Everyone loves to feel as though they're getting a great deal.
It doesn’t matter how much you earn or whether your bank statement is in rude health, it’s hard to resist a bargain – or simply a way to save money.
In recent years, residents in the UAE have been presented with a plethora of platforms enabling them to make their dirhams go further while doing things they enjoy.
As some tighten their belts amid rising living costs, especially with a growing young family, or others anticipate potential economic speed humps, there has rarely been a more willing audience for deal sites to flourish.
Deepak Machado, who writes for savings and money advice website dirhamtalk.com, welcomes the platforms, but urges people to beware of temptations.
“UAE residents have numerous options to save money and the likes of Entertainer, VoucherSkout and Hit The Deals help residents save in almost every deal possible,” he says.
“If you are shopping or thinking of buying something, you should definitely check out these sites. However, be prudent and ask yourself one question; ‘do I need it or do I want it?’
“If your answer is the latter, you must think again about your decision. While helping you save money, you must realise these sites encourage spending.”
With that in mind, we take a look at six of the most popular platforms designed to link you with wallet-friendly deals – and merchants with customers.
Arguably the most popular scheme has been bringing two-for-one deals to UAE residents since 2001. Previously a book-only voucher scheme, the Dubai-based company now mostly delivers vouchers via phone apps.
These are dedicated to dining, beverages, pampering and kids activities, as well as hotel stays, and has products aimed specifically at both Abu Dhabi and Dubai, although includes some Al Ain and Northern Emirates outlets.
Users pay an annual subscription to purchase the app/books, starting at Dh145. They present the voucher to the merchant or an app-generated “voucher” that the merchant authorises via a code tapped into the phone.
The Entertainer has expanded to numerous global cities and remains an almost essential purchase among expats seeking to indulge in dining and other attractions on a budget.
Apps include a geographical search function to identify participating merchants nearby or in a specified location. You can rapidly recoup your subscription through usage, depending on how many app categories you subscribe to.
The first daily deals website in the GCC, in 2015 Cobone was acquired by the company that owns ExpatWoman.com. It issues a range of UAE discounted deals ranging from cheaper eats and beauty/spa treatments to local and international travel, products and car servicing. It cites 6 million-plus users in the past 12 months, and 4.1 million vouchers sold since inception.
Cobone tailors offers for Dubai and Abu Dhabi (plus Saudi Arabia) residents, but links to retailers and services across the emirates.
Users register details and click to buy their chosen deal. This typically generates a voucher that can be presented on smartphone (or print form, depending on the merchant) on the day of the service. Deals can be bought using a credit or debit card. The bonus is buying only deals you want; the disadvantage is remembering you bought them and that there might be a use-by date.
A relative newcomer on our radar, this site claims to offer its customers “steals” rather than deals.
Like other websites, it mails out featured deals to participants, but the website reveals a myriad of services and offers at knockdown prices. Subject tabs cover food, kids, activities, health, cars, holidays, pampering, products and miscellaneous.
These give you access to everything from maid cleaning services and business card printing to car window tinting and dhow cruises and tell you how many have been purchased already, so you can judge the popularity of a deal.
At the time of writing, there didn’t seem to be a vast choice and some deals popped up in more than one category, but buying proved simple. Click on something you like the sound of and there’s a detailed description and options available. You click to add the deal to your cart and then pay via debit or credit card (cash on delivery in some cases) to generate a voucher. You have to register your account before the first purchase, but overall the experience is simple and free if you don’t buy anything.
The new kid on the block launched last September with a vigorous radio advertising campaign and an iconic moustache and spectacles logo.
Users download an app to their smartphone for free and buy credits that can be used against an evolving list of services, ranging from brunch to sightseeing. Categories also include beauty and wellness (hair removal to massages), sports and leisure (scuba diving to paddle boarding), learning (photo workshops to language classes) and family and kids (dance lessons to escape room experiences).
New users are gifted three credits to use as they wish and buy more to secure 50 per cent off services and their entire food bill in the case of restaurants.
VoucherSkout, based in JLT, does not charge a subscription to use its service, which is relatively easy to use for merchant and customer. This platform seems a viable option for tourists or visiting relatives, as well as residents, as it does not require a subscription.
Hit The Deals UAE
This increasingly popular site offers up to 70 per cent off an a huge variety of services.
Categories include gym and fitness, food and drinks, salon, spa and relaxation, and healthcare, covering the UAE in three zones. Additionally, it offers deals on electronics, entertainment, perfumes, hotel bookings, car services and travel packages.
Also based in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, it has a specific ‘baby bazaar’ section dedicated to newborn and children-orientated products, including diapers and nursery equipment.
Its “bazaar” section accesses discounted products ranging from laptops and other electronics through to toys and exercise gear.
Hit The Deals offers daily deals and also a super savers drop down menu featuring extreme bargains, from LED shower heads to fidget spinners. A bit like Dragon Mart, be clear what product you're seeking before visiting. It costs nothing to browse and you pay for your order only once you've registered your details.
The international deals operation globally headquartered in Chicago in the United States, set up its UAE offshoot in 2011. It features one discounted daily deal, emailed to subscribers, encouraging traffic to its website where it gives access to a range of things to eat, see, buy and do across the country.
Groupon works with selected partners to offer more than 1,000 daily deals around the world, using the model of collective buying to drive down prices. Accessed via phone or laptop, these deals are activated when a minimum number of people agree to purchase, which encourages them to share with friends and family.
Depending on the deal, such as hotel stays, there are often various options such as weekday or weekend or meal and activity inclusion. Once bought, you may be asked to present a printed voucher on the day of use.
Beware, however, as some deals have a quantity limit or a restricted time in which you can buy. You can, however, purchase deals as gifts.
Depending on the deal, such as hotel stays, there are often various options such as weekday or weekend or meal and activity inclusion. Once bought, you may be asked to present a printed voucher on the day of use. Groupon is fairly inspirational, but like all deal sites check for usage restrictions such as public holidays before committing.