Saving money may be a common task for people living in Tokyo, as living costs there is extremely expensive. It must be especially critical for international and language school students who support themselves, as they can't work full-time to earn money. In this article we would like to talk about how to save money in Tokyo, including setting up reasonable budget, and some practical tips for different expense categories. But as understanding current living expenses is necessary for making a budget, let's start from analyzing how much money you spent on what.
It will be clear if you track your spending by an app or a housekeeping book. The following costs usually happen: constant expenses (rent, utility, communication, internet), food, transportation, clothes, recreation expenses and learning materials. Keep tracking can also prevent you from buying unnecessary things.
After seeing where money goes, it is time to set up a budget. Make a budget reasonable and suitable for yourself. Food cost can be saved if you don't eat, but this is impossible. Never going out with friends is also an effective way but some people may feel terrible. Don't go too far so that you can stick to the budget.
Set up a yearly budget for large expenses, such as rent renewal fees or moving house cost, trips to go back home country or other places, tax payments, etc, so you can visually see which months will be tighter and prepare money.
Set up a monthly budget for constant expenses (rent, utility, communication, internet), clothes, birthdays, friends' weddings, which will let you have a probably understanding of your monthly cost.
Set up a weekly budget for daily expenses such as food, transportation, recreation to control your expenses as much as possible. Then all you have to do is to stick to the budget.
The following things are good to know for setting up budget and saving money.
If you are provided an accommodation by your university or language school, the fee is fixed and may have been included in your educational expenses. Otherwise you need to rent a house. Compared with a mansion, an apartment is usually cheaper.
The closer to a station or your school, the more expensive the rent tends to be. In addition to the rent, if you find an apartment or mansion through a house agent, you have to pay for commission, deposit, etc, which can be saved by collecting available house information from friends on your own.
To use electricity, gas, and water smartly can save quite a lot of money. If your electricity utility plan charges less for using at night, it will be smarter to run a washing machine at night or early morning. Besides trying to use them as little as possible, you can choose a cheapest utility company according to your life style, as electricity and gas rates differ depending on companies.
Large communication carriers like au are expensive, while you can choose cheap SIM card like mineo. Also instead of taking a phone call through your SIM card directly, calling through an app like LaLa Call will be a bargain, or calling from Line will be free. Pick an internet service provider with a lowest rate for yourself.
You may have known that the transportation in Japan is very expensive. Avoid taking subways or buses by living near your school in a walk or bicycle distance. If you have to take transportations regularly, buying a year or half year pass card will save a lot. If you need to take airplanes for trip, choose low cost carrier like Jetstar. If you go by Shinkansen, buying tickets from coupon stores will be thousands yen cheaper than buying from JR ticket offices.
These are costs that you can control. For those who have no interest in fashion or going out for fun, they can spend no money. But trying to dress in Japanese style, watching movie with friends is also important for international and language school students to enjoy Japan.
You can hunt for clothes from secondhand shops like chain store HardOff, or other small recycle shops at back street, or recycle websites like Mercari. If you want to dress the latest, GU will be a perfect place where you can find good clothes in good prices. And if you wait a new item for a month you may find that it becomes half price. Cinemas are cheaper at late night and every month's cinema day. The same is for karaoke. So pick time zone smartly and you can pay less for entertainment.
Almost all these stores provide special discount for members, so making a member card will be smarter if you go to the store often. Stores also distribute coupons for both members and non-members. Collect and use coupons according to your budget. Some websites like Hot pepper are specialized for providing coupons.
As eating out is quite expensive in Japan, the best way to save food cost is to cook by yourself. Italian, Chinese, Indian food, basically you can find any ingredient you want from supermarkets. Make a weekly meal plan so that you don't buy extra food products.
Make a shopping list before going to the supermarket so that you don't pick up other things. Shop at the bargain or sale time. Almost all supermarkets discount food products after 7 or 8 pm, and they all set a bargain day every month. Vegetables and fruits may be cheaper at Yaoya (local fruit and veg stalls) or direct sale places than supermarkets. Frozen meat is very good value at Gyoumusuper.
While cutting costs, you can also try to earn some extra money. International and language students are allowed to work part-time with a work permission obtained. Some stores provide staff meal, staff discount or transportation allowances for part-time workers, which may be perfect for you to save money.