Top 10 Ways to save ¥788,600 while in Japan

This is my entry into the Febuary 2010 JapanSoc Blog Matsuri. It’s a collection of the best tips and ideas I’ve written about on frugalistajapan (as well as some of the more controversial ones) ranked where appropriate by potential savings or income generated – bear in mind these figures are somewhat lighthearted and subjective, so please don’t take them too seriously.

1. Buy a mac:

Perhaps a little controversial, but I wrote last year about how buying a mac will save you time and money instead of the hassle of owning a PC, and I stand by it.

And while we’re on the subject, an iPhone would look great with that mac. The built in GPS will mean you never get lost in Japan again, especially now that you’ll travelling all over with your scooter!

Wait, am I really saying it would be frugal of you to buy a new phone and computer? Yes, actually I am. Being frugal doesn’t just mean saving money – it means purchasing wisely and purchasing value. It means purchasing well-built products that are built to last.

POTENTIAL SAVINGS: None. But you get locational freedom with your iPhone, and increased productivity from your hassle-free mac.

2. Claim tax back on your savings interest back home (in the UK at least):

If you left money back in the UK, you can claim tax back from the interest for any financial years that you’re not resident there. Depending on how much you left, it could add up. Read this to find out how including all the forms you need.

POTENTIAL SAVINGS: I got about ¥5,000 back that I’d paid in tax over 3 years.

3. Open a Shinsei bank account:

Without a doubt, Shinsei Bank with their online English-language internet banking is the best way to manage your finances here in Japan. You also get a free domestic transfer each month (300 yen transfer charge to pay your rent each every month for a year means ¥3600 saved if you do it online and less hassle for you), and you can check your balance and account activity at any time with great security.

POTENTIAL SAVINGS: ¥3,600 a year from free transfers.

4. Get a credit card for cashback and itemized bills:

Most credit cards offer 0.5-1% cashback or points; if you’re investing ¥50,000 a month through your credit card and paying off the balance in full, that works out to at least ¥6,000 free money every year just from your investment. You’ll also get itemised bills every month so you can track your purchases more accurately (though, you wouldn’t need to if you were consciously spending instead of meticulously budgeting).

POTENTIAL INCOME: ¥6,000 / year in cashback if you used it to pay just ¥50,000 each month.

5. Sign up to the freestuffjapan mailing list:

.. at yahoogroups. I got a free breadmaker :p If you’re not keen on emails, then don’t worry, I’m working on a new website that will be a perfect solution to streamline giving things away, just hold on a few weeks until I launch the beta version.

POTENTIAL SAVINGS: Hmm, I would have spent ¥10,000 on a breadmaker, so….

6. Watch TV on your computer

Why pay ¥5,000 a month for cable TV with a tiny selection of foreign channels showing tv shows at times that don’t suit you? Watch tv on your computer instead by streaming it from China using a nifty little piece of software called PPStream. Sadly, the interface is only in Chinese, but there’s an English guide at!

POTENTIAL SAVINGS: ¥60,000 a year.

7. Get a bike, or a k-car

If you already have a license, make it international and get yourself a k-car. If you don’t have a license, at least sit the one day test you need for a scooter. You’ll save thousands each month in transport costs, and suddenly a whole wider area of Japan will be open to you. Leon wrote before about the benefits of getting a k-car. Take it from me, owning a bike here has been the most liberating move ever.

POTENTIAL SAVINGS: ¥74,000/year (save ¥500 x 300 days a year in travel expenses, minus ¥50,000 cost of scooter, minus ¥500 gasoline / week)
AND freedom!

8. Move into a house, not an apartment:

I wrote before about the cost benefits of renting a house versus a cramped Japanese apartment, so why are you still suffering? Here’s a quick summary to convince you:
– 2 bedroom house in Kyoto, separate living room, full size kitchen, separate toilet and bathroom – ¥65,000 yen a month.
– 2LDK apartment (1 bedroom, 1 living room, 1 kitchen, tiny all-in-one bathroom/toilet combo) ~ ¥80,000 yen a month.
– You’ll get a full size kitchen so you can actually cook and not live off instant noodles.
– Maybe a free parking space (my current house has room for 4 bicycles AND 2 motorbikes).
– Opportunity to share the house and have an even lower rent.
– Possibly pets ok, so you can take in that stray cat you’ve been feeding every day.

POTENTIAL SAVINGS: I saved ¥180,000 / year by moving to a similar sized house instead of an apartment

9. Claim unemployment benefit in the gap between jobs:

Looking for a job in Japan, or found one but not starting yet? Claim unemployment benefit (~¥160,000/month) during the time you’re not working. You can read about my experiences doing the same here.

POTENTIAL INCOME: ¥450,000 (you can claim for up to 3 months if you’ve been working for a year)

10. Use your free time to improve your career chances:

Whether you’re here for the long haul or not, you should use all that free time you have as an ALT to plan for the future and get some valuable certifications. However much you enjoy teaching, it certainly isn’t a career. If you stay for 2 or more years, you’ll probably have the Japanese skills come naturally. That might be enough to get you something Japan-related back home, but if you’re planning on staying here longer (and even if not) you need to plan ahead and think about a professional career you could make a start in here. Go out now and find some certificates or licenses you study for and take them!

Here are some ideas:
– The JLPT 1 or 2 to prove your Japanese competance
– Further teaching licenses or a TESL masters degree if you insist on teaching
– Computing certifications from CompTIA, Cisco, or Microsoft.

POTENTIAL INCOME: Incalculable, so let’s just say millions of yen over your lifetime!

TOTAL SAVINGS: ¥788,600 a year

16 thoughts on “Top 10 Ways to save ¥788,600 while in Japan

  1. well I’ll just ignore the mac part because it just baffles me

    cheers for the freestuffjapan mailing list though, looks interesting.

  2. I so agree on the mac – the best purchase ever! And just image all the money you save on PC doctors when your PC catches whatever it is that they catch theses days. I’ll pass on the iPhone, though.

    About houses, I guess it depends on the area. Where we live apartments are way cheaper. In many pets are allowed and we got free parking too. Having lived in a house before, I can also say that our heating costs are lower now 😉

    And I need to try me that TV on the computer thingie, because we don’t have a TV at all.
    .-= AnnaI´s last blog ..I "heart" Brazilian Supermarkets =-.

  3. Here’d how I saved 2 million yen in 2 years, and still di what i wanted, pretty much

    Be a hermit (ie, selective about your “friendships” with other foreigners you wouldn’t in all honesty cross the road for if you were back your own country)
    Get a JET gig.
    Do Eikaiwa on the side.
    Have fun in your first year here, but after that don’t waste money on asian travel, snowboarding trips, or all those other things people tell you have to do.
    Buy a rice cooker, and eat rice a lot.

    That’s all.

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  6. Saved about US$ 100,000 in far less than 10 years in Japan. Actually lived in Japan for 15 years but wasn’t interested in saving all those years. Living in a rent-subsidized danchi that was brand new and very nice went a long way towards saving that money. We travelled, ate in restaurants whenever we wanted and raised a daughter. Owned two cars (neither was a K) and paid for them both in cash. Never used my credit card for Japanese purchases. Left Japan not owing a single yen to anyone. And I saved all this money teaching English. My Mac G4 Powerbook had nothing to do with it 🙂

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