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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 11 December 2018

Expensive month for UAE parents with some taking out loans as Eid and start of school coincide,

Families feel the pinch as new books and school uniform costs rack up

Some parents are opting to getting a loan to cover the start of the school year. Satish Kumar / The National
Some parents are opting to getting a loan to cover the start of the school year. Satish Kumar / The National

Parents have expressed concerns over a bumper month of expenses as the new academic school year coincides with Eid Al Adha, leaving many to wonder how they will afford both.

Not only are school fees due but supplies such as books and school clothes need to be bought, in addition to the gifts children usually receive during Eid, all of which is leaving some parents having to use credit cards or take out loans to make ends meet.

Eid Al Adha, which honours the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son as an act of obedience to God, is often when children receive money and gifts of items such as clothing.

One parent said that he did not plan in advance for this month’s unusually high expenses and has now opted for a loan to cover the cost.

“I didn’t know that it’s going to be that expensive, as this is the first time I’ve paid for schools here,” said Akram Salamah, a 31-year-old Jordanian father of one.

“My son was studying in Jordan before we decided to move the family to Dubai and when I started to look for a school, I was really surprised by the fees.

“I need to pay Dh10,000 in fees for Grade 1 first term along with Dh800 for books and around Dh700 for uniform, plus school supplies.

“I won’t be able to cover all of this with my salary along with Eid costs, so I applied for a loan to cover it until I figure out a plan.”

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Lana Kaati, a 37-year-old Syrian mother of two, said thankfully she planned for the extra cost burden.

“It’s a tough month for most families as we need to cover many expenses with only one pay cheque,” said the Abu Dhabi resident.

“School fees had to be paid in August, along with buying school supplies and preparing for Eid. There is no magic formula to balance the budget but it’s something that should have been thought of at least three months back, as saving money will make it easier to handle the situation.”

Ms Kaati said that Eid traditions are important, and that children should not only enjoy it but also learn its meaning.

‘We don’t want to lose our culture just to save money. Parents can plan and during the sale season they can get a bargain and keep it for the occasion,” she said.

“Families have to enjoy Eid and, if they are struggling financially, they still can have fun as most of the malls offer free entertainment for kids.”

Another mother said that she saves on annual costs by buying good quality school bags and lunchboxes so she does not have to invest in new ones each semester.

Shahenda Al Bakri with her sons. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Shahenda Al Bakri with her sons. Chris Whiteoak / The National

“If you don’t need it, then don’t buy it. Many parents that I know buy school supplies, although their children have ones in good condition and can be used for the new term,” said Shahenda Al Bakri, a 30-year-old Egyptian mother of two in Abu Dhabi.

Ms Al Bakri said that children need to understand the value of money so that they are not always pushing parents for new items.

“If your child has a bag or a lunchbox that is in good condition, then don’t buy a new one just because they asked for one - teaching children how to take care of their stuff and engaging them in the family’s financial situation is something very important.

“We made a mistake four years ago and didn’t save for the school fees of our children and we ended up borrowing money to pay the fees and cover the charges. Since that day, we started saving money each month to deal with such situations.”

As for Eid, she said she feels that people buy into the commercialism of the occasion too much.

“Cooking a meal at home will save families a lot of money during Eid instead of spending too much on food outside,” said Ms Al Bakri.

“We tend to overrate everything instead of enjoying the simplicity of the occasion.”

Financial experts said that setting an annual budget, tracking spending and prioritising payments helps families manage their finances.

“Given that Eid, school fees and associated costs are culminating at the same time, we advise families to treat their finances like a company and make a budget for the year, showing things like income and expenditure, so they can plan early,” said Sam Instone, chief executive of AES international, a financial advice company.

“Turn your annual budget into a long-term plan where you map out your cash flow over the coming years, so you can see times where high costs coincide, and prioritise paying off expensive debt such as credit cards.”