x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

On the Money: Personal shoppers keep you in check

Probably the most noticeable rising expense here is the cost of grocery shopping. Setting a budget and putting someone in charge of the weekly shop who will stick to it are key to offsetting the impact.

Gary Clement for The National
Gary Clement for The National

Managing a home and a family's personal finances can be an overwhelming experience sometimes. One month, the family coffers are overflowing because there have been no unexpected expenses. The next month can see you scraping the bottom of your handbag for loose change because your car, fridge and washing machine packed it in. All on the same day, of course, but that's Murphy's Law for you.

The family finances can be as unpredictable as the stock market sometimes - boom or bust; bull or bear.

The rising cost of living in the Emirates is adding to the woes of the self-appointed chief financial officers of many families, making it even more difficult for them to stick to their now stagnant budgets because salaries have failed to move in tandem with inflation.

Probably the most noticeable rising expense here is the cost of grocery shopping. The contents of our shopping trolleys are shrinking, while the cost of our reduced grocery list is growing by the week.

A recent survey by Visa, the global payments technology giant, found that many families have been hit by the increased cost of groceries.

Visa's study, which surveyed 160 mothers across the country, found that nine out of 10 families have felt the effects of rising prices at the checkout over the past 12 months, while 38 per cent of respondents had reduced their grocery spend.

"Almost all of the mothers polled - 94 per cent - reported noticing a significant increase in the overall costs of groceries, with many saying that they have taken measures to reduce their grocery spend as a direct result," Visa says.

"This included cutting down on the amount of groceries they buy [38 per cent], changing the kind of groceries they buy [24 per cent] and even changing where they shop for groceries [5 per cent]."

These figures are hardly surprising considering the headlines we read almost on a daily basis about the cost of food here - and around the world, for that matter. But what is surprising is that 96 per cent of those surveyed do their own grocery shopping rather than relying on household help.

And 66 per cent of that group actually found grocery shopping an enjoyable task.

I don't know about you, but for me, grocery shopping is up there with the washing up, ironing and other household tasks that I despise - which is, well, all of them. These days, I'm old enough to say that I won't be doing any household chores without the risk of getting grounded. I'm also old enough to afford to pay somebody else to run my house for me, which includes doing all the things I don't like to do around the house.

Until recently, however, the one chore that I did week in and week out was the grocery shopping. Because I work full-time, I'd usually leave it until the weekends to do. And because it takes me so long to get moving on weekends, it meant we wouldn't hit the supermarket until mid-afternoon, at best.

Supermarket shopping during peak time in Abu Dhabi is akin to rush hour at any Central Station around the world. What I also know is that overloaded trolleys and what seems like thousands of people all heading for the same aisle at the same time just don't mix.

You think the aggressive drivers on the roads are bad here; try LuLu hypermarket in Al Wahda Mall at 3pm or 4pm on a Friday. There's more bumps and crashes here than on the 7.15am school run along Muroor Street on a weekday. But perhaps that could be because those aggressive drivers have also chosen Friday afternoon to get behind the wheel of a shopping trolley and do their groceries.

Try as I might, I lose my focus and sight of my grocery budget, throwing anything and everything into the trolley in an effort to get out as fast as possible.

If I'm looking for a slightly calmer experience, but a bigger hit on my wallet, then I head to Spinney's in Khalidiya.

It took a while, but I have hit on a solution. Well, it wasn't really me who came up with the solution to solve my supermarket woes. It was our new nanny. Although, considering how well she's running my life, she's more like a personal assistant.

She's offered to do our weekly grocery shop. And what a difference it's made, not just to my weekends and my peace of mind, but also to my budget.

Having somebody else do your shopping means that they'll always stick to your budget, not to mention your shopping list, which means no more impulse buys because your child wants that ... and that ... and that in the lolly aisle.

It's a fabulous feeling knowing that I never have to walk into a supermarket again. But even better knowing that we are saving money despite the rising cost of groceries.