Coronavirus salary cut? How to save every dirham on shopping and living in the UAE

Tips on how to save on your rent, groceries, energy bill and school fees
200103 dirhams
Dubai: Living in the UAE isn’t cheap. If you are used to prices back home, whether that’s in India, Egypt, the Philippines, The UK or America, you will notice that life is slightly more expensive here. It can be quite an adjustment, especially if your salary’s been cut.
The first piece of advice anyone will give you if they hear about your income decreasing, is:
Do not spend that money on anything non-essential. You should be able to survive these next few months without food delivery, online shopping or frivolous grocery expenses.
However, there are some things that you cannot live without spending on:
• Rent
• Energy bills
• Groceries
• School fees

How to negotiate your rent

Landlords are yet to go in for full-scale rent waivers or rent-free extensions to ease their tenants’ pain following the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent impact on all layers of the economy. But here's what you can do to try and save some money on your rent.

Always check your contract

Relief could come to tenants if they go through their tenancy contracts. If there is a mention among the clauses of a “force majeure” sort of situation, then could initiate talks with their landlords by invoking that clause.
It applies to situations where forces outside of people’s control impact on their prospects and financial situation. A pandemic certainly qualifies as a force majeure situation.
According to John Peacock, Head of Indirect Tax and Conveyancing at BSA Ahmad Bin Hezeem and Associates, if residents are unable “to make payment of rentals due to a lack of income resulting from the forced closure of a business or a loss of salary as an employee, they should analyse the relevant contract, which may provide for both force majeure and hardship events.
“Should the contract however not make provision, the affected party may wish to consider the provisions of Federal Law No. 5/1985 (Civil Transactions Law).”
Article 249 of the Civil Transactions Law provides that a judge may, to a reasonable level, order a modification of a “burdensome obligation” if instigated by “public exceptional unpredictable circumstances, making the execution of the contracted obligation, if not impossible, burdensome to the debtor.”
In other words, when circumstances force constraints on the financial situation of the tenant. And many are finding themselves in just such a situation.

There are thousands of people just like you

There is a demand for residential rent relief keeping in mind the temporary and permanent salary cuts and job redundancies. Employers are yet to take such drastic action, even though many have been sounding out their workforces.
Elaine Jones, Executive Chairman of Asteco Property Management, said, “We do not expect rental waivers as such for residential property, but there may be revised payment plans. Tenants must refer to their employers for rental support.
“Some landlords can and will help, but the resident should first address [the issue] with their employer.”
Landlords might not be ready to renegotiate rent, as rents had dropped substantially in the last two years and tenants have had that benefit.
“Some landlords have agreed to accept rent in monthly instalments,” said Jones. “We expect this trend to increase significantly over the coming weeks.”

How to save on your energy bills?

By Yousra Zaki, Senior Features Editor
Your home is one of your biggest expenses. Here's how to save on your energy bill, especially since we are getting closer and closer to hot UAE summers. 

Light and electricity

1. I know it sounds counterintuitive to tell you to buy new lightbulbs but if possible, purchase a few LED for your most frequently used lights. They have a longer lifespan and are very high-energy efficiency compared to equivalent lamp and tubes. You will notice a drop in your electricity bill.
2. Ideally don’t switch on any light on during the day. Use your windows.
3. Never have any lights on when you aren’t using them.
4. If you have lights in your home that need to always stay on, then use the lowest-wattage bulbs. These 15-watt bulbs reduce energy usage by 80 per cent.
5. Clean your light bulbs regularly, as dirt limits diffusion of light and decreases illumination.

Electric appliances

1. Use your microwave over your oven whenever possible, as this saves so much more energy.
2. Plan ahead and cook more things at the same time. To save time and energy, when you have to use your oven, cook more than one item at a time.
3. Choose the right pans. Use flat-bottom pans for best contact with the heat, with tight-fitting lids to keep the heat in the pan.
4 Use your kettle to boil water. Boiling water in your kettle before putting it into the pot means you need less high heat to get the water hot. A kettle heats water in around 3 to 4 minutes, while pot on a stove takes about 10 to 12 minutes.
5. Less and small is more. Use small cooking appliances (electric fry pans, toaster ovens, etc.) whenever possible.
6. Keep your AC at 24 degree Celsius. That is the most cost effective option in the UAE. And make sure your air-conditioning unit is set to “auto” rather than the “on” mode, as this will regulate the room temperature more effectively.
7. Don’t just switch off your appliances when you aren’t using them, actually switch off the power or unplug them to eliminate standby use.
8. Wash your clothes at 30-40C only. That will help keep your electricity bill in check. Also, don’t press “go”’ until you have a full load.

How to save money on water

1. Switch off the water now. You really don’t need to have that on right now, since the weather is getting warmer and warmer. If you need hot water to bathe, switch it the heater on just 20 minutes before you shower, so that it’s not on all day.
2. Showering faster. Don’t take any baths during this time. When you do take showers try and cut down on the time standing under running water.
3. Turn off the tap as much as you can, when brushing your teeth or shaving, you can save more than 5 gallons per day.

Q&A about Dubai utility bill discounts

By Sajila Saseendran, Senior Reporter
Dubai residents received a big relief when the government last month announced a Dh1.billion stimulus package to reduce the cost of living and doing business in the emirate.
Q. What’s the time frame for the 10 percent cut in water and electricity bills?
A. The discount will be applicable on bills issued after March 12, 2020 for a period of three months.
Q. Will it be a reduction in the total bill which includes the housing fee which is levied by Dubai Municipality? Or will it only be applicable to the consumption charges of water and electricity?
A. The discount of 10 percent is applicable on electricity and water consumption only from March 12, 2020 for three months. It is not applicable on housing fee.
Q. How about the fuel surcharges? Will that also be discounted?
A. Yes, 10 percent discount is applicable on fuel surcharge also.
Q. Which consumers can benefit from this discount?
A. All Dewa customers in Dubai, including residential, commercial and industrial sectors will benefit.

How to save money on grocery shopping

By Dona Cherian, Senior News Editor
Groceries can be pretty pricey in the UAE, but you can save a great deal if you plan properly. In our family, we used to spend just Dh630 on groceries a month. All thanks to time spent scanning offers and strategically buying items from different stores.

Have a vague weekly meal plan

You don’t need to chart out every single meal you plan on making each day of the week. Just keep in mind the kind of dishes you would make or you plan on making and pick up ingredients divided into essential daily items such as eggs or milk, with other meal-specific items such as avocados or certain herbs. Take a list with you no matter how small or big and while this is not set in stone, it helps make sure that you buy everything you need before picking up something you see in the store.

Use your loyalty card

Every supermarket chain has a loyalty program that’s free to join. Usually people forgo the process just to check out faster. Getting that card can save you some serious money (up to 30 per cent as compared to without it), especially during peak promotional times such as Ramadan.
For example, Union Co-op has Tamayaz cards (gold and silver) which give you additional discounts as compared to regular shoppers on sale days while Carrefour has Club Cards that add up points based on your purchases.

You don’t need to stock and hoard

Saving money is not always about buying in bulk and hoarding for months. You need to look at promotions as a timeline to buy certain less perishable items such as rice or wheat. If you need some rice immediately and there are no promotions, buy a kilo and wait for the promotions that will happen every month. Don’t plan to stock up the entire pantry in one go unless it seems cheaper to do it that way. Breaking up your shopping can save you money if you’re smart about where and when you shop.

Don’t throw away those brochures

Bunch of brochures on your doorstep? Take five minutes to skim through them before dumping them and you might find your favourite organic jam on an incredible offer or a meat at great prices. Three dirhams there and four here one at a time add up over your shopping trips. Stores also advertise their lowest rates in newspapers and you can usually find these promotional offers in Gulf News as well.

Don’t buy everything from one place

It is the easiest thing to do when you shop everything you need from a single store – done and dusted in a go. However, you might be paying more than you should on some groups of food by doing this. Find affordable supermarkets and hypermarkets near you that are best for specific food groups while also buying what you need. This may mean two shopping trips a week, but could save you hundreds of dirhams in the long run.

Never buy seafood from the supermarket

Fish from supermarket chains is extremely convenient but also marked up heavily. Head to the now renovated Deira Fish Market just once a month. Buy fresh seafood and freeze them in batches as soon as you get home to thaw and cook whenever you need during the month. You can even get fruits and vegetables here - so compare prices and buy if cheaper.
Frozen fish is good for at least four to six weeks and this one trip will save 40 per cent of the money you spend on buying fish every week at your local supermarket.
Fruit for sale in supermarket. The Lulu Group will shortly be adding groceries to the list of merchandise that is sold through its online portal ( Credit: Agency

Fruit and vegetable days

Some supermarkets have specific days during the week when they run up to 50 per cent off just on fruits and veggies. Stores that do this include Lulu, Shaklan and Union Co-op supermarkets. This is usually mid-week, so that loyalty card and SMS subscription is going to help you save some money. People who already have the loyalty cards gain the most during promotions.
Get more expensive fruits such as berries and plums, or imported vegetables such as zucchini and cauliflower on sale, rather than full price on these days. We also buy the fruits of the week based on sale promotions – usually apples, oranges or Chiquita bananas.

Frozen is better for your wallet

Love berries but too expensive? Get three times the berries at the same price as fresh ones in a frozen bag. These being frozen as soon as they’re plucked (allegedly) retain much of their taste and tartness when you want to use them. This also makes sure berries like strawberries, that go bad fast, need only be taken out when you need it.
Same goes for chicken – buy frozen chicken. Every week supermarkets run sales on frozen chicken – usually two for the price of one. If you prefer fresh, there are sale promos for that too – just check store Facebook pages, comparison websites and again, brochures. For example, this week you could get Dh5 savings for each kilo of fresh chicken you buy at certain supermarkets.

Look at where the veggies come from

Most supermarkets have different variants of the same vegetables, priced differently based on their country of origin. Try the cheaper ones and if you like the substitution that could save you two to three dirhams per kilo. Some budget options for vegetables are Australian carrots, Iranian or Indian onions (based on promotions) and Jordanian tomatoes.

Seasonal is good for the wallet

While we’re lucky to be in the UAE where most fruits, vegetables and protein are available year-round, seasonal produces is cheaper since it is more abundantly available. This, as can be expected, goes for fruits and vegetables. But this also works in case of fish.
A tip from my dad is to buy fish that is seasonally available. For example, kingfish being more abundant in the winter is cheaper then.

What’s in a colour?

A tiny compromise in taste and aesthetics could save you money. While red, green and orange capsicums (bell peppers) look amazing in salads and taste slightly different, your budget tip is to buy green bell peppers if you’re looking at just getting that spicy yet sweet bell pepper taste.
Same goes for certain kinds of grapes. Eggs could also fall in this category, however, the egg colours do signify a difference in farming methods. Prioritise what you need for your family and spend accordingly.

Pick the bottom row for packed foods

Want cereal, flours or sugar? Pick up the ones on the lowest row of the shelf and compare prices with the ones on your eye-level – yes, always cheaper. Packed foods are also cheaper when they’re the supermarket’s own brands. It’s the same thing, just packaged differently. We also have an entire guide on how to walk through a supermarket in the best way to save money while shopping.

Nothing fancy

There are some items we definitely ignore on our shopping trips. For example, we rarely buy cherry tomatoes – while they taste amazing and look good – the volume one gets vis-à-vis the price is not economical. Same goes for things like seedless grapes or organic arugula leaves. Buying any such ingredients would depend on specific dishes planned for the week, in addition to our essentials

Get online to find discount

Each store has a website and a Facebook page that you can follow for alerts on promotions. There are also several comparison websites and apps that can show you the best offers compiled from various stores. My mom swears by two – D4D mobile app and Pricena website while there are several others such as the ‘UAE offers’ (app).

Your money saving grocery list

Disclaimer: This is a general guide and should only be taken as such. Mentioned prices may change from and Gulf News is not responsible for any losses resulting in following these tips.
For this story, I used regular prices as seen in the first week of October so as to make it relevant for you, the reader. Bear in mind, that since these are mostly regular prices, you might get even lower amounts on your bill if you follow our tips.
Being a regular Indian family, I have listed down what we consider essentials and non-essentials. This may differ for you based on your cuisine but the major items on the list would probably remain the same – protein, grains, herbs, fruits and vegetables. While we do buy from both lists this process will give you an idea of how and where money could be saved.


Brown rice Dh4 (5-kilo bags for four weeks)
Whole wheat flour or atta Dh5 (5-kilo bags for four weeks)
Onions Dh1.46 per kilo
Tomatoes Dh4.7 per kilo
Carrots Dh4.71 per kilo
Cucumbers Dh3.76 per kilo
Chicken Dh12 per kilo (average on fresh or frozen)
Curry powders Dh2 per week (five to six weeks)
Fish from the fish market Dh22 (Dh110 for 5 kilos of seasonal fish)
Green peppers or capsicum Dh6 per kilo
Green chili Dh1 per week (Dh4 for a kilo)
Salt Dh1 per week (Dh4 per kilo of table salt)
Lentils Dh4 per week (Dh20 for one-kg packs)
Chickpeas Dh2 per week (Dh6 for one-kg bag)
Vegetable or seed oil Dh5 per week (Dh24 for one litre)
Olive oil Dh3.75 per week (500 ml a month)
Lemon Dh5 (250gms of local lemons)
Milk or milk powder Dh12 for 2 litres of full fat fresh milk
Sugar Dh1.5 per week (Dh5 for 2.2kg store-brand)
Bread Dh10 a week for sliced bread normal
Beans Dh8 for a week
Grated coconut Dh6 per week (3 boxes a week)
Eggs Dh4 per week (Dh22 for 30 eggs)
Coriander/Parsley/Mint Dh4 per week (used within a week)
Potatoes Dh10 per kilo
Yoghurt Dh5 for one litre pack
Fruits (apple, banana, orange) Dh10 for two kilos of seasonal fruit
Total price per week Dh156.88 per week for a family of four

Non-essentials (we only buy on sale or if we need it for that week)

■ Fruits (grapes, pomegranate, berries, plums or avocadoes)
■ Nuts
■ Cheeses
■ Honey
■ Spaghetti and noodles
■ Sausages
■ Condiments such as ketchup or mayo
■ Cereal
■ Biscuits, cookies and treats
■ Peanut butter or other nut butters
■ Other non-dairy milk such as almond, coconut or soya
■ Any specific vegetables such as zucchini, cauliflower or eggplants

How to save on UAE school fees

By Dona Cherian Senior News Editor, Samihah Zaman Staff Reporter and Faisal Masudi Senior Reporter
Last month UAE Ministry of Education, the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge and Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) - urged education providers to offer tuition discounts and other forms of relief, as they were anticipating pandemic-related economic hardship.
However many UAE schools have still not announced blanket discounts amid the coronavirus pandemic.
We wish there was an easy way to tell everyone what to say or how exactly to save on their school fees, but this depends from school to school.
Some education providers, like Taaleem for example, have announced discounts on fees for the third term in its schools. The move is designed to provide immediate relief to parents facing financial challenges due to the coronavirus outbreak. They’ve announced the term 3 fees will be discounted across the entire Taaleem portfolio of schools in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which includes 25 per cent discounts on Foundation and Kindergarten fees, 20 per cent discount for Primary/Elementary School fees and 20 per cent on Secondary School fees.
While other schools like GEMS have offered financial Relief Package to parents if they can prove they’ve been financially hurt by the global pandemic. As of last week, Gulf News reported that parents of over 10,000 students will be benefiting, to various degrees, from GEMS Education’s financial relief package even amidst calls for a blanket discount for all parents of the school group.
One parent who has two children enrolled in GEMS schools alleged that his application for relief had been rejected despite job loss.
Ideally, if you are struggling and don’t mind showing your school proof of hardship, then go ahead and get in touch with your child’s school. It is better to be proactive with these situations, rather than wait. The more parents step forward, the more you might be able to have a positive outcome.

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