Saving money in Dubai / Abu Dhabi, UAE

If leaving the UAE with more money than you arrived with is your goal then living within a budget, making some compromises and not living beyond your means is crucial. With inflation rising at a higher rate than salary increments and the introduction of VAT, how is the best way to proceed?


Whilst rents in the UAE continue to fall, albeit slightly, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and despite the supply of new properties outstripping demand, the cost of housing is still a major component of your overall expenses.

Obviously, there are many factors to be considered when selecting a suitable home. The major question is the type of accommodation.  A villa provides you with access to a garden, with a nice lawn and possibly a swimming pool. However, this comes at a price; villas are generally much higher than most apartments but there are additional ongoing cost to consider. Electricity will be much higher and water charges can be considerable. The climate in the UAE means constant watering of plants and the lawn is required in order to maintain a healthy garden, and these costs can be several hundred US dollars per month. You are essentially paying an exorbitant amount of money to maintain your landlord’s garden.

An apartment, on the other hand, is smaller and because it is generally well insulated by surrounding apartment units it is much more efficient and easy to keep cool.

The vast majority of apartment complexes have great facilities including recreational areas and swimming pools. The building in this case shoulder the cost of maintaining all of this.


It is so tempting to buy the car of your dreams in the UAE. Luxury cars are ubiquitous, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi particularly, both on the road and tantalisingly from behind the plate glass of one of many showrooms. Car loans with relatively small down payments can make the most extravagant car seem almost affordable. For people looking to save some money and maintain control on their expenses a more sensible approach is required. Be strict and stick to cars within your budget.

Consider second hand vehicles – There are plenty of quality used cars available. If you choose to buy a car which is only one year old with low mileage, the seller takes the hit on the depreciation of the car. You get a nearly new car for maybe 60 or 70 per cent of the cost of a new car. Some cars depreciate more than others of course.

Don’t be a badge snob – BMW, Mercedes and Audi are desirable, however, the equivalent Toyota, Nissan or more recently Kia and Hyundai are much more affordable. Things like build quality are much less of an issue than they used to be. Also crucially the cost of maintaining these vehicles with parts and servicing is much higher with the more desirable badge category.

Contemplate leasing a vehicle – If you require a second car, or a family car, which may not be used all year round then leasing a car has its advantages. There is no down payment, no running costs, such as insurance, maintenance, and servicing. You generally get a very modern, sometimes brand new vehicle. You may have the option of changing the vehicle during the leasing contract. Also, if the family spend a couple of months during the summer out of the country then the car can be returned for this period. For people on a 2 or 3-year contract, this might be a cost-effective alternative.


Another major expense is food and consumables. The prices have continued to rise over the years making this a significant part of your budget. Park & Shop, Spinneys, and Waitrose might stock some luxuries you cannot live without, however, the majority of your staple groceries are available at places like Carrefour, Geant or Union Co-Op and big savings can be made if you stick to a budget and a routine.

Saving Apps/Coupons

Most people who move to the UAE aim to improve their standard of living and if possible save some money. Living within a tight budget makes this a difficult goal to attain. Saving money and finding deals with loyalty cards, apps and coupons can help in this regard.


ShopSavvy enables you to scan barcodes and QR codes of numerous products and compare them with the same products at other supermarkets and shops. A very convenient way of saving money.
iPhone Android

Here WeGo

Here Wego assists with navigation – similar to Google Maps with the added advantage of operating offline meaning you do not need to unnecessarily use up data on your sim whilst you are out and about.
iPhone Android


This app connects users with merchants offering goods, services, activities and even travel. From desert safaris to Spa treatments and seafood buffets to car waxing. Discounts often exceed 50% meaning you can still enjoy the occasional luxury even when living on a budget.
iPhone Android

Credit Card

Credit cards are unfortunately a necessity in modern life. Just try reserving a hotel room or renting a car without one.

Whoever you bank with will provide a credit card and within a few months will be encouraging you to increase your initial limits. You will also be bombarded with offers from other banks offering ‘preferential rates’ to the point where you may consider changing your mobile number since it can become a real nuisance.

Most credit cards charges around 3% per month, but some cost considerably more which means you could be paying over 40% interest per anum. Many people in the UAE have more than one credit card and in some cases 4 or 5! In an increasing number of cases, people are struggling just to make the minimum monthly payment which doesn’t even reduce the principal amount.

In order to avoid this, clearly sticking to a strict budget is absolutely fundamental. If you must use your card, only do so if you are confident you can repay the outstanding amount in full at the end of each month. If you do want to spoil yourself on the occasional luxury, save up the funds before you purchase it. Buy now and pay later is the start of a slippery slope for a lot of people. You can compare credit cards and personal loans here.

It goes without saying, credit card and personal debt in the UAE is treated as a criminal offense. Failure to make payments will result in relentless hounding from the bank, which quickly escalates to a debt collector. Once your security check is submitted (assuming it bounces) there is every chance of a police case being raised.

Credit cards should not be seen as a free pass to a spending spree you know you are unlikely to repay.


Try brunching less – once per month instead of once per week. As an alternative, why not take the family and/or a group of friends to a local park for a picnic (especially during the cooler months). Here is a list of parks in Dubai and in Abu Dhabi.

Go for a healthy run, here are the 5 best places to jog in the UAE.

For a wide range of vouchers for all kinds of events check out VoucherCodesUAE.

The Entertainer encourages you to “Live more. Spend less.” Visit their site and download their app. You can also buy their book in stores.