Start 2013 Smarter: 3 Resources to Help You Manage Your Money in the Middle East

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With the tumultuous shifts the world economy has seen in the past few years, it is understandable that more and more people are questioning their perceived level of financial independence. If the last few years have taught us only one thing, it’s that you cannot afford to be in the dark about money matters. Whether you are a first-time entrepreneur, a student, or a homemaker, being in charge of your financial matters is a skill that is quickly becoming crucial to your survival in this sometimes unpredictable world.

If you are here reading this, chances are high that you managed to survive the apocalypse. Since you have a new lease on life, it makes sense to now set your life and finances on the right path.  As an experienced resolution maker (and breaker), I can say with complete confidence that the two main reasons people fail to stick to their resolutions are lack of a support network and lack of available tools. The motivation to succeed takes leave only after these two go missing.

As 2012 ends, it’s time for you to get your numbers right, and in order to do that, you need to arm yourself with basic knowledge of financial matters.

Below are three resources that are customized to the financial needs of the region. If you're looking to make 2013 the year of better finances, these resources are good places to start.

My Money Skills/ Ehsib

This financial literacy program by Visa is one of the most comprehensive financial resources available in the region today. Customized to suit the region, the the program provides basic personal finance information in both Arabic and English on a variety of topics.

Ehsib also features Financial Football, a fast-paced FIFA-style multiple-choice quiz that tests players' knowledge of financial management skills as they advance downfield and try to score goals. The website covers topics as diverse as building a budget, smart shopping, and identity threats. The information is concise, simple and delivered in a crisp manner.

Overall, there is a world of information on this website and the only downside is that it can be a little overwhelming for the novices. If you fall in that category, check out the next resource.


Riyali is a financial literacy program from Saudi Arabia that offers a series of workshops geared towards college students. But if you’re not a college student or don’t live in Saudi Arabia, you can still have access to its pearls of financial wisdom. 

The Riyali pocketbook offers hands-on tips and checklists that anyone can use to navigate the tricky waters of financial knowledge. I especially like that the pocketbook comes with step-wise guides and even a personality quiz that is simple for beginners. Riyali also has a robust social media community (on Facebook and Twitter) and some of the conversations there (mostly in Arabic) can actually help motivate you to stay on track as you struggle through the first few weeks of budget cuts and tough realizations about how much you have been overspending.

The pocketbook page promises that the Arabic version is coming soon. At the pace at which this program is growing, I won’t be surprised if we see more downloadables and hands-on tools in the year to come. 

Dr. Dirham

Dr. Dirham is a character billed as “an Emirati expert in personal financial matters who is eager to help you manage your money more wisely," via a YouTube channel dedicated to videos about basic financial concepts. The videos are in Arabic with English subtitles, and offer step-by-step advice on specific topics, from buying a house to being a smart shopper or teaching children about financial concepts.

It might seem difficult to advise on buying a house in under 3 minutes but the videos are fast paced and to the point, making them easy to follow. The channel only has 13 videos currently, and although the videos offer a variety of themes as well as demographics, we hope that as the series grows it will also include downloadable tools or even printable transcripts to use as references.

So there you have it, three tools that can help you become more savvy about spending your money in 2013, with tutorials customized to the Arab world.

If money was a big source of stress in your life this year or you are thinking of starting a new venture in 2013, take this opportunity to acquaint yourself with the often bewildering world of personal finance and set clear achievable financial goals. With the tools above, you may not lose your last 10 pounds, but you will definitely be smarter and maybe also a tiny bit wealthier as the next year end rolls around.

[Photo credit: Tax Credits photostream on Flickr.]

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