Guest Post: 8 Tips to Plan a Family Vacation on a Budget


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I don’t know if there’s anyone who doesn’t like to go on vacations because everyone does! However, vacations always come with a price tag that, if you’re not careful, might burn a hole in your wallet. Spending money is inevitable but what you have control of is how you’re going to spend that money for a family vacation. Now, the question is: can you penny pinch money without penny-pinching fun? The answer is YES! Here’s how:

1. Plan early.

If possible, plan family vacations as early as 12 months to 6 months before the designated date. Planning several months in advance will give you enough time to save up and prepare for the vacation. In addition to this, a lot of board and lodging providers offer a lower rate in advanced booking, so does airline ticket sellers.

2. Search for vouchers, coupons, and deals online.

Aside from planning early, doing a lot of research goes a long way. Some tour or travel agencies offer deals for a limited time only, so get a hold of them fast. Subscribe to their newsletters or follow a certain hotel in the place you’re going to visit on social media, and be on the lookout for their offers or contest that might save you big bucks.

3. Consider travelling on off-peak seasons.

One of the oldest tricks in the vacation-on-a-budgeting book is to travel during off-peak season. Prices usually go down by as much as 100% during the off-peak season compared to the peak season. Or you can always choose the most frugal vacation: staycations.

4. Be wise in deciding where to stay.

While most hotels and inns offer the same kind of service, try to choose those who offer more for the same price. You can also make a personalized deal with them based on the budget you have, if you manage to get a hold of their contact details. Try to stay in a place that has a kitchen and fridge, or offers a free breakfast. You’ll get a lot of savings.

5. Stick to your budget and don’t go overboard.

Once you’re vacationing, be strict and limit spending according to what’s planned. Emotional purchases are very common when on vacation because we’re having so much fun. Have a souvenir strategy to resist impulse buys. Save change in a jar before the trip and discuss getting souvenirs that can only be found at your destination.

6. Bring packed food.

If you’re not going to spend a day or a few days away from home, try bringing packed lunch or dinner with you. Pull over on an open space and set-up a little picnic party. When you’re in a theme park, see if they allow visitors to bring in food. The price of food in theme parks is usually more expensive.

7. Bring jugs or water tumblers.

When you’re on vacation in another place, most of the travelling you’ll do is by foot.  And walking can make you really thirsty. So instead of buying water bottle after bottle, or soda can after can, bring a jug or tumbler. That way, you can easily refill your water supply wherever you go. Usually, you can just ask for water in your hotel/inn’s pantry.

8. Don’t bring the whole bank with you.

It pays to bring just a little bit of extra money with you whenever you’re vacationing so you won’t be tempted to spend too much. But for emergency situations, always bring a debit or credit card with you. But only use it on emergency situations.

Not every vacation is made the same, but the bottom line is—it must be fun for everyone. Remember that excellent planning goes a long way, and always have fun!

About the Author:

Joanna is an entrepreneur mum blessed with 3 lovely children. She lives in Dubai with her family, and loves to travel and cook healthy meals for her children. Joanna regularly shares her parenting tips and experiences with, an online platform listing all UAE children’s activities accessible by parents thru web and mobile.


Posted in Frugal Tips, Guest Post, Travel | 1 Comment

UAE National Bonds: My First Win

National Bonds

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As you have read in my earlier post, my emergency fund is safely stashed in UAE National Bonds. It is my way of guarding hard my EF from any temptations of spending it. 

So I oftentimes received newsletter from them and earlier this week I received another email. While it was downloading, I was thinking that maybe it’s just another newsletter. 

Anyhow, I waited until it was downloaded. To my surprise, it was a different email this time. 


Dear ——-

Congratulations you have won in our every minute draw (on AED 50)! 


I was very happy. It is not really the grand prize but hey, it is still AED 50. As they say, a thousand Dirhams is not a thousand Dirhams without 50 Dirhams. 

 Hopefully this is just the beginning of more winnings and may the next win be the grand prize of 1 million Dirhams. :-D

Posted in Events, Finances, Life in Abu Dhabi | 4 Comments

The Rising Cost of Water & Electricity Bills

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You know when it is affecting most of the population because oftentimes it is the subject matter of the discussion.

Like lately, our lunch topic is the shocking water and electricity bills. I read the  notice earlier about the increase in the charges but I haven’t really paid attention to it until I started receiving the new water and electricity bills. 

It’s really a big chunk of money (well at least for me) that goes to this utility bills. 

I took a snapshot of last year versus this year’s bill. There’s no changes in the number of persons who are staying in our flat. It is still the same as last year but see the difference. 

June bill


July Bills

At first I thought that there’s something wrong in our meter system. But when my colleagues also told me about their recent bills, then I know that it is across the board. 

If you are not paying your bills, then you are lucky. But for ordinary employees like me, it is disheartening to pay such big chunk of bills. 


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COL Financial: Why I automated my EIP?

COL Financial Automated

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I have been investing in COL financial since 2011 but I really didn’t take it seriously. It is more of investing only the leftover funds from my monthly paycheck. 

So when I finally decided to take this investment seriously late last year, I checked my total investment cost. I was disappointed. It has never been my priority hence the result was also obvious. 

Disappointing figures. 

However in January this year, I started to become aggressive, so aggressive that I set a certain goal by end of the year. The goal is on the high side so it is a challenge and requires sacrifice. 

I follow a cost averaging strategy for my stock investment in COL Financial. I found here an infographic that will help you understand easily Peso Cost Averaging. 

One of my fave blogger also, Fitz Villafuerte in Ready to be Rich, explained it well and in details in his post here

This strategy is called EIP (Easy Investment Program) in COL Financial. There’s an option to set this up into manual or automatic. 

I used to have this in manual setting but I faced some problems. 

First, there were times that I was occupied and I forgot to check my COL account. Hence, my purchases became inconsistent. There were times I bought my stocks in beginning of the month. If I forgot, then it would be somewhere in end of the month. 

Second, I had difficulty in staying within my budget :-). For instance, I allocated 5,000 pesos for certain stock like JFC. When I see that the price is low, I tend to buy more. 

I became a monster, greedy to buy more stocks. So oftentimes I fell off from my budget, the amount I allocated monthly for my chosen stocks. 

It forfeits the basic idea of peso cost averaging which is buying regularly which equates (in my case) to monthly purchase of selected blue chips stocks on the same period (mine is every 10th of the month) at the same amount. 

So three months ago, I automated all my EIP stocks. I set it up every 10th of the month. Now I don’t have anything else to think except to ensure that there’s enough fund in my COL account so all the automatic purchases are successful. 

What about you? What’s your stock investment strategy?

Posted in Finances, Investments, OFWs | Tagged | 2 Comments

Reviving my Dying Emergency Fund

I depleted my Emergency Fund (EF) late last year. It’s kind of personal but it was spent helping out a family member.

So in January this year, I vowed to start all over again. This time I will be tough in guarding my emergency fund. If you remember earlier, I used to save the EF in my NBAD account. Sadly, this is the nearest and convenient ATM machine to my home hence oftentimes I ended up withdrawing cash from this account to avoid the extra bank charges as my payroll account is with another bank.

So saving my EF in another bank account didn’t work well. I have to find a solution.

The Magic of Auto Debit and UAE National Bonds

I set up an Standing Instruction with my payroll bank account to debit automatically 10% of my monthly salary and it goes directly to UAE National Bonds. So far, this strategy has been very effective and I haven’t touched my EF since December 2014.

You can read more about this UAE National Bonds auto debit program here

Why it is an effective approach in building up my Emergency Fund?

Personal finance experts recommend saving your EF in instruments which are low risk, secure, liquid and easy to access in case any emergency arises.

My problem with this is the ‘easy to access’ part. That’s why I always ended up spending my emergency fund always.

This time I have to guard my EF from my temptations like sale and dining out which I have difficulty in ignoring it.

This is where the UAE National Bonds comes into the picture.

In December 2014, I spent my remaining EF in UAE National Bonds. These bonds that I bought over the counter in Al Ansari Exchange Centre and UAE Exchange had a minimum holding period of 3 months.

In February 2015, the auto debit set up for UAE National Bonds was arranged with my bank. The bonds that are purchased from this auto debit arrangement have a minimum holding period of one year. Although you can withdraw during the holding period, there will be applicable charges for early withdrawal. This keeps me away from considering the possibility of withdrawing my EF for unnecessary expenses.

At this time of writing, I have saved up a total of 2-months of living expenses. My initial goal is to achieve 6-months worth of EF. With my current saving pace, I will reach this by December 2016.

What about you? What’s your strategy in keeping your emergency funds?


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Posted in Banks, Finances, Investments | Tagged | 2 Comments

Solution to Job Security


When the Global Financial Crisis hit last 2007-2008, many realized that there’s no such thing as job security. 

A fact that is applicable in life and in business. 

If the business is not doing well, cost cutting becomes a gravely strategy, a form of survival regardless of the size of the company. 

It is simply like that. 

There’s no job security as long as you are an employee. Either you are paid for a meager wage of USD 50 a week or a lucrative career that’s paying you USD 1,000 weekly. 

In my decade of working as an employee, I never experience so many terminations and laid offs until recently. 

Well, I never worked before in Human Resources (HR) Department. It didn’t affect me really when my colleagues left the company unless we were close friends. 

But now, I am involved in HR. Everything goes to our department – from joining to departure. 

And I witness my colleagues leaving the company. 

Sadly, most of the cases recently are laid off or terminations. 

Obvious reasons are cost cutting and under performance. 

I feel sad for my colleagues who are compelled to go. They have families. They have financial commitments. 

One thing for sure – they are here for work and money. 

This keeps me thinking. I can be the next one too. Who knows? 

It is not being pessimistic. I guess, I am being realistic.  

And here, when you lost your job, the impact is magnified. It entails more than just losing your monthly paycheck. 

Your visa will be cancelled and visa is your lifeblood here specially for us Asians. 

No visa means a flight back home unless you want to stay illegally. 

Because you don’t have a visa, you don’t have any legal documents you can use for leasing a flat, enrolling your children at school, car rental, and even in some cases bank transactions. 

If your family is under your visa sponsorship, it means their visa needs to be cancelled too. 

What if you cannot find a job? 

No matter how we try to protect our jobs, we still don’t have the security until we become the owner of the company. 

I guess being a business owner is the only solution to securing your job. Of course, no one can fire you because it is your company. 

So this is my long-term goal – to put up businesses where I can run and direct my own show. **big smile**


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Posted in Employment, Entrepreneurship, Life in Abu Dhabi | Tagged , | Leave a comment