Leaving for the summer requires plenty of planning. You need to pack for your holiday while also ensuring everything is shipshape at home while you’re away – and that includes keeping costs down to the minimum to give you a bit more to spend.

Here are our top tips to keep your home costs down while you’re away enjoying your holiday.

Person looks out of window blinds

1. Empty the fridge, fill it with water

In the run-up to your departure, cut grocery bills down by only eating what’s left in your store cupboards and the fridge-freezer. Once the fridge is empty, you can defrost it and turn it off. According to Eros Group, the UAE’s largest consumer electronics distributor, 10 percent of your home’s electrical bill goes on the refrigerator. Alternatively, Eros Group advises keeping the fridge full – so cram it with jugs of water – as fridges run more efficiently when there is less air to cool.

2. Insure your contents

Yes, you have to pay for insurance, but technically this is still a cost-cutting measure. In a survey we carried out after the big fire at Tamweel Towers in Jumeirah Lake Towers in 2012, we discovered that 86 percent of UAE residents do NOT have home contents cover, compared to 40 percent or more in parts of Europe. All you need is for a water leak, burglary or fire to happen while you’re away, and you could lose thousands of dirhams worth of possessions. With cover starting at only 1 AED per day, and a wide selection of policies to choose from, it would be stupid not to…

3. Unsubscribe, cancel, postpone

  • Put newspaper or magazine subscriptions on hold and the length of your freeze period should be added onto your subscription at the end.
  • If you rely on a local maid, gardening or window-cleaning service, cancel their shifts.
  • A TV subscription can also be reduced to the lowest offering possible. OSN, for example, lets you choose which elements of a package you want so, rather than cancel your subscription altogether, reduce it to the most basic. Du will let you downgrade your package for 100 AED (as long as you’ve had it three months) – the minimum package costs 85 AED compared to up to 240 AED per month.
  • Those with My Home boxes from Emirates Post can apply for a temporary suspension of mail for a minimum period of one month and a maximum of three months. However you will need to pay 100 AED for this application. While this won’t cut costs, it will make your home more secure, as the box won’t be overflowing with mail.
  • Your gym membership can be suspended. Fitness First allows you to freeze your account for 99 AED a month – quite a saving as it can cost from 300 – 700 AED per month. And if you buy group bookings of classes for your exercise rather than a gym membership, these should be valid for several weeks or months – just double-check they won’t expire while you’re away.
  • Your mobile phone package is a fixed monthly payments but if you are a pay-as-you-go customer for mobile, cancel added extras, such as an optional 100 MB of data with Etisalat for 100 AED, until you return.

4. Pay your bills

If you are away for a long period, you can’t physically pay off your credit card bills at a bank or via an ATM. If there is no online or direct debit payment option, check with your bank for a solution to avoid late payment charges. One option is to deposit post-dated checks into an ATM payment machine. Alternatively, overpay on this month’s bill to cover your time away and ensure services are not disconnected.

5. Unplug everything

Leaving your vast array of electrical gadgets switched on when you go away is a costly mistake. A recent study by UK green energy company Ecotricity found that a wireless router is the most expensive gadget in terms of annual energy usage. To avoid charges, turn off every socket in your home, from the kettle to the water heater to the TV, just before you leave unless it is absolutely vital – such as the filter for the fish tank.

6. Water, water everywhere

If you want to avoid costly leaks, turn off your water supply. However, for those with gardens or domestic helpers living in their home, this won’t be possible. Follow our advice on avoiding flooding.

7. Leave the AC on

While this is expensive, it will protect your home from mold. You can program many air con units to come on at random times to keep air circulating. Alternatively, set yours at a higher setting for the entire time you are away. While Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) says the optimal setting when you are in the home is 23C, set it for 25C during your break, on “auto”, not “on”. Dewa says each degree higher can mean up to nine percent savings on cooling costs. It is also wise to clean your air conditioner filter before you go, as it will run more efficiently.

8. Don’t forget the garden

Outdoor furniture or barbecues should be covered to protect them from heat damage and, if you have a swimming pool, cover it to reduce evaporation. According to Dewa, an average sized pool left uncovered can lose as much as 1,000 gallons (3,785 liters) of water per month. Store garden valuables and ensure you have adequate insurance.

9. Secure your home

To avoid a burglary, make sure your home looks busy – you can buy timer lights that randomly turn on during the evening to make it seem as though someone is at home. Similarly, ask a maid or friend to clear the piles of papers and flyers off your doorstep. Also, ask someone to wash your cars; the thick layer of dust on your car is a giveaway that you are away. If you have basement parking which is more anonymous, though, you may want to put a dustsheet on your car to protect it while you’re away.

10. Clean up

Avoid a costly pest control bill on your return, thanks to an influx of cockroaches or ants, by cleaning the house thoroughly before you leave. Also cover drains to avoid humidity and stop pests getting in, and line doorways and sliding doors with insect repellant.

Happy holidays!

[Also read: Save on your household bills]