This month’s topic for JapanSoc’s Japan Blog Matsuri is living cheap in Japan hosted by Frugalista Japan. Japan is a expensive place to live in, and for those of us living on a teacher’s salary, it’s important not to toss money out of the window! Here’s a few of my favorite tips for living cheap in Japan:
First: Utilities are expensive!
1) Unplug unnecessary electronics
It’s a know fact that most electronics, even while “off,” consume a small amount of power to keep internal clocks and those little “power off” lamps running. If you want to save money, try unplugging your unnecessary electronics (like gaming systems, computers, TVs, DVD players, stereos, NOT YOUR FRIDGE ~_^) when you’re not using them. Or you could plug them into those power strips with the power cut switches for each outlet. This could cut down your bills by a whole lot!
2) Surviving the seasons: Anyone who’s lived in Japan knows just how cold it gets (mostly because houses have minimal insulation, which means it’s just as hot/cold inside your house as out!). How do you stay warm without spending a fortune? Here’s a few ideas: first, spend as much time out of your house as possible. Use another area’s heat/cooling! That means spending time in your local coffee shop, shopping mall, etc. Second, get yourself a kotatsu, that wonderful little table with a blanket and a heater. Most people move into one room for the duration of winter because it’s easier to heat that way. Put your kotatsu there. Even if you don’t use a room heater, 90% of you will be warm if you’re under the kotatsu. Third, don’t use your aircon unit as a heater. Too much of an energy hog. Get yourself a small electric/kerosene space heater or consider a heated carpet. Also, sealing your windows with bubble wrap and tape helps reduce heat-stealing drafts and increases insulation. You can find bubble-wrap window insulation in your local home store. In the summer you can keep cool with box fans and open windows. Hang your wet laundry near a window. The evaporation that happens as the breeze from outside dries your clothes also cools the air.
Second: Food is really expensive!
1) Prepared foods (like bento, sushi, fried items) are all half-off at the end of the business day at all supermarkets/bakeries and smaller food stands. Hold off shopping until 7pm and you could run away with a pile of food for half the prince you usually pay! Also, prepared foods get “time service” throughout the day. If something hasn’t been bought 3-4 hours after it’s been prepared, it’s get a discount sticker. They’ll keep discounting until the end of the day.
2) Fruit and Veg Reject Days/Carts:
Each grocery store has a cart near the produce section for “rejects,” fruits and veg that aren’t perfect (by Japanese standards, that is ^^). The produce people cull their section every day – the selections on the cart are usually half-price or even more. Keep your eyes open for good stuff there. Also, some bigger grocery stores have a specific day a week they do the big cull. You can get heavily discounted fruits (aka, a bag of apples for Y400 instead of Y800).
3) Eat seasonally.
That means mikan in winter, watermelon/melon in summer, figs and persimmons in fall and bananas all year round. Fruits and veg are way less expensive in their season, so gorge yourself and save money in other seasons when you can’t stand the thought of eating that stuff again!