Sailing through a budget odyssey
Trying to keep track of your monthly spending is often as tough as trying to find a taxi on a Thursday night in Dubai. Why not make things easier on yourself and start with tracking your weekly spending instead? Concentrating on a shorter time frame will allow you to focus more closely on your spending habits - identifying the problem areas and finding a solution to cutting down on those unnecessary expenses that add up fil by fil. By saving receipts or jotting down your every expense in one place, tracking will be an easy and surprisingly eye-opening experience that can lead to additional savings you never imagined you could realise.
Teagen Rowlands, 24, from Gainsborough, UK moved to the UAE with her parents in August 1991. She now rents a room in a Dubai villa in the Meadows Community for Dh3,000 a month. During the week, she works as a project assistant in the landscaping industry and supplements her income on the weekend by working as a swimming teacher and jewellery designer. She finished her degree in drama with Media and Cultural Studies from Liverpool John Moores University, UK in 2007.
Ms Rowlands is trying to find her feet in the career market in Dubai. Having lived in the region for 17 years, Ms Rowlands has a hard time coming to terms with how much the rising costs of living have really affected life in Dubai. "The only item that has remained the same price throughout my years in the UAE is a can of soft drink - it was Dh1 back in 1991 and it remains so to date," Ms Rowlands says. "Taxis are no longer very affordable, groceries are very expensive and rents are through the roof."
One of Ms Rowlands's biggest monthly expenditures is her car, a 2000 Toyota Rav 4, which she has luckily paid off. But she still has to pay for petrol, oil changes and cleaning costs at about Dh300 a month. Rent is another major cost, and supplies for her jewellery making business, which sets her back by about Dh1,000 a month. Socialising and retail therapy total 20 per cent of her monthly salary.
"I have toned down the shopping recently, but I am partial to the odd trip to Forever 21," she says. "I also have a soft spot for shoes. I hate to admit it, but I even have the odd pair I have never worn." Ms Rowlands estimates that she manages to save 10 per cent of her monthly earnings by depositing everything she earns from swimming lessons into a savings account every month. "I would like to think that my weekly budget doesn't normally exceed Dh1,000," she says. "But I guess this exercise will really prove if my parents are right all these years telling me to stop spending unnecessarily."
We now take a look at the week ahead to findout if Ms Rowlands can use this exercise to her advantage and learn to budget her weekly expenses more effectively. Sunday Working in Satwa gives Ms Rowlands the advantage of being able to eat lunch cheaply. Although she dines out on an almost daily basis, she can often have a satisfying meal for Dh20. "I realise that a big chunk of my weekly budget is spent on going out for lunch with my colleagues," says Ms Rowlands. "Luckily for us we have a fantastic array of cheap but cheerful eateries right on our doorstep."
She usually fills up her car's tank weekly, which costs about Dh70, and she tops up her Salik account with Dh150, which should see her through the month. Dinner with friends at the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, where Ms Rowlands and her family have been lifelong members, sets her back Dh40. Monday A manicure at the local beauty salon during her lunch hour costs Dh60. Today she saves money by bringing lunch from home.
Buying materials and supplies for her budding jewellery business, Ms Rowlands Jewellery, can amount to a lot of money. Today she spends Dh500 on business cards for an upcoming art fair that she is participating in. "Although I spend a lot of money on essential supplies, I make between Dh100 and Dh200 a piece by selling my jewellery, enough to break even at the end of the month," Ms Rowlands says. "With the business only in its infancy and my profit margins still unestablished, I intend to put any earnings straight back into the business in order to increase production."
She spends Dh50 at the local grocery store on supplies for a dinner she plans to share with her family. Tuesday Lunch at a French cafe in Mercato mall was Dh60, while Dh8 was spent on a takeaway fresh fruit juice from the local cafeteria near Ms Rowland's office. In the evening she enjoys watching a film at the cinema, where she spends Dh55 on the ticket and some snacks. "I don't tend to go out much during the week, but occasionally I venture out to the cinema," says Ms Rowlands. "As a kid, my friends and I used to go to the Al Nasr Cinema, which used to cost only Dh5 a film."
A takeaway dinner from the food court at the mall costs her Dh30. Wednesday Her biggest expense of the day was the purchase of a ticket to the Kylie concert. This set her back Dh195 and it was purchased online via a ticket agent. "As I don't own a credit card I have to ask friends and family to purchase any tickets on my behalf," Ms Rowlands says. "Although useful in times like these, I choose to stay away from credit cards in order to keep my spending on track."
Lunch was Dh50 at a Mexican restaurant and she spends Dh30 on some meat and vegetables at the supermarket for her evening meal. Thursday Ms Rowlands does her weekly grocery shop either in Spinneys, Choitrams or Park N Shop. The latter is her favourite, mostly because of its convenient location but also partly out of loyalty, as her family has been shopping there for more than 10 years. Today her shopping bill comes to Dh300, which includes everything from fresh vegetables to cleaning products.
"Food is so much more expensive these days'" says Ms Rowlands. "I try and stay away from exported products as I know the markup on what we pay here in the UAE will be double or triple compared to what we would pay back home in the UK." Ms Rowlands and her friends enjoy an evening out in a restaurant to celebrate the weekend, and their bill of Dh500 is split three ways. Friday Weekends are incredibly busy for Ms Rowlands. Any spare time she gets away from her day job, jewellery making or swimming lessons is spent sailing at Dubai Offshore Sailing Club. She often manages to keep her spending down to a minimum, since a sailing competition can last an entire day, meaning there is no opportunity to spend money.
Today is Ms Rowlands's turn to supply the drinking water for her sailing team, which costs her Dh25. Other refreshments and food come free with the days sailing efforts. Saturday In the morning she teaches swimming to children and adults. She makes Dh75 an hour, earning Dh225 in total. "I personally enjoy swimming, and the teaching is very rewarding," Ms Rowlands says. "Although the early mornings are killer, I relish the fact that I can spend some quality time outside in the fresh air. This is very important to me." She uses her afternoon to run some errands, such as topping up her Wasel phone card with Dh25 for the week and collecting a pair of trousers from the tailors in Satwa for Dh150, which includes the cost of the material. She also stops by the shopping mall to indulge in her passion - shopping. She finds a pair of heels for Dh290 and a T-shirt for Dh100.
Grand Total: Dh2,266 Without her supplementary income, Ms Rowlands feels that she would struggle to keep up with the rising costs of living in the in the UAE. "If it wasn't for the money I make during my spare time on the weekends, life would become pretty tough," Ms Rowlands says. "My parents and I have made lots of financial sacrifices to get me through an expensive university education, for which I still owe Dh12 000 in student loans, and I would like to think that it was money well spent by being able to sustain a decent lifestyle in my current situation."
She admits that it is not surprising that her weekly expenses amount to more than she initially estimated. She knows that hidden costs are everywhere and that unless she tracks her spending religiously they will come back to bite you. "Cutting down on eating out by preparing packed lunches could save me a big chunk of money during the week," Ms Rowlands says."Staying away from shopping malls would also go a long way to help me stick to my budget. I don't know why I go to them anyway - crowds make me angry."
She plans to concentrate harder on earning additional income from her jewellery sales. "This is where the money lies," she agrees. Her last one-day art fair brought in about Dh1,000 as profit, so she hopes the trend will continue. Being passionate about her designs makes it easy to concentrate on something that will help supplement her income, rather than use her time spending it. She intends to create a budget by diligently recording her expenditures, and will try to limit herself to a clearly defined weekly budget.
Looking at the results, she estimates that she would be able to stick to Dh1,500 a week.