10 Ways to Save Money as an Expat in Abu Dhabi

One of the reasons why expats choose to work in Abu Dhabi is the tax-free salary, which enables them to save more money and send higher remittances back home. Today, we’re going to talk further about how expats can save even more while living in the capital.

With so many shopping malls, theme parks, and other attractions, it can be rather tempting to splurge while staying in Abu Dhabi. However, this doesn’t have to be the case, as long as you know how to manage your finances and take note of these money tips that we’re about to share!

save money abu dhabi

How You can Save Money as an Expat in Abu Dhabi

Whether you’re at home, in the workplace, or traveling around, here are some of the ways in which you can save money as a resident of Abu Dhabi:

#1. Keep track of your expenses.

You’d be surprised to know that there are actually people who are not keeping track of their expenditures. This is the very first step towards sound financial management! Simply by taking note of where your money goes every day, every week, and every month — you will have a better idea of where your hard-earned money goes. You can use a notebook, your laptop, or a mobile app… the important thing is simply to start doing it!

#2. Draft a budget and stick to it.

Based on your record of expenses, you can now draft a budget that will serve as your guide on how to spend your money. This should include categories (e.g. utility bills, food and groceries, transportation, etc.) and the amount that is usually spent on each category.

Having a budget enables you to analyze where most of your money goes, and if there are expenses that you can reduce or eliminate altogether. Of course, once you have drafted a budget… stick to it! The rule of thumb is to “live within your means;” otherwise, you won’t be able to save; or worse, you might fall into debt. Yikes!

#3. Make a habit of saving.

Have you ever heard of the saying, “pay yourself first?” Basically, this means that as soon as you receive your salary/income, set aside at least 10 percent in a savings account (that is separate from your payroll account). Most banks offer an automatic savings feature, where a portion of your salary is transferred to another account. Consider using this feature to help you save money regularly.

Why is saving important? You never know when you might encounter an emergency, hence the need for an emergency fund. Saving also enables you to reach your goals (e.g. buy a new car, set up a business, etc.), whether these are short-term or long-term.

#4. Save money on household utilities.

Now, let’s talk about how you can save money on household utilities, specifically on your electricity and water bills:

  • Switch to energy efficient light bulbs.
  • Don’t just switch off your household appliances when not in use; unplug them to avoid energy usage from “standby” mode.
  • Maintain your air-conditioning unit at 24 degrees Celsius, as this is the most optimum and cost-effective setting, considering the weather in the UAE.
  • Add a dual flush button to your toilet to reduce water wastage.
  • Install an aerator on your water faucet to help reduce water consumption.
  • Water your plants early in the morning or late at night. If you water them under the hot sun, the water would only evaporate quickly, even before it penetrates the soil.

#5. Use public transportation.

The public transportation system in Abu Dhabi is safe, fast, and cheap (i.e. standard bus fare starts from AED 2). You can hail a public bus from different stops across the city, making them a convenient way to get around. To use these buses, you’ll need to buy a Hafilat card from Al Wahda Central Bus Station. You can load it up with credit at bus shelters, malls, and other public areas. Indeed, using public transport can help you save a lot of money in the long run!

save money abu dhabi

#6. Use a bicycle or scooter to get around.

If your workplace is not that far from your residence, consider using a bicycle or scooter to save up on gas money or bus fare. There are bicycles and scooters for rent in different parts of the city as well. This way, you not only get to save money, you get to stay fit, too!

#7. Save money on groceries.

Food and groceries comprise a huge chunk of our budget, so it’s always a good idea to see how you can save money on them. Our first tip would be to draft a grocery list before you go out. Having a list will not only help you save time, it will also keep you from getting distracted by other things that are not on your list!

Once you’re in the supermarket, chart out a “shopping route” that can help you stick to your grocery list. Take note of where the essentials (e.g. meat, bread, dairy products) are. As an additional tip — check the bottom shelves, where the “generic” or lesser-known brands are. These are usually cheaper, yet taste basically the same as the more famous brands.

#8. Eat out less, cook at home more.

It may seem so much easier to dine in restaurants or buy ready-to-eat food, but this is definitely more expensive, too! Why not try your hand at preparing your favourite dishes? Not only are home-cooked meals cheaper, they are healthier since you can control the ingredients you put into them!

#9. Head to Mina Port Fish Market.

If you like seafood, check out the Mina Port Fish Market for some fresh catch! Hundreds of fishermen unload their boats here every morning, eager to sell their catch to restaurants, wholesalers, and individual buyers (like you). Just imagine how much you’ll get to save on a fish recipe that you prepared yourself, as compared to the same dish served in a restaurant!

#10. Buy (and sell) things on Dubizzle.

In case you haven’t heard of it yet, Dubizzle is popular classifieds website in the UAE where you can buy and sell pretty much anything, from a second-hand car to a “pre-loved” sofa set. You can sell some of your old stuff (e.g. books, shoes, etc.) and make some extra money, too!

These are just some of the ways in which you can save money while staying in the capital. And speaking of low budget, have we got more fantastic ideas for you! Check out this list of 20 free things to do in Abu Dhabi, so you can have fun — without hurting your wallet!