I’ve been reading so many articles on the rising cost of living and blatant salary disparity in UAE, but most of them are quite outdated, so let me tell you how I managed to live in Dubai for a mere 3380 dirhams this 2015.
Why only AED 3380 then?
The first Filipinos in the Middle East were nurses, laborers, and domestic helpers. Nowadays, most Filipinos are in the service industry and Filipino professionals are recognized. However this does not change the initial way they think about us, thus they pay us considerably less than other counterparts. Besides the cost of living in the Philippines is truly lower than others, so they assume we can live with less salary than other nationalities (still this is unfair).
How do I manage with AED 3380?
To tell you the truth, others have even less than AED 3000, without company-provided housing and / or transport, and they survive. For me it’s a matter of priority, discipline and living simply within one’s means.
Please note that to fit my salary and changing needs without borrowing, I adjust the budget for each assigned bill / item to add money to more urgent needs and deduce from non-essential items.
Let me now show you a breakdown
- Savings = AED 200 – 300
- Home Country Dues = up to AED 200
- Family Remittance = up to AED 800
- Communication = AED 25
- Tithes / Donation = up to AED 100
- Personal = up to AED 200
- Groceries = up to AED 500
- Transport = up to AED 300
- Housing = AED 1050
Housing = AED 1050
+ includes internet, electricity, water and drinking water, lower deck bed space, spacious living area, not crowded, lots of space for items and clothing, established bath and laundry schedules, no bed bugs / “surot”, 8 minutes away from Metro, very accessible area near Burjuman / Bur Dubai
– expensive for a bed space (nuff said), sacrificed personal space and privacy
My initial budget for this was just AED 750 all in (with utility bills included) in 2013, however the rents are truly increasing in this country especially near the Metro and major thoroughfares. By 2014 it had increased to AED 900 and in 2015, AED 1050. This is high compared to around AED 600 inclusive in older areas like Deira and Satwa. Deira is also Metro-accessible, but most lucrative jobs (and great happenings) are on the other side of the Creek (Bur Dubai) and it also has a big impact on transport costs and fatigue so go figure.
Transport = up to AED 300
Further breakdown: AED 230 for Nol Card Monthly Pass covering two zones, up to AED 75 for taxi, additional Nol Card top-up load and car lift)
To further reduce my transport costs, I opt for Quarterly Pass which is AED 550 for 3 months or AED 183.33 / month. I’d rather be a bit late than ride the taxi to catch on time. I rarely venture out to areas / zones not covered by my pass. Most importantly, I avoid going out as much as possible. If you’re not capable of staying at home during weekends (thank God we have two days off), then you might have to compromise.
Groceries = up to AED 600
Further breakdown = AED 400 for food, AED 80-100 for toiletries/ household items, AED 100-120 for eat out
One money sucker is eating out / taking away food, I promise. AED 100 is equal to 4-5 fast food meals or a restaurant treat for one or two persons, while it can be my grocery bill for 5 days or a week. Good thing I’m female and got treated for free, can reduce food intake, and can stomach salad or a piece of bread with coffee/water/tea/juice as full meal. Cooking also helps. I do not know how to cook but I can save more if I cook my own rice and buy canned fish for lunch instead of buying anything else ready to eat unless it’s a piece of bread / mini meat pie / sandwich that costs like AED 2-5.
As for toiletries, house items, etc. I tend to buy bulk on sales and they lasts me a long time. I also find alternative uses for my existing items. One time I wanted to buy a foot file, but I remembered being given a pedicure set and used the large nail file gently instead. The foot scrub I also used as facial and body scrub, I just mix it with my gentle face wash.
Personal = up to AED 200
Personal items may refers to cosmetics/perfume/jewelry/accessories/apparel/entrance fee/movie ticket/gifts/check up (deducted rate).
Before, I could splurge AED 150 on a couple of drinks at a bar or watch a movie every month for AED 35 per ticket (AED 45 for 3D), but my priorities are now straight. When more pressing needs must be addressed, I usually give up my personal needs budget first. I really get lucky because my cosmetics and perfumes comes from my relatives and I am a home buddy, thus I spend less on leisure. But with some hardcore savings for several months I was able to buy a low-budget laptop, which brings me endless hours of Internet, binge-watching, blogging, doing work, games, etc. Sometimes I need to replace my two-year old phone / one-year old second hand phone, and save up for it. Or I feel like I haven’t visited the salon in the past 6 months and I badly needed a pedicure.
Tithes / Donation = up to AED 100
In the Philippines, I believed I gave less than 2 dollar’s worth of church tithes and alms per month. However, during a Christian Life Program I attended here in Dubai, I realize, I have to give back as thanksgiving for my blessings. Now, I managed to give AED 100-150 per month but sometimes this also gets impacted when there are emergency needs.
Communication = AED 25
I used Etisalat prepaid before and my load was just around AED 25. Then Du tempted me with postpaid so I switched to a plan worth AED 150, but only mobile data and flexible calls. I am more comfortable with texting and I rarely call international so I have downgraded to AED 25 with 55 local minutes, 55 text messages and (unfortunately) 5 MB mobile data. I can add 50 AED for 1 GB mobile data but nope. I’ll maximize our home and office WIFI instead.
Family Remittance = up to AED 800
Every Filipino has to send back something in the Philippines to support our family. Rarely do I see / meet hear about a Filipino who goes abroad just for him/herself. I went here thinking that I was one of them because I left my family well-off, but nope, my parents lost jobs, family started to ask, and the rest was history.
Home Country Dues = up to AED 200
Further breakdown = AED 150 for Social Security (SSS), AED 20 for Home Development Mutual Fund (PAGIBIG) and a yearly Php 2040 (AED 160) for PhilHealth
Before, this amount I used for my check up and medicine fees subsidized by my company insurance (really a sickly person), or for adding up 1GB of data on my postpaid. Now, I realized I must also continue paying up my government dues so I will have a minimum pension in the future, eligibility for loans, and reimbursements for sickness, maternity, burial etc. that may also benefit my family.
Savings = AED 200 – 300
I know it’s so low. But at least I managed to scrape something. Sometimes it still gets wiped out due to some emergency, and sometimes I was so stingy last month I managed to have an extra and I’d happily send the money back to my meager savings account in the Philippines.
My responsibilities are increasing, cost of living is increasing, and I must move on to have my salary increased as well, just to cope. I will eventually learn how to cook more complicated recipes and stop purchasing clothes and gadgets as I have already bought quality items already that will last me a long time. I will continue tinkering my Excel Budget file to be able to save up or have the money for my urgent needs. It will be hard work nut I know it will pay off.