How to Live Big on a Small Budget


Say the word “budget” and words that come to most peoples’ minds are “restrictive”, “cheap”, “frustrating”, and “rigid”. However, I’m a strong believer that a properly structured budget should allow you to get more out of life, not less. Here are some simple tips for how to make your budget work for you and your lifestyle and why it’s essential to factor fun into your budget.

Leave Room for Fun

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, you must remember to include some room for fun into your budget. If you allocate every single dollar to things like saving, bills, and debt, you are setting yourself up for failure. Even if money is really tight, there are ways to include incorporate some semblance of a social life or “treats” into your budget. Remember, budgeting isn’t intended to restrict you from all things you enjoy! Successful budgeting is about evaluating your spending habits so you can afford to spend more on the things you enjoy, and less on wasteful things.

Spend Where It Counts

Here’s a little piece of advice: No matter how much money you make, it will always feel like it’s not enough and there will always be things you want that you can’t afford. This is why it is important to determine what really matters to you and what will bring you the most fulfillment. If dining out with friends is your thing, that’s ok. But set a monthly spending limit for yourself and know that there may be other things you have to sacrifice in order to allow this to fit in your budget. Evaluating your spending habits to distinguish between what brings you enjoyment and what you can do without can help you make the most of the money you have.

Take Advantage of Your City

Cities big and small all have a lot to offer in terms of free or very low cost activities. Keep your eyes peeled for farmers’ markets, outdoor movies, free music events, free admission to museums and galleries, and the like. Also remember to take advantage of your nearby parks, hiking trails, and beaches. You’d be surprised at how busy (and cultured!) you can keep yourself without spending a lot of money.

Don’t Give in to Fads

Avoid spending your money on the latest technology or fashion trends. Retailers know most people can’t resist and charge a premium for the “latest” products. Before giving in, consider whether this is really something you should be spending your money on and whether you need it right away. Instead, consider waiting for mid-season sales or for the initial hype over a new phone to fade away and buy once prices have dropped.

Live with Less

Many people – especially millennials and Generation Yers – are embracing a simpler, more minimalistic lifestyle. They feel that by spending less on materialistic things, they can get more enjoyment out of experiencing life. You don’t need to go as far as embracing the “tiny house trend”, but consider whether you can live with less. Not only can this be good for your state-of-mind, but it will free up money to spend on things like travel and your social life.

Budgeting and responsibly managing your finances is not about giving up everything you enjoy. The key to successful budgeting is balance. Distinguish between needs and wants so you can find a balance between saving, living expenses, paying off debt, and having a little left over to treat yourself. Smart budgeting can allow you the freedom to “live big” on any income.

7min read

The Middle East And North Africa Are Brimming With Untapped Female Potential

Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.

A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.

The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.

Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization ( publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")

The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."

This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.

Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.

She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."

Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.

"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei

While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.

Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.

The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."

This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.

Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.