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Navigating the cost of living as a Western expat in the Middle East can be a unique challenge, and having lived in Dubai for nearly 20 years, I have seen it time and time again. However, armed with the right strategies and plans, you can substantially save and see your nest egg grow over time. This blog brings together 43 money saving top tips from diverse professionals, aimed at helping you cut costs and optimise your expat experience. It’s safe to say that the majority of us come here for higher tax free earnings than what we would be earning back home, so instead of getting caught up with the “living the dream”, be smart and start to make wiser decisions.

1. Set a budget: Establish a monthly budget and monitor your expenses, using apps or spreadsheets for added convenience. With the likes of Apple Pay, its very easy to “tap” without any idea of how much “tapping” you actually do each month. Knowing what you are spending is absolute key and one of the most important money saving tips, and I often see that most people are genuinely shocked at this number.

2. Live within your means: Practice mindful spending and resist the temptation of extravagance beyond your financial reach. Don’t get caught up with the keeping up with the Jones’ and make smart decisions with your hard earned money.

3. Choose housing wisely: Consider more affordable neighborhoods options to save on rent. Don’t get pulled into “today’s hot-spot” for location, next month it will be a different neighborhood and you will have paid a higher premium than what you should have.

4. Negotiate your rent: Try and negotiate on lower rent or better terms when landlords want to increase. Equip yourself with research on local market rates and what other options are available to you.

5. Go green: Make it a habit to switch off unused lights to save on utility bills. AC is a huge one is the region, make sure you are using smart apps, eco-function, etc. it will make a huge difference!

6. Save on groceries: Opt for local markets or stores that offer discounts and promotions or buy in bulk whenever possible.

7. Meal planning: Plan your weekly meals and lean towards home cooking instead of eating out. This saves both time and money.

8. Bring your lunch to work: Pack homemade lunch to work instead of buying food on the go. Make coffee at home and take it with you. A Starbucks a day is a lot of money each month!

9. Minimize food waste: Freeze leftovers and get creative in re-purposing ingredients to maximise your groceries.

10. Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and avoid unhealthy habits.

11. Opt for pre-owned items: Consider buying pre-owned furniture, electronics, and other items to save money. People are coming and going all the time, Facebook market place is a great place to start and is an Expats 101 money savings tip!

12. Cancel unnecessary subscriptions: Regularly review and cancel unused or unneeded subscriptions.

13. Bundle services: Bundle your internet, TV, and phone services to save on monthly bills.

14. Compare mobile phone plans: Shop around for the most cost-effective mobile phone plan that fits your needs.

15. Use Wi-Fi instead of data: Minimize unnecessary data charges by using Wi-Fi whenever possible, particularly when travelling.

16. Limit international calls: Leverage free messaging apps and VoIP services to cut down the cost of international calls.

17. Travel flexibility: Have flexibility when travelling so that you can save on airfares and hotels, etc.

18. Book flights early: Plan your trips ahead and make the most of early-bird discounts on flights.

19. Use reward programs: Enrol in a frequent flyer such as Skywards, and hotel loyalty programs such as Marriot Bonvoy to earn points and save on future travels, upgrades, etc.

20. Research local customs: Understand local customs to avoid overspending on gifts, tipping, or committing cultural faux pas.

21. Explore local attractions: Utilize free or low-cost local attractions and events for entertainment.

22. Socialize cost-effectively: Socialise more at home instead of expensive bars and restaurants. Being an Expat, its actually really nice to chill with friends at home around a BBQ, etc!

23. Attend Happy Hours: Save on socializing costs by taking advantage of happy hours at local restaurants and bars.

24. Maintain your vehicle: Regular vehicle maintenance can prevent costly repairs and improve fuel efficiency.

25. Utilize your company’s benefits: Leverage your employer’s health insurance, pension plans, and other benefits.

26. Use Coupons and Discount Codes: Make use of coupons and discount codes while shopping online or in stores. Apps and websites can help you find the best deals. By spending 10 mins searching for a coupon code you could save quite a lot!

27. Build an emergency fund: Allocate money for unexpected expenses to avoid financial stress.

28. Take advantage of freebies: Utilize free services, samples, and trials to save on everyday expenses.

29. Opt for e-books: Save money by purchasing e-books or borrowing from libraries instead of buying physical copies.

30. Review your insurance policies: Regularly review and compare insurance policies to ensure you’re getting the best coverage at the lowest cost.

31. Send money home wisely: Use online remittance services with low fees and competitive exchange rates to transfer money back home.

32. Automate your savings: Set up automatic transfers to your savings account to build your nest egg consistently.

33. Invest wisely: Consult with a financial advisor to develop an investment strategy that suits your risk tolerance and financial goals.

34. Pay off high-interest debt: Prioritize paying off high-interest debt to save on interest payments.

35. Use credit cards responsibly: Take advantage of rewards, airmiles, and cashback offers, but always pay your balance in full to avoid interest charges.

36. Network with other expats: Connect with fellow expats to share tips and advice on saving money in your specific location.

37. Shop during sales: Take advantage of seasonal sales and discounts to purchase must-have items at a reduced cost. Resident offers are also a thing, so look out for these, too!

38. Plan for Seasonal Discounts: Look out for summer sales and special offers during Ramadan. Planning your purchases around these times can lead to substantial savings. Again, resident offers on attractions, hotels, etc. can save a lot if you are looking for a stay-cation, things to do, etc.

39. Buy generic products: Opt for generic or store-brand products instead of name brands, home brands, etc. when the quality difference is minimal.

40. Set financial goals: Establish short-term and long-term financial goals to stay motivated and focused on saving.

41. Reduce impulse buying: Create a shopping list and stick to it to avoid unnecessary purchases.

42. Learn to barter: Hone your negotiation skills to secure better deals on products and services.

43. Stay informed: Keep yourself updated on financial news and trends to make informed decisions about your money.

Saving money as an expat in the Middle East is not a daunting task if you have the right strategies. By implementing these 43 money saving tips, you can significantly reduce your costs and grow your savings over time. Remember, the key to financial success is discipline and commitment to your financial goals. With careful planning and smart decision-making, you’ll be on your way to achieving financial freedom and making the most of your expat experience. If you need help I can help you with financial services in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and other cities in the Middle East. I have worked with clients in this region for nearly two decades and by holding them accountable, guiding them and implementing workable solutions has really changed the lives of many. Make the right decisions today, and maximise your time as an Expat!

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If you need more advice then contact Mike Coady today to discuss our solutions and how we can help.

About Mike Coady

Mike Coady is an expat expert based in Dubai and is on hand to help with all of the above and more.

Mike is an award-winning money coach and industry leader in the financial sector.

Qualified to UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) standards, a member of the Chartered Insurance Institute, a Fellow of the Institute of Sales Management (FISM), a Fellow of the Association of Professional Sales (F.APS), a Fellow of the Institute of Directors (FIoD) and featured as a highly qualified Financial Adviser in Which Financial Adviser.

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Blog published by Mike Coady.