South African Angela Boshoff Hundal is the founder of Scribe (www.scribe.ae), a copywriting agency. She and husband Aman, a digital development manager from India, live in an apartment in IMPZ with their two-year-old son, Hunter, and nanny, Natasha.
“I moved to Dubai in 2008. Back then I was very carefree about savings. Fast forward to 2017 and it’s a different story. With Hunter on the scene we know we have to make allowance for his future, so money is a priority. We have a savings plan in his name and we also try to put away around 20 per cent of our income each month.
“While we’re currently meeting our savings goals, I feel we should be putting away more. The difficulty comes with the cost of living in Dubai. Rent is a big outgoing and unless you’re earning a huge amount or your company gives you an allowance, it’s difficult to find accommodation that’s within budget. In the absence of public schooling we’re already having to save for fees, and added to that is the cost of childcare, and more general things like groceries and children’s activities, which all come at a premium.
“While Dubai is an expensive city, I do think there are ways to trim down costs if you’re careful. In our case we made the decision not to put Hunter into nursery until he’s three, which will save us a lot in nursery fees. I also have no issue with hand-me-downs or buying second-hand toys and I’m happy to search for deals at places like Ripe Market, rather than heading straight to big-name toyshops. I’ve also found that a bit of organisation goes a long way to slashing the grocery budget. Each week I put together a list of meals and then before I hit the supermarket I go through the fridge and all the cupboards to see what’s in stock. That way there is no wastage and we don’t double up on any ingredients. It’s surprising how much money you can save by making a few adjustments here and there.”
- Nappies Dh100/month
- Toys Dh150 per month
- Groceries Dh4,000 per month
- Nanny Dh40,000 per year (including sponsorship and flights)
- Family activities Dh800 per month
- Play dates Dh150 per month
- Holidays Between Dh25,000 and Dh40,000 per year
- Flights home Dh18,000 per year
Laura Egerton is a freelance art curator from the UK. She lives in a villa in Media City with husband Tom, an executive chef, and daughters Molly, three and Joanna, two
“People say Dubai is an expensive place to raise children, but I think you can make it work if you’re careful. When I first moved here 10 years ago I didn’t give much thought to budgeting, but all that changed when Tom and I married in 2010. At the time we had a double income and no children, so it seemed logical to take advantage of those years when we were earning the most and put away a bit for the future. Tom and I set up a couple of savings plans and the idea is that we will have a lump sum to use for the girls’ future.
“I’m glad we took that step early on because since having children our income has gone down and our expenses have gone up. While we’re quite fortunate that Tom’s job provides a package income, which includes accommodation, bills, health insurance, annual flights and school fees, we have still felt a rise in our expenses since having a family. Coming from the UK, the main cost we notice is nursery, which is considerably more than it would be back home. Then there are all the little outgoings like swimming lessons and music classes. Priced at around Dh100 a session, it’s a big increase compared to the UK where you’d pay around Dh30 a time.
“While it’s a pricy part of the world, we find we’re able to live within our means, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that we don’t have an extravagant lifestyle. For example, we don’t spend a lot on holidays as we’ll usually head back to the UK, or do a short break to somewhere like Sri Lanka that isn’t too costly. Similarly, we don’t employ a nanny, which is a significant saving.
“In terms of financial targets we tend to hit our goals and we have identified practical ways of managing expenses. We know that there are hotspots in the year such as Christmas, birthdays or when the cars need servicing, and if we plan for them in advance it doesn’t catch us off-guard. On a day-to-day level simple changes like ordering our fruit and vegetables from Kibsons has reduced our grocery bill and we also made a New Year’s resolution to cut down on takeaways. It seems like a small thing, but it’s amazing how much we’ve saved already!”
- Nappies Dh150 per month
- Toys Dh150 per month
- Groceries Dh4,000 per month
- Nursery Dh16,000 per term
- Cleaner Dh600 per month
- Classes and activities Dh2,000 per month
- Play dates Dh200 per month
- Holidays Dh15,000 per year
Nicola and Nabin Maharjan live in a villa in Jumeirah with their 18-month-old daughter Maya. Nicola, from the UK, is the co-founder of an events company, while Nabin, who hails from Nepal, is a professional photographer
“When I arrived in Dubai 10 years ago I didn’t find it expensive, but these days I do. Rent is our biggest increase and while that’s partly to do with prices rising, it’s also because since having Maya we made the decision to move from an apartment to a villa. We’re now paying around 50 per cent more in rent.
“While we are happy in Dubai the cost of living could eventually push us to move away, especially if we have more than one child, because the fees for nursery and school amount to a lot. In the UK there is the option of a quality public education and you have family supporting you with childcare. Here, there is no other option but to pay for education and childcare. Then, in addition to fixed costs like rent and school fees, there is pressure to burn through money in other ways. For example, with so many big attractions aimed at children it’s easy to spend a lot on expensive days out. We try to keep costs down by doing low-key activities like the park or going to friends’ houses. As expats we also travel a lot. As well as trips home to visit family, we like to go on adventures at least three times a year. It sounds a lot but it’s what we work and live for. Then, of course, there is the social side of Dubai, which means there’s always something to attend, whether it’s a birthday or a leaving party. The one thing I’ve learned is to build a contingency pot, because while you might think you’ve got all bases covered, there’s always something that will throw your budget off track.
- Nappies Dh100
- Toys Dh100
- Groceries Dh1,500
- Nursery (per term) Dh12,000
- Cleaner Dh500
- Classes and activities Dh500
- Play dates Dh1,200
- Health insurance (full family) Dh15,000 (per year)
- Flights home Dh21,000 (per year)
- Holidays Dh30,000 (per year)
- Bills Dh3,000 per month
Sara Sadik is a blogger from Lebanon and Palestine. She lives in an apartment in Downtown Dubai with her husband Omar, from Syria, and three children; Adriana, three, Rayan 18 months, and two-month-old Ramsey
“When I first moved to Dubai six years ago I was working as a project manager for the government sector. My husband works in finance, so while Dubai is an expensive city we had no issues living within our means. Then we decided to start a family and in a little over three years we’ve gone from just the two of us, to a family of five. Financially it’s been a tough transition because we are now a predominantly single-income family.
“Our biggest expense is childcare. As expatriates we don’t have our family around us, so it’s really important to have a support network. In the absence of family, that network is the people we employ. We have a full-time nanny and Adriana and Rayan go to nursery in the mornings. We also have a driver and a cleaner, which enables me to be much more efficient with my time.
“Our lifestyle has changed since having children, but while money is understandably tighter I think it’s important to have the right attitude about it. For example, rather than using supermarkets all the time, I now go to the farmers’ market and the fish market. The irony is you’re cutting costs, but the produce you’re getting is actually fresher and better for your children. Likewise, flying with three children is a big expense and quite stressful, but we live in a holiday spot, so rather than doing international trips do staycations, which is more relaxing anyway. We’re also much more selective about nights out, but because a lot of our friends are in the same boat we don’t feel pressure to go out all the time.
“When it comes to budgets, I’m more of a write-it-on-a-napkin kind of girl, whereas my husband is all about spreadsheets, so I leave a lot of that stuff to him. The good thing is that we’re on the same page financially, so it all comes together. It’s difficult to say how much we put away each month because it fluctuates, but we do have three savings plans set up for the children. My one tip for meeting savings goals would be to get used to living on less. Look at your overall income and then mentally reduce it by a proportion and then try to live on that amount only, and put the rest into savings. It works for us.”
Catch Sara’s blog at www.sarasadik.com and check her out on Instagram at @magicmommyhood
- Nappies Dh400 per month
- Groceries Dh2,400 per month
- Nursery Dh56,000 per year for two children
- Nanny Dh2,500 per month
- Cleaner Dh2,000 per month
- Driver Dh4,100 per month
- Activities and classes Dh1,600 per month
- Play dates Dh300 per month
- Flights home Dh30,000 per year
- Holidays Dh30,000 per year
- Bills Dh1,200
Gemma Frankland is a senior financial consultant at GMW Investment Management. Here she gives her five top tips for trimming down costs
Plan ahead and shop to budget. If you hit the supermarket daily you’ll spend more than if you do a weekly or monthly shop.
We live in a beautiful part of the world so if you need a break, consider a staycation rather than going abroad.
You might need to nag your family, but turning off lights and cutting down on water will slash your monthly bills.
Entertain at home
Nights out in Dubai are expensive so gather your parent friends together and ask everyone to bring a dish. The children can play together and the parents can socialise.
Track your spending
There are loads of great apps that are designed to help track what you spend. YNAB, Pocket Guard, Spendbook and Level Money are all good choices.
Photos by Aiza Castillo-Domingo, Stefan Lindeque and Shutterstock