I love shopping! Especially this Dubai Shopping Festival 2014 with its mega raffles, nation-wide sales, discounts and freebies! But you do not see me wielding a sharp-looking credit card or heavy-lifting paper bags of well-known brands. Instead, you will see me going the rounds in a supermarket, comparing prices of maybe 10 brands of tomato sauce. Or, you might see me walking around the mall, gawping at the shop facade but completely ignoring the boutiques and taking a look at shops that scream “SALE!”
Such is I as a shopper, believer of coupons and raffle promos, of buy 1 take 1, of discounts and second-hand stuff. It’s hard to be both a shopping lover and a thrift-wannabe. Of course I want to buy the latest gadgets or the branded goods, but sometimes you think that it might not be as fulfilling if you have thousands of debt to settle after your shopping spree. In Dubai, they say you would really lose yourself in the constant deluge of sales, promos, discounts and even a shopping festival. What to do, then?
- When I make my mall rounds, I take note of shops that offer the best deals and go to them first when I need to buy something.
- For my clothes, I usually flock the second-hand / hand-me-down shops. In the Philippines, we call them ukay-ukay because we make “hukay” of the piles of clothes to find that one piece of branded clothing. I found a Giordano top there, then a sturdy black Aldo flats, and a DKNY pants. No need to wait for DSF or sale, they get low prices everyday! Just remember to choose the stores that are clean and neat, and check that the items are free of holes, tears, or tiny creatures before buying them. Throw them into the washing machine for a thorough clean, and mend the tiny holes or tears, if you can.
- For the groceries, I prefer Carrefour. Aside from their amazing rewards program, promos, coupons and discounts, you can really get more for less, if you are patient enough to compare prices and look for alternative items. For this DSF 2014, buy any electronics and you will get back 10-25% of its price via Carrefour coupon. I bought a tablet fro Dhs 499 and I’ve got a Dhs 49.99 coupon, which meant I could finally buy new flats without touching my budget. Sweeeeet. The cheapest supermarket, though is Union Cooperative Society (“Union Coop”)
- Choithrams is another choice, for the grocery category. You will find stacks of heavily discounted food items, those that will expire within 1 month. For example is this Starbucks bottled drink from Dhs 10 to just Dhs 1.5, and the expiry date is still a month away. If you will consume them within days, then there is no harm. And you can get Good Taste, theirfree magazine, too.
- For your trinkets and stuffs, go for Daiso, Tchibo and Brands for Less. I remembered buying things from chips to lotions to office supplies to kitchen wares in Daiso, Japan Home and American Home back in the Philippines. Such joy! I love the cutesy Japanese stuff in Daiso and the everyday essentials in American Home. I felt good buying more for less. In Dubai, the biggest Daiso stores are in the Dubai Mall and Ibn Battuta Mall. I feel like entering Wonderland whenever I go inside these stores, discovering items that I never knew I needed to make my life easier – at prices between Dhs 7 to 14. One Arab national happily told me in passing, “I like it here.” And even a few Westerners are poking around for household wares. The Europeans may be more familiar with Tchibo and Brands for Less (stores in Bur Dubai and Satwa) which carries Tchibo items as well. Their prices are definitely higher, but the items seems of high-quality, if not high-end themselves.
- Try Boots for your pampering, hygiene, and cosmetic fix. I just visited Boots yesterday, and I like that they carry the so-called drugstore cosmetics, and they have stacks of pampering and hygienic products from cheap to reasonably expensive. These stores also carry over-the-counter drugs and even some refreshments. Reminds me of Watsons in the Philippines. As for this DSF 2014, you can avail of 2-400 ml shampoos for Dhs 15 only, buy one take 1 on their in-house serums and creams or buy 2 get 1 cosmetic free!
2. Get or do the free stuff! Free samples, perfume strips, free massage, allowed washing of hands in Bath & Body Works (no I’m not joking, go to their store in Dubai Mall), you name it! There’s no harm, and maybe you’d find yourself a good deal.
3. Use your coupons, but only for the necessary ones. The ubiquitous convenient store Zoom is offering either Etisalat or Du prepaid load card + 3 raffle tickets for Nissan car draw + coupons for fast food, for the price of that prepaid card + Dhs 10. Good savings, Id’s say, because you’ll have load, a chance to win a car, and at least 10 coupons for free food item or discounted meals. At the food court, you may have been behind me, while I use the coupon for some value meal for an even lower price. This is necessary. Because discounted food at a fast food joint is big savings. But if it something like “Buy one laptop, get this and that for free” and you do not really need the laptop, or the free items, then this is not necessary. Throw away that coupon, or better yet, give it to someone else. He or she’ll thank you for it.
4. Create a budget and a list and stick to them. I also create lists and rank them according to necessity, though at times I tend to buy a few more items not listed. Sometimes, when I just feel the urge, I might be getting stuff here and there, but discard most, if not some of them when I reach the counter. I may either stick to a certain amount / budget, or I would prioritize the necessities.
5. If buying electronics, visit most, if not all the stores on the electronics area of Dubai Mall so you can compare prices and promo from a wide selection of electronics in many stores, and get the best deal. Discounts, freebies, cash-back, you name it. When it comes to electronics it is wise to buy a gadget in which you can fully utilize. I mean, why bust your budget on an expensive, 17-inch touchscreen, 500GB HD, 4GB RAM Intel Core i7 laptop (or something like that) if you will just use it for Facebook, Yahoo! Mail and MS Word? A Google Nexus tablet can do that, at a lesser price.
Or is it really necessary for your 15 year old to have an iPod, an iPad, an iPhone and a Mac Laptop / Computer all to him/herself? I don’t think so. All you’ve got is a deeper pocket and a higher debt. If I were rich, I may have like to, but in the end, it will be useless, pointless and a waste of hard-earned money.
6. Make a list of some of the things you might need to buy but are not usually available in a nearby store and then the stores and location where you bought them (similar to number 1) and stock on the supplies if possible. That way, you will not have to spend a bit more on a last-minute visit to the convenience store or grocery when you lack something. For example, I was looking for clothes brush to dust off the white stuff clinging from my dirt magnet of a pants and I found them discounted from a chance visit to H&M. I could have even snagged their discounted makeup palettes for Dhs 25-35 as DSF will be only for a month. The cheap sky blue hangers I get from Daiso, as well as their collapsible storage containers that will rival the more expensive ones at IKEA (the OC people will love their collection!). Cheapest vegetables I can find in Al Ansari, the cutest accessories in Avenue (opposite Burjuman) and Max, less expensive branded perfumes at CentrePoint. I mean, if you know exactly where to buy the cheapest or most deal-worthy stuffs, and you may even stock up a little, you will save a lot. You will not have to spend a bit more on a last-minute visit to the convenience store or grocery; as we know their prices are a bit higher than those in big supermarkets (maybe except Waitrose and Spinneys)
You know what, it just feels good to share these tips, as is it good to think that with some control and planning, we can still have some money left on the pocket (without debts or outstanding balances) by the end of the month. That is sweeeeeeet.