Saturday, February 21, 2015

Tips in frugality: How I sent home 50% of my Japanese paycheck

At first, I, too was a retail slave.



I'm cheap and I love it. I want to clue you in on how I went from $10k in debt to almost double that in savings in two years. This here isn't new to anyone, just proof that most of you can make it work.

Why me? It all started with getting a job and jumping income levels. My close friend Zack, who is also my work neighbor, bikes to work everyday and I asked him why. This opened up a conversation about saving, investing, and MrMoneyMustache. Before I got used to a more expensive lifestyle, I sent home the difference in pay. After paying them off I had a new focus: the American stock market.

2 years later I'm on top of the building of one of the 
richest men in history. ON TOP!
Why you? Some things in Yokohama are cheaper than Seattle, and vice versa. Fresh ingredients and food are cheaper; alcohol is, too. Transportation is more expensive, but your company usually reimburses you 100%, which explains why biking is so profitable. Some of the changes are universal, other apply to only me or living in Yokohama.

How? Food. For a long while, I cooked for myself at least 4 days a week. I suck at cooking, and never really improved. Costco sells a 2-lb 4-pack of individually wrapped chicken breasts for $10. That's your main meat for 5 big or 8 medium-sized meals. A pot of curry is about $5-6, and you can eat it all week! I also dropped $20 every 2 months coffee beans and have avoided going to cafes (drip is $3.50 in Japan, yeesh!).
Timmmmm Currrrrrrrrrray!
Drinking. Luckily, Zack bought his tickets for the frugal train a few years before me, and is in the same mentality. We drink $1 beers outside of convenience stores before joining a party where they're $5. Another shortcut was when we did the low carb diets, buying a giant bottle of fizz and a 5th of whiskey. You get 12 x 50 cent drinks. More than enough to get loose off of $3 and 20g carbs!

The downside is the social invitations, though. My co-workers are older and generally want to go to nicer places. I work a different schedule, so I've taken all 3 opportunities this year to go to the $60 per person Italian dinner. However, Japanese people love to go out, and if you work the same hours as someone, you might go out a few times a week.

Transportation. Driving is expensive, and public transportation is treated like that crazy uncle that people invite because it would be cruel to tell him he sucks. If you live in the right area, though, you can either a) bike and cancel that gym membership or b) take the bus/train and use that commute to read or text all your stupid Buzzfeed Top 10 articles to your friends.

Most people don't think about it, but gas ain't the only cost to driving. Parking, insurance, and maintenance are fees you can equate to up to 20% of your income. My bike ride to work was 40 minutes and was a little under 6 miles away. You may or may not be as fortunate, but you might consider transportation costs in your next move. It might be worth another $200/month that you'd spend anyway getting to work!

Entertainment: watching. Porn is free, so let's cross that off. What people might not know is Kissanime.com and Kisscartoon.me, two sister sites that stream a boatload of high-quality content both with Japanese subtitles, and dubbed. There is minimal advertising, and the content works without an account. I just watched my childhood favorite, DarkWing Duck last night!



Movies and tv shows are a little different. There are tons of free sketchy sites, but I prefer the obvious Netflix, which doesn't work in Japan without a bit of sorcery. If you can't wait until June 2015, then you can get Strong VPN service to fool Netflix.com into thinking you're in the US. I've been a Prime Instant Video member for 3 years now, and their streaming tv and movie service has finally started taking itself seriously. You also need the aforementioned VPN service, but the selection is pretty good!


Entertainment: playing. I have paid full price for 3 new games in the last 2 years. Otherwise, I buy used. I used to buy new and preserve the case and then I started traveling a lot. That gets expensive, the shit gets shoved in a box and there's water damage and xyz, it's just not worth it to me.

Also, the disturbing trend of (American) companies releasing unfinished games means that paying full price is riskier than waiting until someone sells it on Craigslist (a week later sometimes!) Sometimes you get lucky and Dell decides to sell the game with a big ass coupon. I just got $25 back on the $40 Zelda: Majora's Mask remake.

Shoutout to PlayStation Plus for having monthly free games. I am sitting on 80 games, downloaded free after having the service for 4 years.

Utilities. I live in a tiny apartment in an old building, and that may be the hardest thing to control. I am still appalled that Ballardians pay $1400 for 2-bedroom apartments, but it's a nice place to live! One of the things I DO have control over is using a prepaid cell phone. I have a tablet and use wifi when I can (Starbucks and 7-11 in Japan), and otherwise have to top up my prepaid phone $30 every 60 days. Most of you probably spend $50 or so per month for the convenience. There are alternatives!

When I live in the States again, I'm looking to try Freedom Wireless, which looks to be either free or $20/month for a slightly limited smart phone. That kind of change is worth it for me.

Shopping: Amazon. I am an unabashed fan of Amazon, and it works just as well in Japan. I stay away from department stores, which in Japan are mostly women's clothing/cosmetics shops anyway. "Sale" means they're lying to you.


TL,DR; Cooking for myself, biking, drinking at convenience stores, using prepaid phone service, Amazon and buying used is what allows me to sock away dat sweet 50!

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