How many times have you looked at your bank statement and said to yourself, "But I didn't go out or do anything this month!!"?
I’d venture to say that many of us come to Japan well guarded against a famously expensive reputation. But then we get here and our eyes light up at how much cheap stuff there is! Possibly to our own detriment. Here's where some of that bank balance might be going.
I have nightmares about how much coin I might have fed into vending machines. The damn things are everywhere. Not that I’m interested in anyone’s used undies or some tacky plastic toys, it's the coffees that kill me. And the lifesaving sports drinks in summer.
Small can (usually coffee): 100-120 yen
Small bottle (tea/coffee soft drink): 130-140 yen
Large bottle (sports drink/tea/soft drink): 150-200 yen
Nobody rents DVDs anymore, granddad!!! Well, they do in Japan. And rental shops are ubiquitous! There's many a train station over here funnelling passengers out of the ticket gates and straight into the warm embrace of a bit of Hollywood make believe! At the price of some loose change that you think would go unnoticed. Until you work out how much you've spent over the course of year!
New releases: ~400 yen for one night/two days
Oldies: 100 - 200 yen for a week
No sympathy expected over this one (nor would it be warranted). Still, any smoker who’s groaned under the straightjacket of draconian policy in more enlightened(?) nations will know well what we’re talking about here. ~ 460 yen for 20?! That’s nothing! Wrong! It’s 460 yen literally up in smoke!
Food is everywhere in Japan. This place is a hunger strikers worst nightmare. A lot of it's really cheap, too. Dangerously so. Why bother making your own sorry looking lunch when you can just pop out of the office for a bowl of rice/noodles/meat for 300-400 yen?
Well, add it up. 1,500 yen a working week. 6,000 yen a month. 72,000 yen a year. That's half your ticket home to see mum and dad for Christmas!
It's one of life's stupidest scandals that the banks charge you money to get at your own money. Still, we've long been resigned to them doing whatever they want. And particularly in Japan, where we (the ‘overseas residents/visitors’ we) are often just relieved to have found an ATM that will actually accept our cards. Stay sharp, though. Even using the ATM of your own bank will incur a charge outside of hours. Usually in the evenings/late at night. When it’s dark. When we need to get home. When we’re at our most vulnerable. Thanks, banks!!!
Yen as Monopoly Money
Certainly for this writer, a key reason for a lack of control over my loose change. I just can't appreciate it's value. I think others must be the same; we have an infinitely deeper understanding of our native currencies. I know what it means to drop a pound coin on a bottle of liquid sugar, or a half empty packet of some nonsense snack. And it stings! Here though, the 100 yen coin has no value. It's just something I hand over to get to the thing I want. Still, if we want to save money in Japan, better to deepen our appreciation of the yen!
If you've got any tips on how to save money in Japan, or inversely, how to not lose money in Japan. Let us in on them. Join the conversation below.