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Escaping expenses
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 18 - 04 - 2019

As prices rose after the floatation of the Egyptian pound back in 2016, people saw prices on many imported and some local products reach double their regular prices.
For this reason, many people resorted to different ways to save money in their daily lives, including seeking cheaper means of transport, using food discount applications with offers, looking into services-exchange websites, engaging in do it yourself (DIY), looking for cheaper education for their children, and shopping in wholesale shops.
CHEAPER TRANSPORTATION: In June 2018, oil prices increased after the government decided to phase out energy subsides to help curb the budget deficit.
The fuel price increases were widely anticipated as part of Egypt's loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund, and they represented a third rise since the government floated the pound in November 2016. Many people resorted to alternative methods of transportation other than driving private cars as a result.
The government has addressed the problem by providing better alternative modes of transport. The latest idea is air-conditioned buses with wi-fi belonging to the Cairo Transport Authority (CTA) and featuring better services for those living in Cairo for a fee ranging from LE5 to LE15, depending on the distance.
There are now air-conditioned CTA buses from New Cairo to Tahrir Square in Downtown and vice versa and from Hadayeq Al-Ahram to Tahrir and vice versa. A third line takes the Ramses Square route, passes by Dawaran Shubra, and then goes to Cairo Airport and vice versa. Some people have been using these buses as an efficient alternative to driving long distances in private cars. There are also double-decker buses that go from Hadayeq Al-Qubba to the AUC in New Cairo.
“Paying LE10 for these buses is much better than taking a taxi,” one passenger who chose to remain anonymous told Al-Ahram Weekly. “I am happy with the new buses, especially as there is wi-fi and air-conditioning. Going for a ride in such a bus was a unique experience for me. I have tried it once, and I'm looking forward to seeing more such buses in other areas in Cairo,” the passenger said, concerned, however, that maintenance could be an issue.
Some people prefer to use the metro or even micro-buses after prices were increased by 20 per cent in June 2018 after the prices of fuel went up following the decision to decrease the subsides on petroleum in the same year. For example, a minibus from Giza to Maadi or Helwan now costs LE4.75 instead of LE4, according to a press release issued by the Egyptian Cabinet Information and Decision Support Centre.
According to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS), 49 per cent of passengers in Cairo use microbuses, 22 per cent use the Metro, and 17 per cent use CTA buses.
The Cairo Metro is composed of three lines 75km long. Despite an increase in the prices of tickets based on distance in May 2018, many people use the metro every day, with the number using the first line each year put at 493 million, the second at 339 million, and the third at 44 million, according to the Cairo Metro website.
In the past, the fare was a fixed LE2 for any destination. Now the new fares are LE3 for the first nine stops, LE5 for up to 16 stops, and LE7 for more than 16 stops. In February, the Al-Marg Al-Gadid metro station was inaugurated.
RIDE-HAILING APPLICATIONS: More people are also parking their cars to take public or private buses through applications in order to save the money they would otherwise pay on fuel.
For example, the SWVL application is an alternative to public transportation, and through it passengers can book fixed-rate, affordable bus rides on existing routes.
Careem Bus is another alternative to public transportation that has recently presented its services to the public after its success in private ride-hailing. It also provides passengers with the ability to get on as buses pass, provided they have the Careem application on their phones.
There is fierce competition between these applications to attract passengers, to the extent that one of them gave passengers free rides for the first few weeks after it started to operate and charges as little as LE5 on some lines after that.
“I liked the bus application service since it is cheap, fast, comfortable and safe,” said passenger Maha Salah who has been using a private bus application since it began functioning in Egypt in 2017.
“I like the services these bus apps provide people with. They just need to spread to other areas since there are some stations that they still do not serve yet,” commented Omar Mohamed, a commuter who uses these applications.
“I enjoyed the ride. However, I recommend the introduction of a way to contact the captain,” said Ali Al-Sayed.
WAITING FOR THE BEST PRICE: Khaleha Tesadi (Let it Rust) is a Facebook campaign boycotting the purchase of new cars until they are sold at what the campaign considers to be more reasonable prices.
The campaign has 1.5 million followers, and it has had a great effect on the sales of imported cars over the last few months, especially after the government reduced customs to zero on cars imported from Europe.
“The custom fees on cars imported from Europe have decreased, but car prices are still too expensive. I think that Khaleha Tesadi is doing a good job in terms of exposing high prices and pressuring merchants to decrease them. We still need a government organisation to monitor the market to make sure no one manipulates the new prices, however. I am waiting for prices to decrease so I can finally buy a new car,” said Mohamed Ahmed, a Cairo resident who has been saving for a new car.
DISCOUNT ALERTS: There are now many social-media groups on WhatsApp and Facebook to tell people about discounts on food and clothes and other items.

Some examples are the Takhfedat Misr (Egypt Discounts), Hot Offers in Egypt, and Cairo Sale Facebook pages. These are websites on which news about discounts from many supermarket chains, furniture shops, hardware stores, and clothes brands are displayed with the aim of helping customers find the products they are looking for while saving time, money and effort.
Other websites not only display offers but also deliver them right to customers' doorsteps, like Otlob (order) a website and application that delivers food with offers, and Glovo, a website and mobile application for buying, collecting and delivering everything a customer needs. The sites also give clients the chance to monitor the motorcyclist getting them their orders.
The percentage of people shopping for clothes and going out has nevertheless decreased despite the many services available for them. More and more people are only buying strictly what they need as a result of the higher prices.
“I joined these groups to get what I need at reasonable prices. I usually buy the products I need in large amounts and store them at home until the next discounts start or if there is a sale in another superstore,” commented Sherine Mohamed, a housewife in Cairo.
“It is very useful to know when and where the offers are,” said one Cairo resident. “But communication with those in charge of some websites can be difficult, however.”
SERVICE BARGAINS: To get the best services for no money at all some people have resorted to exchanging services through websites like Tabadil (swap), an online platform for swapping second-hand products such as cars, flats, clothes, beauty products, food, jewellery, antiques, mobile phones, appliances, all without paying any money.
The sites help customers get the things they want and get rid of the things they do not want at the same time. They give details of the person selling the products and where to find him. They also allow anyone to post pictures of the products they are about to swap and write information they want to share about themselves.
“I think these websites are the future of online service-exchange platforms because some people cannot afford to buy new products and others have things that they don't want and are ashamed of selling because of cultural or other reasons,” said Sanaa Abdel-Halim who lives in Giza.
NEW THINGS FROM OLD: There are also YouTube channels giving DIY tips to make new products out of old ones.
For example, one video teaches housewives how to make their own soap. Another teaches them how to make new clothes out of old ones. The channels teach people how to make new things out of old by buying simple and affordable materials or unwanted objects.
“I tried making my own carpet out of a worn-out one I had at home after I watched a DIY demonstration that someone had posted online. I had a nice time making my own carpet, and I think it is practical to make new things out of old ones since the new things are so expensive,” commented Hend Mohsen, an accountant living in Cairo.
SHIFTING SCHOOLS: More and more people are taking their children out of international schools and sending them to private language schools or experimental schools because the fees at the international schools are too high.
The average fees for pupils at a language or experimental school is LE1,000, according to a Ministry of Education document. The fees of the Egyptian-Japanese schools are LE10,000, according to a ministry press release.
Abdallah Mohsen is an accountant, but he also has a part-time job in the evening to help give his two children a decent education in an international school. “I am working two jobs to educate my children. If the school fees keep increasing, I will not be able to send them to the same school. I think I will have to send them to a private language school or even a public school because it is impossible for me to work in three places at once,” he said.
COLLECTIVE SHOPPING: Some families, especially in popular areas, go to wholesale shops, buy products together like fruit and vegetables, and then distribute them to other households.
They end up splitting the cost of products they would have to pay more for at local supermarkets. “I usually go to wholesale shops with members of my extended family and each person buys a large amount of a certain fruit or vegetable. Then we split what we have and exchange them so each one of us has what she needs,” commented Abla Al-Sayed, a housewife living in Giza.


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