How to save and still enjoy your life in the Middle East - Marvin Germo

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How to save and still enjoy your life in the Middle East

By: Marvin Germo | March 19, 2014

It’s been an honor to be able to do financial and stock market seminars in both Qatar and the U.A.E. over the past few months.  It’s great feeling to be able to impart principles to Filipinos aspiring for more for their money.  What I love about our kababayans from the Middle East is that we are seeing a growing number of people moving past the norm of spending and going towards the wide open spaces of financial freedom.  I really believe this can be done, I really believe we can see more OFWs from the middle east enjoying life but also living in financial freedom.

Middle East

One of my biggest desires is to see more and more move from consumers to investors.  From debt to financial freedom.  For this article I have invited Therese Domingo an OFW working in Doha, Qatar to share her insights and experiences on how she can still save but still enjoy while she is at the middle east.


Therese Domingo

(Picture with Therese Domingo)

  • Living and working in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, wherein a chocolate bar costs more than a liter of gas, you could imagine the possibilities to enjoy that day-off or extra time when one is not working. The main objectives of any Filipino working abroad is to save more, and to provide a brighter future for the next generation, not just their basic needs. This article will show you 10 creative ways how to save more, but still enjoy and have a great time to maximize that short break to get you through the next work week:
  • Be mindful of the events that will take place near you. I was marking my first year of working here in Qatar back in 2012, a friend told me that the 2006 X-factor winner, Leona Lewis did a mini-concert on the last day of Doha Film Institute’s 3rd Doha Tribeca Film Festival (DTFF) on October 29, 2011, for a price of roughly PHP 500 (QAR 45). This was a price of one movie ticket showing in DTFF, which automatically entitled the festival-goers to attend this fancy (usually high-priced) concert! So my dear friends, use your facebook, twitter, emails very wisely!
  • Volunteer, volunteer, and volunteer some more! One of the fascinating opportunities I have discovered living in the Middle East is that if you’re quick and vigilant with the events that will be unfolding in a few weeks, or months, you could get amazing freebies like exclusive branded uniforms, food allowances, and opportunities to meet and greet famous individuals once you get to sign up as a volunteer! Mind you, examples of the events happening here are the Yearly Qatar ExxonMobil Tennis Open (Men’s Division) and Total Tennis Open (Women’s division), International Football Friendlies (Spain Vs Uruguay in 2012; Paris Saint-German VS Real Madrid in 2013), and the one I wanted to be a part of but missed the chance to, The Tedx Youth Doha Conference which took place last April 16 – 20, 2012! Not to mention others like the 20th World Petroleum Congress (2011), COP18 UN Climate Change Conference (2012). Who wouldn’t want to volunteer when you can get priceless knowledge and once in a lifetime encounters as well as items to remember them by?
  • Be alert when there’s a sale! Grocery items at least! In every supermarket you go to here in the Middle East, there would always be a shelf or two, which includes the products which are on sale, sometimes not because it’s nearing its expiry date but they have surpluses of the products. The dynamics of this is complicated but the main idea is that suppliers have to move out their non or slow-moving products to prompt retailers (Supermarkets, groceries etc) to purchase more from them eventually or risk losing shelf space or visibility (read: profits). By the time this happens, It would always be a good idea to do a list of items needed before hitting the grocery in order to avoid buying the products you do not need, but to get to enjoy the extra bag of happiness when you see that one or some of your items are found have discounts or bundles. It’s all about the added value that you get matters.
  • Join a community. Here’s what I love about joining communities, you gain new friends, you get to widen your network, you learn new things, plus you get more fun-filled invites for a fellowship at their homes wherein it’s either you do potlucks, or they become the host of their parties, or better yet, you become a host in your own home. This way, you don’t overspend on going to posh restaurants or hotels all the time to have good times with your friends, and you build longer-lasting relationships and know people you get to lean on in times of trials. It goes without saying that this is also one of the better ways to combat homesickness as having a support group who share your expatriate experiences which helps lessen the burden.
  • Level up your cooking skills! This has been one of the skills I knew nothing of, but slowly learning and actually having a good time ever since I worked abroad. We have these inside joke about buying a whole chicken. There are basically four (4) ways on how to cook your chicken (to get you through the whole workweek) : a. Adobo, b. Tinola, c. Fried, d. Sopas. You’re all set. You get to upgrade and feel a kitchenhero yourself, plus you lessen buying oily and junk foods from outside.
  • Take advantage! Don’t get this wrong, I mean it in a good way! Due to the low rate of liter per gas, take advantage on taking road trips to the nearest beaches, or tourist spots near you. Go and explore with your friends on your common day-offs! Always remember that this is best spent in the merry company of your friends, both for leisure and security purposes.
  • Set a Skype-date with your loved ones. Once a week, so you could have your quality time with your loved-ones, set a scheduled weekly, if not daily skype-dates with them to be reminded why you are working and away from them. Even if you are very busy, make time for such activities and let the thousand miles apart do not hinder you from letting your family know how near they are in your heart and mind.
  • Eyes on the prize. If your main goal is to save, then stick to your budget. Most OFWs I know go to the money exchange dealers to remit a portion of their hard-earned salaries. This is a really good practice, but at the same time, before you do any remittances, make sure that you also have for your investment, recreation expenses, and tithes (for some) for a well-balanced and healthy budgeting. Remember the prosperity formula: Salary – tithes – savings = Expenses.
  • Be vigilant with exchange rates. Knowing the exchange rates at the time you are remitting makes a lot of difference on the amount your family or loved-ones will be receiving. It takes less than a minute to download that app in your phone.
  • Attend seminars to enhance your skills. Do you know that POLO-OWWA and/or other NGOs or even private companies hold low-cost or even free seminars? YES. They do. Cooking, computer skills, and how to invest in the Stock Market are just some seminars they create for everyone to join and learn of. Go on, ask your friends, colleagues, be interested so opportunities will just land right in front of you!

Yes. There is life outside the four walls of the office even in the Middle East. So get out, have fun. You deserve it!


Thanks to everyone who watched my live interviews in Mornings @ ANC and at UNTV’s Rise and Shine!  I’m inspired to see more and more people hungry about finance!

 Marvin Germo ANC


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