Feeling the pinch of the credit crunch? Time Out has 50 thrifty tips for saving money in Bahrain
Melissa van Maasdyk
Tweak your lifestyle
1 Turn your A/C and water heaters off when you’re out of the house for long periods, use shorter wash cycles for your laundry, and hang your washing on a clothes horse instead of using the dryer. Not only will you save money, you will also help to save the planet.
Approximate saving: Up to BD100
2 Make your lunch instead of buying it. You’ll not only spend less, you’ll eat less too because you generally make that call to Al Abraaj when you’re already hungry, so you end up ordering more than you would if you’d prepared it earlier. As an alternative to a plastic lunchbox, go for a tiffin box (under a dinar from the souk), which allows you to layer tasty sweet and savoury treats.
3 ‘Planning is the key to maintaining both healthy eating and spending habits,’ says Penny McDonough of Penny’s Café. ‘Make a shopping list for three days’ worth of meals and stick to it.’ ‘Your list should include a variety of seasonal vegetables to make a big healthy soup, which you can refrigerate and reheat for dinner (as well as freezing a couple of individual portions for later use). For lunch, ring the changes by having a salad one day, a sandwich the next and maybe a flask of soup after that. Avoid packaged meats (full of preservatives and expensive) and cook your own. You could roast a chicken, slice it and keep in the fridge for use in a sandwich one day and a salad the next. Also, wash and slice salad items and keep them in separate containers in the fridge ready for use.’ Try Penny’s recipe. Penny’s Café specialises in healthy options, Yateem Centre, Manama (17 200 035).
4 Drink less alcohol. Simple and not highly original, we know, but it really does save a fortune, and if you have a car you won’t need to take those taxis home after nights out.
Approximate saving: If you cut your average BD50 spend on weekends in bars by half… BD1,300
5 Buy a money jar (300fils) from the pottery stalls at the roundabout next to the Hamad Town offramp, and pop all your loose change in it before you can spend it. You’ll be amazed how fast the savings mount up – after a few months, one Time Out staffer cracked hers open to find BD70 saved up for Christmas pressies.
6 Like a budgeting boot camp, making a list and writing down everything you spend for a month might be just as effective as someone screaming, ‘Stop spending money on cookies, you fool!’ It’ll reveal your weaknesses and pave the way to change.
7 Leave your credit card at home. For some reason it’s always harder to part with cash, so you’re more likely to say no to that new handbag.
Approximate saving:BD560 on that irresistible designer bag
8 ‘Dream big, spend little’ Financial adviser at Contemporary Elite Investment Group Trent Braggs says he doesn’t tell people to stop spending – ‘because people always want what they can’t have’ – but rather to start thinking about the bigger picture. Decide what you really want in the long-term, and before forking out on anything, ask yourself, ‘Is the splash-out dinner as important to me as the round-the-world trip?’ or ‘Will I remember this night out drinking with friends in a year’s time?’ If the answer’s no, then stay in. Learning to resist instant gratification is a bit like doing press-ups, he says: ‘The more you do it, the easier it gets and the better you feel, so you actually want to do more.’
Food for thought
9 Supermarkets are convenient, but you’re paying for the privilege of those neatly arranged, air-conditioned aisles, so if you’re serious about shrinking your food bill, it’s time to step out of your comfort zone and into one of Bahrain’s fresh markets. Restaurant consultant Suleiman Akkawi tells us how to do Manama Central Market: ‘The best time to go is early morning; Friday at 7am is great because you get the small local farmers’ fresh produce too (they usually stand outside on the street).
To get the best value, go for boxes rather than buying by the kilogramme, as a 5kg box can cost the same as 2kg of loose vegetables. Since a box is usually too big for a family, go with a friend and share the cost and produce. And of course, a little bargaining is a must. If you’re intimidated by the large halls, you can get everything you need at the smaller outlets situated outside the main souk offering amazing products like delicious locally grown baby tomatoes right now.
‘The fish market is a great place to buy the catch of the day, which you can have scaled and filleted for a couple of hundred fils. The meat (mostly lamb and some fast-selling beef) is also good if you’re willing to buy in bulk and freeze it.’
Approximate saving: You could fill your fridge with fruit, vegetables, fish, shrimp and meat for BD35 per week, saving around 40 per cent off an average food bill
10 You only have to glance at Gulf Weekly’s comparative shopping guide to gather that sizeable savings on groceries can be made by going to sizeable stores like Geant (Bahrain Mall), Carrefour (Bahrain City Centre) or LuLu Hypermarket (Dana Mall).
Approximate saving: If you have a big appetite, BD4,000
11 If you’ve ever bought one of those overpriced herbs-in-a-pot at supermarkets, consider planting your own for a never-ending supply. Manager of Aida Gardens nursery Suresh recommends rosemary (20cm pot/ BD1), as it’s very hardy and not averse to heat, and mint (20cm pot/ 800fils), which grows well in the shade. May is also the time to plant fruit trees (40-50cm lemon, orange, papaya, mango or date plants/from BD2). Gardening is a relatively inexpensive, therapeutic hobby worth developing in these times. Aida Gardens, Janabiya Highway, Janabiya (17 695 267).
12 Make a list before you go to the shops; that way you will buy what you came for instead of warm croissants and brightly coloured crisps.
Approximate saving:BD2 every time you go
13 Reserve restaurants for weekends only, and if you feel an unstoppable urge to go out during the week, eat first, then have a coffee or shisha somewhere cheap. Time Out recommends our fave 24-hour seaside hangout, Layali Turkiye, located on Al Fateh Corniche (17 295 270).
Approximate Saving: If you spend BD20 out twice every week, then halve it… BD1,040
Deals on meals
The decor may not be on par with that of a restaurant in a five-star hotel, but the kitchens are clean, the food tasty and authentic, and the prices delectable... these are some of the best ethnic eateries in Bahrain, recommended by nationals in the know. 14 Tabuka: Head to this tasty Pakistani restaurant for grills and light tomato-based curries. Try the Haleem (meat and lentils boiled to a paste, BD1.5), or Nihari (sticky beef curry, BD1.5). Add a drink for 200 fils and you have a meal for under BD2. Off Palace Ave, Gudaibiya (17 266 386).
15 Honey’s: It’s not surprising that this Thai/Chinese restaurant comes recommended by Singaporean businessmen since the fare and no-frills decor is much like that on offer in their city’s famous food markets. We recommend the noodles with pork, beef, chicken and chilli in a broth, and the fried noodles with beef, chicken, prawn, egg and Thai broccoli in a bean sauce (both BD1.5). Manama, opposite Gold City (17 223 962).
16 Ranoosh: This East-meets-West steakhouse offers huge servings of Chateaubriand with veggies, fries or a baked potato for BD5, including hummus with flatbread to start and a complimentary glass of wine. Doggy bag guaranteed. Middle East Hotel, Gudabaiya, near the American Mission Hospital (17 251 777).
17 Borakay: The Manama-based Filipino crowd head here for the Thursday lunchtime buffet of sweet and sour favourites from home such as Adobo, stir fried chicken in a vinegar and soy sauce (BD2, including a beverage). Nightly sing-athons take place in the upstairs Karaoke section. Hoora, behind Ashraf’s (17 514 400).
Approximate Saving: (if you normally spend BD5 on lunch, BD3.5 per day). Per year BD875 (calculation BD3.5 x five days = 17.5 x 50 weeks, BD875)
For an inexpensive feast, try out one of these free Wednesday night buffets. Yes, you read that right… absolutely free. The catch is that the drinks aren’t, so exercise a bit of restraint in that department. 18 The Polo Sports Lounge offers a free finger buffet (chicken wings, spring rolls and such) from 8pm to 10pm. The Palace Bahrain Hotel, Adliya, opposite DHL (17 715 000).
19 The Wrangler’s buffet includes starters to dessert and even a live cooking station, from 8pm-10pm. Elite Hotel, Juffair (17 827 6008).
Approximate saving: If you eat out once a week and spend BD20 (keep BD5 for drinks), BD780
Boys, listen up! A lack of cash doesn’t need to mean an end to dating. Just choose the day and the place carefully. See Nightlife, p63, for contact details: 20 Monday: Tabu’s Foxxy Monday means free margharita’s for ladies until midnight.
21 Wednesday: If she’s a sophisticated lady, make it Cocoon’s Lipstick Lounge, offering selected drinks from 5pm-2am to a DJ accompaniment.
22 Saturday: If you both share a penchant for pina coladas, head to Harvesters, offering two cocktails for the price of one from 5pm-2am.
Approximate saving: If you buy four drinks BD24… BD288
23 So you’ve got a client you need to schmooze, but you’re feeling the pinch? Take advantage of the credit-crunch lunch offer at Waves restaurant, where you can get a gourmet seafood main for BD4.9, so you could get in a starter and/or dessert too for less than the average price of a main elsewhere. Crowne Plaza, Diplomatic Area (17 531 122).
Approximate saving: at BD10 per meal say… BD144
24 Rent the latest releases (BD1 for three-day hire) at Shai DVD’s or join Films 2Go (BD20 per month) for three movies delivered to your door daily – a great incentive to stay at home rather than go out and spend. Shai DVD, Al Jazira Supermarket Mahooz, Budaiya and Juffair (17 741 137); Films 2Go (17 710 830, www.films2go.com).
Approximate saving: If you stay in and watch a movie instead of going out clubbing... BD988
25 Host a marathon TV night. Rent or download your favourite TV series (24, Spooks and Hotel Babylon are our favourites), invite some friends over and spend the evening mesmerised. Get everyone to bring a plate.
Approximate saving: Same as previous instead of clubbing… BD988
26 The Sheikh Ebrahim Centre offers free lectures and performances every Monday night, while its gallery at Bin Matar House offers a kaleidoscope of exhibitions throughout the year. Muharraq (17 322 549, email email@example.com).
Approximate saving:BD120 per year
27 Among the many free cultural events offered by the Alliance Francaise is its Cine Club at 7.30pm on the third Monday of every month, when you can see a French movie for free. Isa Town (17 683 295).
28 Take in weekly screenings of art house movies handpicked by movie buffs for just 500fils at the Bahrain Cinema Club. Screenings 8pm, Wednesdays, Juffair, next to the Bahrain Contemporary Art Society (17 725 959, www.bahraincinemaclub.com).
Approximate savings: BD2.5. For monthly cinema enthusiasts an annual saving of BD30 per year
29 Jashanmal’s ongoing special purchase of three books for the price of two is great value, and an opportunity to tuck away gifts for Christmas and birthdays. Bahrain City Centre and Seef Mall (17 581 632).
Approximate saving: If you buy three a month… BD120
30 Every couple of months the Dilmun Club has a second hand book sale – a cheap way to buy your books and recycle. Call the Dilmun Club library on 17 690 926.
Approximate saving: If you buy one book a month at the average price per book of BD10… BD120
31 Housed in a striking Islamic- influenced building, the new Bahrain National Library has a United Nations section featuring English novels and encyclopaedias, a children’s library with a soft play area; an American Corner offering movies and viewing facilities, plus free Internet access and telescopes for a bit of stargazing. Mod comfy couches and chairs invite you to settle in and stay out of temptation’s way for hours. Bahrain National Library, Juffair, next to the Grand Mosque (17 366 666). Open Sun-Thu 7am-8pm. The library is still setting up its lending system, so currently no books can leave the building.
Approximate saving: Save on expensive theme parks by going once a month BD20… BD120
Just for kids
32 The Bahrain Fort with its nooks and crannies is a wonderful space for kids to explore. The site museum has also recently introduced a number of free kids’ activities, including a Cine Club and, on May 18, a treasure hunt involving clues and puzzle-solving, much like a 3D board game. Quala’at Al Bahrain, Karbabad Village (39 795 100).
Approximate saving: BD60
33 Instead of buying a pet and having the anxiety of finding a home during the holidays, have your kids become a volunteer at the BSPCA, where they can play and care for these furry homeless creatures to their heart’s content.
Approximate saving: If you spend BD40 per month on pets… BD480
34 To save money at amusement parks ChakaZoolu and Magic Planet, limit rides to a couple and then let the lil’ uns loose in the soft play areas with their inflated ball mazes, climbing areas etc. Chaka Zoolu, Dana Mall (17 558 585): rides 450fils, play area BD2 for unlimited time. Magic Planet, Bahrain City Centre (17 173 113), rides 700fils, play area BD2 for two hours. Approximate saving: BD10 per month… BD120 per year
35 Take advantage of Happy Hour at Jasmi’s burger joints throughout the country: between 2pm and 5pm, you can have any combo meal (burger, fries, drink) for just BD1.2. At the Zinj branch, kids can work off their meal in the large play area for just 300fils. Zinj, close to Al Jazira (17 233 555).
Approximate saving: The normal price for a combo meal is up to BD2.1, so say BD50 (900fils x 4 x 12)
36 Spread a blanket on the lawn at Ayn Um Sahoom Garden, a hidden-away public park brimming with petals and personality. A soccer field, playground and swimming pools (for the exclusive use of men and children, note) make this a good place to take the kids. Find it off Kuwait Avenue in Mahooz.
37 Equip yourself with a cool box of refreshments, folding chairs and that book you’ve been meaning to read, and moor yourself at the Budaiya Pier for an afternoon sojourn gazing at the shimmering Gulf waters as dhows tinker past. Drive straight down the Budaiya Highway past Alosra on your left until you reach a village at the end of the road, turn right and the pier is 0.5km away.
38 Al Jazayer Beach is a family affair where locals picnic with Bunsen burners and spicy odours pervade the air as kids fly kites or explore rock pools. Park at the sailing club and enjoy a brusque 40-minute walk to the government compound and back, or soak up some rays at the quieter far end of the beach.
39 At sunset, settle on Karbabad beach in the shadow of the Bahrain Fort, watching the sky turn orange and pink before settling on navy in the company of kids riding donkeys and local residents picnicking. Drive through Seef, passing the mall on your left, then Le Chocolat on your right, continuing straight until you hit the beach.
40 Have your bill cut along with your hair at Elie & Jean Hair Academy, with a range of hairdressing services using the same products as its five-star salons for a fraction of the price. Hoora, near Gosi Centre (17 292 211). Cut and blow-dry, BD8.
Approximate saving: If you average bill is BD50 per month… BD300
41 ‘Budget beauty’ Dip into your store cupboard for some affordable beauty therapy, advises beauty consultant Jacqui Higgins. Eye brightener: Freeze well-steeped camomile tea in an ice tray, and when needed wrap a cube in muslin and sweep over the eyes and face for a soothing, revitalising finish. Rejuvenating facial: Whisk two egg yolks (rich in the protein albumin and amino acids) until the mass is firm and consistent. Add 1tbsp honey, 1tbsp yoghurt and 1tsp sugar gradually and mix well to combine the ingredients. Apply to the face and leave for 20 minutes, wash off with warm water.
Body exfoliator: Mix 1tbsp sugar with enough olive oil to create a fairly fluid blend, then scrub your body focusing on any dry, rough areas like knees and elbows, before rinsing off with warm water and a facecloth.
Approximate saving: Average facial BD30 per month… BD360
42 Even in hard times, our bodies need a little pampering. Women should head to Adliya’s Pineapple Spa for one of the best-value indulgences in town (BD15 for a one-hour aromatherapy massage, 17 712 000); men with muscular aches and pains can’t do much better than a 30-minute Chinese massage at drop-in Princes Massage Centre for just BD5. Hoora, opposite the Grand Hotel (17 311 914).
Approximate saving: Girls, if you normally spend BD45… BD540
43 For savings on household items, pre-loved clothes and books, buy from the BSPCA thrift shop and support a good cause. Hassan Bushiri Gardens, Budaiya Highway, opp. Al Jazira supermarket (17 593 479).
Approximate saving: For those useful bits and bobs BD200
44 If not the prettiest of markets, the Iranian flea market offers some of the best bargains in town on new and used goods, from clothing and CDs to cookware via old washing-machine parts. Great for an afternoon to rummage. Near Isa Town gate, open weekends 8am till late.
Approximate saving: On those hard to find parts BD200
45 Expats come and go from this island as regularly as Gulf Air flights, so there are always second-hand bargains to be had. Check the classifieds in the GDN and notice boards at supermarkets. If you want to recycle some of your own tat, it only costs BD1 a week to advertise on Jawad’s well organised notice board.
Approximate saving: You can pay up to 70 per cent less for furniture that might be no more than a year old
46 Repossessed or abandoned cars and furniture are auctioned at the US Embassy in Zinj once or twice a year. Two auctions are planned for May, so keep an eye on the papers or call 17 242 700 for details.
Approximate saving:BD1,500 per car
47 You have to wade through some super-kitsch stuff begging for purpose at discount store Ramez, but you can find some real gems tucked away in the aisles and aisles of bargains, from dinnerware to sleepwear, candles to cosmetics. Next to Pearl Round-about (17 243 331). Open 8am-12am daily.
Approximate saving: A jewel-coloured outdoor lantern for 500fils, an entire dinner service for BD10… savings could mount rapidly to BD1,000 per year
48 ‘Tailor your budget’ Given Bahrain’s rock-bottom prices on tailoring and the fabulous array of cheap fabrics on offer in the souk, you’re really wasting money if you’re not getting at least some of your clothes made to measure. Everyone has a tailor and a couple of fabric shops up their sleeve, so ask around. Here are a couple from Time Out’s little black book: • Alqari Tailor for brilliantly tailored men’s and women’s suits and dresses. Simple dress from BD10; ladies’ suit jacket and skirt BD20; men’s suits BD25. Manama Souk (ask for Mohammed, 39 148 069).
• Toffee Thai Tailoring for good ladies tailoring and the convenience of its location in Budaiya (although it is more expensive than souk tailors). BD13 for a simple dress, BD7 for a skirt, BD30 for an elaborate evening gown. Budaiya Highway, next to Motorox café (17 594 167).
• Kewalram & Sons Co for fashionable ladies’ fabrics from stretch to silks. From 500fils per metre, Al Muthanabi Road, Manama Souq (17 254 195).
• Mohamed Jamal Textiles for a wide range of good-quality fabrics. From BD1 per metre. Manama Souq, Al A’ali Shopping Complex and Bahrain Mall (17 581 301).
Approximate saving: You could more than halve your clothing budget, so it’ll vary, but let’s say a conservative BD1,000
49 Buy designer clothes online at net-a-porter.com, matchesfashion.com and brownsfashion.com and save 30 per cent on the exact same pieces in stores here, thanks to the weaker sterling. And yes, they do make it through the postal system.
Approximate saving: If you usually spend BD3,000 annually… BD900
50 It’s not what you wear; it’s how you wear it. For a wardrobe update, cleverly combine bargains from these stores with your current wardrobe items, and no one will guess that you only paid BD5 for that bag or jacket: Sana at Bahrain Mall and on Salmaniya Road, Suqqaya, is great for bags and accessories; Peacocks (below) in Bahrain Mall and Bahrain City Centre is good for evening wear; Splash in Marina Mall and Bahrain City Centre is great for youthful trends.
Approximate saving: If you spend BD1,000 annually, then halve it… BD500
Whip up this tasty sandwich, care of Penny’s, to take into the office: Roast Chicken Sandwich with Sage and Onion Stuffing Serves 1 4 slices whole-grain or granary bread 6 slices roast chicken breast Sage and onion stuffing 20g unsalted butter 1 small onion, finely chopped (about 50g) 3 pinches dry sage 10g white oats Salt and pepper to taste
• Melt the butter in a pan, adding the chopped onions. Once the onions have browned, add the three pinches of sage and remove the pan from the heat.
• Mix together the oats, salt and pepper, after five mins, add these to the pan and mix it up.
• Place chicken on the bread, add the stuffing and eat.
Approximate saving: If you spend BD5 per day on lunch, BD260
The BD1 million question
We presented financial adviser Trent Braggs with the case of journalist Sarah, who dreams of going to the Antarctic, but barely has enough left at the end of the month for a camping trip in Sakhir. Sarah’s income is BD990 per month: Current outgoings Rent BD200 Loans BD180 Petrol BD30 Food BD150 Pets BD40 Credit card BD50 Phone credit BD30 Socialising BD100 Taxis BD100 Sundries (including clothes) BD110 Surplus: nul point
Trent’s advice: ‘Sarah’s focus should be to burn a few expenses in order to fuel her dream. The first step is to start allotting a monthly sum of BD100 to a savings account with limited access and a penalty for early withdrawal. She then needs to trim her lifestyle, cutting down on socialising, taxis and sundries (impulse buys like gum and coffee are pocket parasites, eating away cash). She should make her lunch for work and look at a daily budget of BD5 at the most.’