With cost of living on the rise, UAE residents are finding creative ways to navigate financial goals and challenges — and even earn a few extra dirhams in the process.

Take Alaina Ejaz, a 23-year-old freelance content creator and marketer from London, who recently shared some practical tips in a TikTok video titled ‘Downgrading Lifestyle to Save’. One of her strategies involved moving from Dubai to Sharjah. As a freelancer who primarily works from home, Alaina found that relocating to Sharjah reduced her rent from Dh4,000 to Dh2,778 monthly.

“Living in Sharjah also decreased my temptation to spend money on entertainment, as I now consider the distance I need to go to Dubai,” she explained. The marketer still maintains an active social life, however, by making new friends in Sharjah and visiting Dubai on weekends.

"I'm trying to take control of my finances, finding more things to do in Sharjah, so I don't have to go all the way to Dubai just to have fun. I'm trying to enjoy where I am right now and not feel like I need to do certain things that might be out of my budget," the practical youngster told Khaleej Times.

Cutting on rent also helped Ahmed Abdel Moneim, who has been living in the UAE for two years. He used to call Dubai home, but when his parents relocated from Sudan, he made the move to Ajman.

In Dubai, Ahmed rented a one-bedroom apartment for Dh40,000 per year. On top of that, he had to cover additional monthly utility costs of Dh1,800. But after moving to Ajman, he now enjoys the comfort of a spacious two-bedroom apartment, and he only pays Dh30,000 per year for rent, a significant reduction from his previous expense. Additionally, his monthly utility costs have decreased to just Dh500, even during the summer months.

Other savings strategies

Rent is not the only way these residents have been freeing up their budgets. One 'hack' Alaina shared with her followers is to cook more meals at home. "I've found that cooking more meals at home and investing in kitchen appliances like an air fryer and juicer have significantly reduced my reliance on ordering food from outside."

She has also implemented the ‘3-day rule’, meaning, she waits for three days before making impulsive purchases. "Additionally, I've started replacing makeup products only when they are completely finished and not getting dragged into trends on social media,” she added.

Ahmed, meanwhile, is taking a hybrid approach to commuting: using the Metro as well as his own vehicle to reduce expenses. He parks his vehicle at Centrepoint Metro Station, then takes the Metro to Dubai Internet City. He no longer pays steep Dh20 parking fees, which has not only saved him money but also improved his mental well-being by removing traffic-related stress and parking concerns.

"I used to fill my vehicle's tank two to three times a month, which cost around Dh260 each time. Now, I only need to fill it once a month," Ahmed noted.

Shopping smart

Dubai resident Oyebamiji Nimatalah has been attending community markets for the past two years. Previously, she shopped at regular grocery stores like West Zone and Lulu. By embracing community markets, Nimat now purchases vegetables and fruits for only Dh50 to Dh60 per month. For meat, chicken, and fish, she manages to limit spending to around Dh150.

"I can't remember exactly how much I used to pay, but produce is a lot cheaper at the community markets. It's hardly a burden for me now."

British expat and content creator Shannon Hynes believes there are 'smart, affordable' ways to shop at supermarkets as well. "There is a lot you can do at a reasonable cost; it just takes a bit of research and organisation." She also suggests choosing a location near work to save on transportation expenses.

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