Ah, babies - they're as cute as they are costly. But making small financial adjustments throughout your pregnancy can lead to big gains by the time baby arrives. Here's how to do it...
Check your insurance
Thanks to the Dubai Health Insurance Law of 2013, all residents, whether employed or a dependant, must have health insurance that includes maternity coverage. However, all policies differ. "With the new law, your policy must cover basic bloodwork, eight prenatal appointments but only three prenatal scans," says Dr Elsa de Menezes Fernandes, obstetrician and gynaecologist at Dubai's New Concept clinic. "3D scans aren't covered by insurers, for example, and more often than not, neither are tests like the NIPT and NT, which check for chromosomal abnormalities - and these are approximately Dh3,000 and Dh1,500 respectively." Confirm your pregnancy at home with a urine test bought over the counter and then go to see your doctor for the first time at around six weeks, advises Dr Elsa: "Going earlier will see you incurring unnecessary expense and scans for no gain. From then, monthly visits and scans are perfect."
- Find out if there is any co-payment required on your insurance - i.e. will you need to pay 10 per cent of every appointment, scan and test?
- Check how much is included for a normal delivery and a C-section and if pain relief is included. Once you know the ins and outs of your coverage, you can work out if your preferred doctor and hospital for the birth are going to require you to pay anything that's not reimbursed by your insurer.
- Separate the want-to-see your baby with the need-to-see your baby. Extra scans could end up making an unnecessary dent in your pocket.
Get a savings plan
This month, find out where you stand financially. Are there expenses which could be cut down? Do you have outstanding credit card debt which is costing you in fees? The 'pay yourself first' motto is a great way to get on track when it comes to savings. Every month, put aside around 25 per cent of your salary, or if that's not possible put whatever you can, into a savings account. You'll be surprised at how quickly your pot builds up. "Identify a total for what you'll need to have saved by your due date," says Jon Richards, CEO at Yallacompare. "If it's Dh30,000 divide that by eight, because you'll want to have all of that saved up well ahead of the nine-month deadline, and you'll find you need to save Dh3,750 per month - which doesn't sound half as daunting."
- Compare credit cards to make sure you're not incurring more charges than you should be. "Lots of local credit cards offer 0% instalment plans [interest-free credit] on big purchases - particularly in furniture stores," says Jon Richards, CEO at Yallacompare. "Other cards will give you cashback for your purchases, and every little helps. The trick is to use your credit card to get the cashback benefit, and then pay off the outstanding amount as soon as you leave the store. Otherwise, you'll lose way more in interest payments than you ever saved in cashback."
- Find a savings account that will work for you: "If you want easy access to your money then you should choose a flexible savings account," adds Jon. "Look for no fees for transferring money between your savings account and your current account, and no fees for going under a certain balance. Once you've got those points checked, you can consider other things like interest rates, where for the more flexible savings accounts, you should be thinking along the lines of at least 1% interest."
Keep track of your spending
Knowing exactly where your money goes every month and sewing up any holes will benefit you in the long run. There are plenty of really helpful and easy to use apps to download onto your phone to help you set a budget, log your expenses and see what you are spending where.
Our top 3 budget apps:
Wally - Free to download (Wally+ for android users) this simple-to-use app is very basic, allowing you to track your income and expenses - you log what you spend and where - so you can see where your money goes each month. It also allows you to set personal budgets.
Spending Tracker - Free to download, this app lets you track your money weekly, monthly or yearly, depending on how much help you need with money management. There is also a budget mode to help you stay on track and reports in the form of graphs and charts to help you see more clearly where your money goes.
Money Dashboard - Free to download, this app allows you to keep track of your spending across your current, credit card and savings accounts, no matter who you bank with. Your incoming and outgoing amounts are displayed on helpful dashboard charts, so you can quickly see where most of your money goes i.e. at the supermarket or socialising. The one downside: not all banks and cards can be added.
- Consider boosting your income with apps such as UAE-based TaskSpotting and Beam. TaskSpotting will pay you Dh10 to Dh75 in PayPal credit for doing various 'tasks' (like being a mystery shopper) every time you step into a retail space, eg a mall or restaurant. Meanwhile Beam enables you to pay for things like petrol and groceries via your phone, and then rewards you for doing so with a percentage of your spend (varies from 1% to 30%), which can then be used on purchases with any of their partners, which includes 3,000 stores and services, from Costa coffee to Uber.
Investigate child care
If you and your partner both work, now is the time to make some big decisions about the future. Are you both planning to return to work? Full-time or part-time? Will you need child care? Live-in help can cost around Dh2,000 - Dh3,500 a month, plus visa and health insurance costs, while live-out help can cost more around the Dh4,000 mark. Enrolling your little one in nursery is also an option, with costs averaging around Dh4,000 to Dh6,000 a month for full-time.
- Crunch the numbers and work out how your salary will be impacted with the cost of your choice of child care.
- Start putting that money aside each month now for childcare so you're used to having less spending-money when the time comes.
Make a baby equipment list
The amount of baby equipment available can seem overwhelming to even think about, let alone pay for. Create a spreadsheet listing everything you want to buy before your little bundle arrives, including a column which lists the approximate cost of each item and when you intend to buy each one; that way you can spread the cost of big-ticket items like the stroller (Dh230 - Dh3,000), car seat (Dh250 - 3,000) and crib (Dh200 - Dh3,000).
- Plan ahead so you can make big purchases during the sale periods. Dubai Shopping Festival happens across all malls every January. There's also the pre-Ramadan and Eid sales, Dubai Summer Surprises in July and the National Day super sale in December, which could all see you saving up to 25 per cent or more on original prices.
- Buy gender-neutral baby clothes, and a stroller that can be adapted into a double stroller (eg The UppaBaby Vista or the Baby Jogger City Select) if you think you may have more than one child, or have two close together in age.
- Visit the Baby Bazaar Market at Times Square Centre on the last Saturday of every month from 9am-2pm and the second Wednesday of every month from 9am-1pm. You'll find a host of stalls selling pre-loved baby clothes and equipment at a fraction of the cost of buying new (think a bundle of 10 baby vests for Dh5, as opposed to Dh50 per vest!).
- Shop around online to make the best of website offering discounts on your first order. These include:
Mumzworld - Dh50 off first online order
Mamas & Papas - 10% off your first order
Mothercare - 25% off if you sign up to the newsletter
Burblebaby - 15% off your first order
Read our ultimate pregnancy shopping lists here: Everything you need to buy if you're pregnant in the UAE
Be selective with your social calendar. If you and your partner decide to miss just one brunch or dinner out with friends a month, your bank balance will be upwards of Dh1,000 richer. That's approximately four mummy-to-be massages, ten pre-natal yoga classes and a lot of baby wipes and nappies. Making small sacrifices to your life like these and cooking at home when you would have normally gone out will help you stay on track with your baby budget.
- Try buying your weekly fruit and vegetables from Kibsons or the local farmers market (in autumn/winter) rather than at your local supermarket. You'll save around 20 per cent on your usual bill.
- When buying online, especially large purchases, go through cashback websites like Quidco.com or Topcashback.co.uk. These sites will literally pay you for buying through them; for example, if you want to buy plane tickets from Emirates or maternity dresses on ASOS.com, go through one of these sites to make the purchase and you can be paid back 1 - 20% of the purchase price once the retailer confirms your purchase. These sites are based outside of the UAE but this doesn't matter for online transactions: Emirates, Booking.com, Expedia, Asos, Net-a-porter, Debenhams and many other retailers are signed up.
- When you are socialising, look to apps like the Entertainer which have a whole host of 2-4-1 deals, and sign up to voucher sites like Groupon.ae and Cobone.com for cut-price beauty treatments, meals and entertainment.
Plan for baby supplies
Now is the time to work out how much essential baby supplies are going to cost you each month and to start budgeting for them. The average baby gets through around 4,000 disposable nappies by the time they're potty-trained, which means you're looking at upwards of Dh2,000 a year just for nappies. Then there's the wipes, the nappy bags and the formula (if you're not breastfeeding).
- Think about adding one packet of nappies and/or wipes to your shopping every week until baby arrives.
- Sign up to Marhababy to receive a free box of baby supplies and discounts delivered to your home (marhababy,com).
- Sign up to the Mumzworld subscription service to book regular deliveries of nappies and wipes, on which you'll receive a 5 per cent discount.
Spend time on a gift list
More often than not, once your friends and family find out about your pregnancy, they'll be so excited they will want to buy you some baby gifts. If you feel comfortable doing so, suggesting things you need is a really great way to minimise your baby expenses. Likewise, if a friend or relative throws you a baby shower, you could create a gift registry or ask for vouchers at somewhere like Babyshop, Mumzworld, Just Kidding or Mamas and Papas - this is a great way to get some of the baby equipment you need without dipping into your budget.
- Creating a gift registry means stress-free shopping for your friends and family who want to treat you and is also a great way to eliminate receiving any duplicates.
- Speak to whoever is arranging your Baby Shower and let them know your secret wish list. Then if anyone asks for any gift suggestions, she or he can let them know.
- Consider asking for a baby gift box delivery such as Mamasbox.com - these monthly baby boxes include new age-specific toys and games for baby's first year, as well as treats for you, so it's a gift that will keep giving throughout your whole first year of motherhood.
Prepare for school fees
It might seem like yonks away but according to research by Zurich, it could cost parents in the UAE up to Dh1 million to fund their child's education from pre-school through to university, so finding the right education savings plan early will save you a lot of stress down the line. The average cost of nursery per year is Dh30,000, which increases to approximately Dh35,000 per year for Primary School and around Dh44,000 per year for Secondary. For top-tier schools you can add about an extra 40 per cent onto these amounts. "There are a few good savings accounts around that are specifically focused on school fees," says Jon of Yallacompare. "One of my favourites, The Education Savings Plan from ADCB, maps out an entire savings plan for when your child goes to university. You just tell the bank how much you'll need in 18 years' time, and the bank will tell you how much you need to save each month. The amount will be smaller than you think, as the compound interest will really start ramping up after a few years."
- Some schools require you to pay a debenture to secure your child's place. This is often around Dh20,000. Sticking to a vigilant savings plan now means costs like this won't throw you off course.
Read our pregnancy guide here:
And find everything you need to have a baby in the UAE here