While Ramadan is thought to be a time for big spending, most UAE residents actually halve their food bills during the Holy Month, our new survey reveals.

It is assumed that those fasting splurge on groceries for iftar and suhoor – but actually many residents prefer to save.

Eighty per cent of those polled said they spend the same, or reduce their grocery bills by up to half during Ramadan – a figure that rises to almost 90 per cent for western expats.

Emiratis biggest savers

Similar figures apply to dining out, with the majority spending either the same or, again, cutting their costs in half.

These were some of the insights from a behavioral study of UAE residents during Ramadan we carried out, surveying over 500 visitors to find out how they spend their money and leisure time during the Holy Month.

And UAE nationals came out as the biggest savers, with almost 40 percent saying they spend up to half as much on food and a huge 60 percent spending less on dining out too.

Leisure time turns to the home

Shopping budgets are also more conservative. An overwhelming 90 percent of residents spend just the same or reduce their spending by up to half. And travel costs also drop for the majority of residents, who prefer to stay closer to home when they fast.

As a result, the focus of leisure time turns to the home, with most spending up to four hours a day watching television and a similar amount of time online.

Interestingly, UAE nationals spend the least amount of time surfing the web, something that could be attributed to all the religious, community and family commitments that occupy their free time during Ramadan.

A quieter Ramadan

That’s not to say that residents ignore the malls completely. Almost eight in 10 of those polled spend up to four hours a day at the mall – a figure that rises to almost 90 percent for western expats. Perhaps this is due to residents stocking up on gifts ahead of Eid Al Fitr, which is due to fall at the end of July – or just because the air-conditioned malls offer a respite from the summer heat.

This year, Ramadan seems to be very different – and much quieter – than other years. With Ramadan falling almost exactly in the calendar month of July, and just after the end of the school term, more expats and families have gone away on holiday and the malls until now have been quieter than usual especially during the day. And it’s not a time for travel for UAE nationals and others observing the fast– it’s a time to be with the close and extended family.

Far from food waste and over-spending on groceries, our survey shows that residents are actually more conservative with their money during this special month, often seeing grocery and restaurant bills drop compared to the rest of the year.