It’s TOO easy to splurge your dough in Dubai, the land of pure excess. Pay day comes around and within 3 days, you’re back to beans on toast and declining all social plans because you’re one cocktail away from being declared bankrupt and being shipped back to your home country.
I am NO expert at money saving – in fact I left university with a maxed out overdraft which I’ve only recently paid off and still have a student loan which makes me want to vom every time I think about it. But, I did come to Dubai with my main intention being to actually save some dollar. So with that in mind I have developed some cheeky (if not at times, totally loserish) ways to not part ways with your cash so quickly.
Note: I don’t live on the cheap 100% of the time by any means – we live next door to the Burj Khalifa so rent is sky high (ha!) and restaurants are irresistible. But sometimes we like to come back down to Earth and experience a somewhat simpler existence…
Instead of eating at posh restaurants, head to old Dubai
If you’ve been in Dubai a while, you’ll have heard of Pakistani restaurant, Ravi. It’s a plastic chair, hole-in-the-floor toilet kinda place in Satwa (there’s a few but this is the original). But it’s packed with locals and is an absolute institution. You can’t live in Dubai and not have visited Ravi. Forget curry at the Armani for 300 AED a head (don’t even…), for 50 AED you can feed two people – easy. I’m talking mounds of soft, warm bread (that’s free by the way), tasty daal, saag paneer, saag everything, a mountain of pilau, and freshly cooked curries you’ve never even heard of. Tell them not to worry about it being too spicy or leaving the bones in – just enjoy the simplicity and the extra money in your bank account at the end of it! Oh and they definitely don’t take card.
Another slightly glossier option is Nayaab Haandi, a few blocks down from Ravi. My husband took me for my birthday (he takes me to all the best places…) but it was actually top notch Pakistani/Afghan fare. We spent about 140 AED for both of us, so it’s a little more than Ravi but we did opt for the all you can eat buffet (complete which Chinese food and pizza…not sure how I feel about an International buffet). Endless helpings of daal, curry, rice, naan to be expected. But to top it off they also bring a showstopper to your table – a massive naan hanging from hooks (which my husband fairly accurately describes as an elephant’s ear), a golden grill of chops, chicken shish and seekh kebabs and a steaming iron pot of some delicious but unnamed chicken curry. We didn’t even approach the desserts (desserts are overrated anyway!). It’s not the most glamorous location – but there’s a certain charm about this area which we can’t get enough.
Plan your meals ahead and food prep – future you will thank yourself!
I know it sounds laborious and you won’t necessarily know what you’ll be doing for the week ahead, but I’m telling you, you’ll save heaps on food in a city where it’s way too easy to be lazy and drop 100 AED a night on a Deliveroo. I spend no more than 200 AED a week on food (excluding the odd night out/brunch). That covers breakfast, lunches and most dinners every day for a week – I don’t plan some evenings or weekends because I know I’ll be out, but if my plans change then the food I make will just get frozen and I’ll eat it the next week. So I’m not tied to a schedule but I also have a healthy, cheap, home cooked meal most nights when I’m too tired to think about what I want to eat. For breakfast it’ll be overnight protein oats, lunches I prep at the weekend ready for the week ahead and dinners I’ll normally batch cook – last week I batch cooked risotto to eat Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, cooked a curry on Wednesday which covered Thursday too, I was out Friday and then I’ll make tuna and aubergine tonight – voila! Ok if you hate cooking then it’s a total nightmare and you’ll hate life. But it means I can order all my food for the week on Carrefour online and not have to worry about shopping at expensive Spinneys or be tempted to order take out every night of the week. Take a look at some of my creations (don’t judge me on my homemade pizza…yes it’s a pizza):
Seek out deals on everything!
Where there’s a venue, there’s usually a deal. Meeting up with a friend? Check if there’s a ladies night that night, and if not reschedule for when there is! Ladies nights tend to consist of free drinks all night and discounts on food too, so you can literally have a free night on the tiles if you so wish (usually on a school night sadly). There are even men’s nights too! Entertainer the crap out of everything. Happy hour? I’m there. Two for one brunch deals? Yes please. Love ASOS? Did you know you don’t have to pay VAT on purchases? National Frozen Yoghurt day equals free froyo – absolutely. Free yoga classes every Saturday in Al Barsha Pond Park? Now you’re talking. Yes Dubai is an expensive place to live, but you can make it affordable if you just keep an eye out for deals on the things you love. So many retailers want you to shop with them – and because there’s so much competition the deals are endless with retailers vying for your attention.
Buy your own sun loungers! Yes, I may have brought a packed lunch to the beach too…
Yes, we bought our own sun loungers for the beach. Absolutely no regrets! We paid 250 total for these bad boys from a lady I found on the Brits in Dubai Facebook group and they were worth every penny. Loungers cost about 100 AED per bed to hire and yes we could just lie on the sand, but who wants to do that?! The jealous looks alone make it worth it. And yes that is me with a packed lunch. Hey, the food at La Mer is at least 80 AED a pop!