According to the ‘Ramadan and Eid Spend Report’ released by VISA in 2015, all VISA debit, credit and prepaid cardholders across the Middle East and North Africa spent a combined USD 9.3 billion during Ramadan in 2015. The UAE alone accounted for over 31 percent of the total spend for the MENA region – USD 2.9 billion.

The report also highlighted the top five categories which saw the highest level of spending during Ramadan and Eid. These included fashion retail, cash withdrawals from ATM’s, supermarket spend, luxury goods retail and department store purchases.

These findings go to show that the month of Ramadan witnesses high consumer spending. But is this significantly higher than what we spend at any other time of the year? We asked UAE residents what they thought about this, and got some interesting results.

Souqalmal.com’s latest Ramadan survey shed light on spending and saving habits of UAE residents during the month-long period. Here’s a look at the results and trends that shape the way we deal with money and expenses during the holy month.

[Related: Here’s how you can have a budget-friendly Ramadan]

Sticking to the budget during Ramadan? Not really!

Over half of the survey respondents (51 percent) admitted to spending more than usual during Ramadan. And 78 percent of respondents said that they exceeded their budgets during that month.

When questioned about how much they exceeded their budget by, over a third (34 percent) said that spent an excess of AED 1,000 – 3,000, over and above their monthly budget. Over 16 percent of the respondents confessed to exceeding their budget by more than AED 3,000.

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So it’s clear that we’re giving our budgets a break. But keeping moderation in mind, that isn’t such a bad thing! According to Ayesha, an expat living in the UAE for over a decade:

“During Ramadan we get the chance to reconnect with all our friends and families on a more regular basis. That’s why you end up hosting gatherings and preparing delicious, large meals for iftars and suhoors. But, as long as we don’t spend beyond our means, there’s nothing wrong with swaying away from our budgets a little.”

[Related: Ramadan trends – what’s yours?]

What do we spend the most on?

When asked about the biggest expense categories, more than 35 percent of respondents said that they spend the most on food and groceries during Ramadan. Whether it’s buying food items like dates, jallab, Vimto or kanafeh, food is a big part of Ramadan. This explains the spike in spending on this particular category.

This was followed by expenditure on hosting friends and family at home, with 23 percent of the respondents admitting to spending the most on organizing such gatherings. Other common categories include eating out and going for iftars and suhoors, and buying gifts for family members and close friends.

According to Farina, another UAE expat:

“We have a lot of family settled in the UAE, so every year during Ramadan we host them and organize iftars at our place. With every gathering for 5 to 6 guests costing about AED 500 to put together, we end up spending a total of over AED 2,000 even if we have about four of these gatherings at home.”

And marketers are busy at work too! The month of Ramadan sees a barrage of promotions, special offers and discounts on a range of merchandise. These include products as small as packaged food items to big-ticket items like cars. Naturally, many of us end up stocking our pantry with a few month’s worth of household supplies, or wait for months altogether to buy a new car to take advantage of the Ramadan deals.

[Related: 10 Ramadan car deals you can’t miss out on]