All the signs are that Dubai is back to rude health. Rents are up by double-digits over the past six months, house prices are similarly buoyant and family costs are spiraling (please don’t mention school fees, anyone).

And now there’s the news, reported by Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National, that a significant number of UAE residents may be using credit card debt to make payments on other essentials, including personal loans.

Rather than getting stuck in a spiral of debt, here are a number of hints, tips and tricks to help manage your income vis-à-vis your expenditures and help to balance the books in a way that won’t slowly push you over the edge month by month.

  1. Check your interest rates – If you have personal loans or other commitments, avoid using a method of payment that has a higher interest rate. Some credit cards charge up to ten times the interest rate of an average personal loan. You’re only going to end up owing more in the medium to long-term.
  2. Pay off your highest-rate debts Following on from the previous point, if you want to get out of debt and pay off the least interest pay down the balances of loans and cards that charge the most interest while maintaining minimum payments for other debts. Once you’ve finished with the highest-rate debt, tackle the next highest and so on. You’ll save a fortune in interest payments.
  3. Look out for zero-interest balance transfer offers – As an introductory promotion many banks will offer a limited period zero-interest on balance transfers. If you see these offers and you do have credit card debts then transfer your balance as soon as possible.
  4. The minimum trap – It’s very easy to do but don’t fall into the habit of paying the minimum owed on credit cards. The interest will build up and you’ll find that you’re barely making a dent in the debt. You’ll end up paying over years rather than months and giving money away that you should instead be saving.
  5. Cut back where possible – We all want to live the good life, and enjoy everything that the country has to offer. But let’s be realistic here. Detail your incomes and expenditures and look to cut back where you can rather than build up your debts.
  6. Get help if you can’t manage – If your debt becomes too much then don’t stay silent. Seek help. Approach a reputable debt counseling agency who will be able to advise you on consolidating your debts and managing your finances. As another resort, approach your bank(s) and ask for advice and support. You may be pleasantly surprised.
  7. Check out your options on Souqalmal.com – As a subtle reminder, Souqalmal.com has information on and peer reviews of hundreds of credit cards, personal loans and other products. If you need some debt do your homework and look at what works best for you both in the short-term and the long-term.

Alex Malouf has been a journalist, writer and columnist in the Gulf for over a decade. He speaks both Arabic and English and has lived in Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. He blogs at alexofarabia.com.