Dubai is expensive. Considering the lure of glitzy malls, luxury cars and designer clothes, saving can feel like an uphill struggle. Perhaps one of the reasons you became an expat was to save money while enjoying a higher quality of life. However, when you moved, the lull of luxury might have dimmed your goals. Or maybe you associate saving money with misery and who wants to sacrifice today for a tomorrow that isn’t promised? Recent high levels of inflation have made saving even more difficult. So, is there any hope or should we all just splash our cash?

Why save money?

Some people say ‘why should I save? I might get hit by a bus tomorrow.’ Sure, no one can predict the future. However, the most common age of death is 87 years in the UK and 78 years in the UAE. The chances that you will live beyond crossing the road in front of a bus are high.

Saving money creates a sense of safety, security and confidence. Having a stash of cash can prevent you from going into debt or liquidating your investments when life throws curve balls your way.

But finding the balance between saving for later and spending to enjoy today is challenging. No one wants to live like a miser, and it also isn’t advisable to survive paycheque to paycheque. So, what’s the secret?

Values based budgeting

The best way to strike a balance between saving and spending is to budget with intention. You may hear the word ‘budget’ and groan at the thoughts of shame, limits, and restrictions. This is where most people go wrong. The easiest way to stick to a budget, no matter which method you choose, is to allocate money lavishly to categories that you value and dump the rest. But figuring out where to allocate your money is not always easy.

Track your expenses

I find the most effective way of working out what you value spending money on is to write out all your expenses for the last one to three months. Then, mark every item out of ten – ten being awesome and one being total regret. This will soon reveal a pattern of what brings you joy.

Veracious Values

The key is to be honest – for example, let’s say you give Netflix eight out of ten. You enjoy watching the shows. But deep down, you know you’re binge watching late into the night and sacrificing your energy the following day, so in reality, Netflix might score a four or five. This activity requires you to dig deep, but I guarantee you will get better results than just trying endless budgeting methods.

Take action

Once you’ve evaluated your expenses, the real action can begin. Ruthlessly cut what you don’t value. Even if it’s an expense that seems necessary, such as housing, food, childcare or transportation, try looking at the expense through a different lens. If you have given childcare a one out of ten, consider the reason. Perhaps you want to cut your hours down at work and do more childcare yourself?

Are you following the crowd?

Beware of ‘Keeping up with the Al Ketbis’. Ask yourself how much you’re influenced by others. For example, perhaps you’re renting a large villa because that’s what other people are doing. But you don’t need or use all the space. If you moved house, you could substantially increase your savings without sacrificing your happiness.

These examples may not apply to you. The point is that if you apply brutal honesty to this exercise, you will find areas that you can reduce and others where you can add more money. If you love to play golf, spend generously on equipment and club membership. Life is too short to restrict everything. Make sure you stay within your income level though – the stress of living beyond your means isn’t worth it.

What this also does is free up more money to save. Keep your long-term goals close and use your values framework to decide your balance between spending and saving. The ultimate secret is to manage your money with meaning, which values-based budgeting can help you to achieve.

This article was written by British mum, Alison who has her own blog full of money-saving tips. For more suggestions and advice, please visit