Thursday, September 07, 2006

Living on a Budget


During most of my time in Japan, I have not budgeted or kept a close eye on the outflow of cash. The truth is that, up until I quit my job and we had to live on one income I didn't pay much attention to how much my husband and I spent.

That's not to say that I didn't think about how much it would cost a Japanese person. In fact, upon hearing some of the relatively low salaries of my female coworkers (150,000-180,000 yen a month), I wondered how they got by. I always convinced myself that they would have to live with their parents in order to survive on such low wages.

After about a month of tracking my budget, I believe that I was incorrect in that conclusion. Excluding my taxes and health insurance (which are a year behind and reflect my wages for the previous year and therefore rather inaccurate to factor into a budget without that income), I worked out that we can squeak by on 210,000 yen a month. That wouldn't cover incidental purchases like new clothes or replacement or repair of existing household items. It would cover rent, utilities, food (alloting 2,000 yen a day for food), and the relative luxury of DSL and cable T.V.

If you consider that we're paying for two people to eat relatively western dishes which include expensive items like cheese and the fact that our rent is 110,000 yen a month (relatively high), I can see how a single person could get by on about 60,000 or so less than us. It wouldn't be fun, but it would be possible.

I also determined that the biggest "waste" of money by far is eating out or having food delivered instead of cooking for ourselves or having my husband take his lunch with him. I can cook a meal for two for 500 yen or less but eating out will almost always cost a thousand yen per person (excluding a drink) or more unless you're taking part in some lunch deal. I also figured out that the number one way I could save money is to only drink water instead of Diet Coke or other beverages.

Life's too short to give up all the little luxuries though so we haven't given up everything in the name of saving money. However, it is good to know that we could get by with less if the need ever arose.

5 comments:

Leo said...

I can sympathize. I just spent $163 for a textbook. I suppose that it's a good thing that I'm a hermit and rarely go out anywhere.

Shari said...

My husband and I used to go out a lot when we first came to Japan and I'm glad we did. I think it was a good experience going to yakitori-ya and various restaurants.

You must be a student to have to pay so much for a textbook. I think the whole textbook racket at universities and whatnot is a crime, especially at the schools who insist you not buy used books (which some will do). I remember spending $300 a semester on books back in my day. I think that's a drop in the bucket compared to now.

Leo said...

Hi Shari,
Yeah, I'm a student all right, just another laid off IT worker completing a Master's degree ;). Fortunately, my other books are far more cheaper.

Shari said...

Leo, weren't you posting on Q-taro considering working in Japan a short while ago? If you can get a gig at Aeon or Geos, you might want to give it a go for a year. It's an interesting experience if you can either distance learn or take leave from study for a year.

Leo said...

Hi Shari,
Yep, that's me. I'm still working on my "Why I want to teach in Japan" essay both companies want. I plan on finishing it soon.