakfast, coffees and lunches at work, but now I take a packed lunch with me. I also switched from Dh20 per box of baby cereal to good old-fashioned semolina, which is a fraction of the cost. I make all other baby meals myself.
I never pay full price for clothes. I shop online and order everything from places like Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy as there’s always a discount code of at least 30 to 40 per cent. Kids’ clothes are even better; there are plenty of online stores that deliver to the UAE, including Next Direct or F&F at Tesco, and I take full advantage of sales at Carters, Oshkosh and Baby Gap.
And I always buy up a size to last the next few years ahead. When my daughter was born, she even had some items in age two to three years, which I bought in a sale – she’ll always grow into them, so why not? You can also find outlet stores for many of the popular brands, such as the Mothercare outlet in Al Ghurair Mall.
It may seem crazy to buy Christmas items in January but that’s when they’re reduced! Last year I raided Pottery Barn and walked away with Dh25 Christmas stockings and Dh30 Christmas pyjamas.
There’s always a birthday to buy for, or a teacher’s present; again, why pay full price? I recently bought some lovely discounted Mac lip glosses at Souq.com as presents for friends, as well as discount toys; a Le Toy Van doll’s house, which should have been over Dh800, was discounted to Dh199. Bath&Body Works has amazing sales around twice a year where the shower gels are Dh10 – down from Dh65. I buy at least 10 shower gels, as well as hand soaps, gift sets and candles, which I keep to give as gifts throughout the year.”
Dasa Schrammli, 33, Slovakian, mum of one
“Living on a tight budget in Dubai can be demanding, but not impossible. With a small baby, I always look for bargains on Souq.com; they do great deals that include Pampers nappies and wipes. Food-wise, since we eat organic meals, we go to the Organic Food and Café which offers 20 per cent off every third Saturday, and Ripe Market is even cheaper.
When I go into shops, I always take the leaflet at the entrance and go for the offers! I choose a supermarket that offers lower prices for bulk buys, such as Union Coop. I use loyalty cards, so I get vouchers for money off. Facebook groups for the budget-conscious also help, where people share information on bargains around town. Clothes can be bought at second-hand bazaars very cheaply. If I go out, I choose ladies’ nights to make the most of free drinks. Children’s venues often do free play for children, and if you go when there’s an event on, they often offer handy samples and even refreshments.”
Jessica McGregor, 34, German, co-founder of facebook budgeting group ‘UAE dirham stretcher’
“It’s absolutely possible to be frugal when grocery shopping in Dubai by shopping wisely. Firstly, try to choose local or regional produce over the more expensive options imported from countries such as the US and Australia. In some supermarkets, you’ll find the local and regional varieties tucked away on the lower shelves underneath the imported fruit and vegetables. Also, large hypermarkets can often have wider selections of local and regional items and a greater price range to choose from, as well as selling produce in larger quantities so you can benefit from lower prices for bulk-buying.
When buying vegetables for casseroles, stews or mash, consider purchasing from the freezer section; frozen vegetables can still have a higher nutritional value than those imported from faraway countries and that have been lying on the shelf for a while! The same goes for fruit; if you plan to make your own jam, chutney or desserts, frozen fruit is a great alternative to the more expensive fresh varieties, especially for fruits such as berries.
If you have a large family, consider shopping for fresh goods at the fruit and vegetable market at Ras Al Khor, I believe that could save you money. Be sure to open large bags or boxes to check everything’s in good condition and don’t forget, we’re in the Middle East; haggle to your heart’s content! If you don’t have a large family but you do have a group of friends looking to cut grocery costs, take it in turns to make the trip to the market and bulk-buy for everybody to take advantage of lower prices. There are also the fish markets; the old one in Deira and the new one in Umm Suqeim. Get there early to get the best choice.
Finally, make use of store loyalty cards if you always use the same supermarket or hypermarket or, if you prefer to shop around, investigate rewards programmes that earn you points when you use your credit or debit card. They’re great schemes for getting some money off or freebies.”
How to afford luxuries
Who says budgeting can’t include the odd treat or two? Our frugal experts tell us how...
1 Use vouchers There are plenty of voucher programmes around that offer deals such as two-for-one. Go with a friend and split the cost, or save the freebie for your next visit.
2 Trawl the web The arrival of Groupon has spawned a whole host of websites offering great deals around the city. Sign up to as many as you can so you get a daily influx of notifications letting you know about new offers.
3 Be loyal Always use the same salon? Same spa? Ask if they have a loyalty programme where you can earn points for each visit or spend, then sign up (and don’t forget to take your card each time) so your hard-earned cash can keep on earning while you’re treating yourself.
4 Be a guinea-pig Hairdressers and beauticians have to train somewhere, and they need real hair and real bodies to train on. So find out where they train, and make the most of discounted services – under full supervision – as their mannequin!
5 One-off deals Keep an eye out when reading your favourite newspapers and magazines for any offers and deals around town.
6 Off the beaten track Taking a trip slightly outside your normal stomping ground might lead you to better deals. Slightly out-of-the-way locations often offer more reasonable prices to tempt customers away from the more mainstream locations.