Breaking the Bank 6 Months into Living in Japan on the JET Program

How kind have the last 6 months been on my wallet?

With how high start-up costs were initially, plus things later down the line that were needed for the apartment eventually, it took a while to get into a comfortable financial position.


I was very frugal for the first few months while trying to save up money to make up for the negatives of moving in. Had a few splurges here and there. I mainly spent money when out with friends or on trips. I also mostly spent money on my apartment still, but for more pleasures rather than necessities. I got a toaster oven finally and I am so happy. I didn’t use my old one in Kyoto too much because I just didn’t cook as much due to my super tiny kitchen. Now that I have more room here, I have been cooking more. I still tend to not cook full blown meals usually unless it’s a “treat yourself” kind of day. I also got a slow cooker, but I regret not going for a full crock-pot pressure cooker type. The one I have is not the best and the money would have been better spent if I applied it towards a more expensive but better quality one.

I eventually got a rice cooker. It only took me like 2 months LOL. I didn’t really eat rice outside of school at the start because of it. Now, with winter here and it being very cold, I am hibernating more and eating more carbs than during the summer. I’ll slowly go back down towards less carbs and rice once spring and summer roll around again but for now, more energy to keep me warmer.


I got my JP Post Mijica debit card around September and it has been amazing. It is officially a prepaid/charge card but will pull from your bank account if you do not charge it/don’t have the funds prepaid, so you can use it as a regular debit card. JP Post is one of those banks that do not offer “real” debit cards still. The mijica card wasn’t even an option when I was in Kyoto until the very end and it was difficult to get at the time. I don’t need a Japanese credit card now with this debit card. I’m still debating if I should eventually apply for the Amazon Japan or Rakuten credit card but for now I’m satisfied with the mijica debit card. I can use it online and overseas too. I have run into a few issues using it on some online retailers, as it is technically a prepaid card first and then a debit card, but those are very rare instances. For example, I can’t use it on the Nintendo E-shop for Switch, but the regular Nintendo shop or My Nintendo Club Store is fine. Same with Pixiv, I can’t use it on PixivFactory but can use it on Pixiv for regular membership. I’ve had zero issues in person using it, it’s mainly online where there are a few small hiccups.

I’ll probably write a detailed review about this card in the future. Stay tuned for more on that down the line.


I have not gone out too much for parties or shopping. Most of my shopping has been done online because Amazon Japan is fabulous. I mainly went out in October to Kyoto, where I spent a lot of money (but most of it was on the actual travel expenses), and in January when a friend came to visit me from Osaka.

I have been limited my “fun” money for games to just 1 game a month at most, though I don’t usually buy a new one every month. 2020 has a lot more games that I am looking forward to that come out around the same time, so I had to set a limit for myself.


Food/groceries is something that I need to start really setting a budget for. I do not go out to the conbini much. I usually just go in to pay bills and then buy something then, but otherwise I don’t shop there much. The prices at conbini are always a lot higher than in a grocery store.
I have an addiction to Kirin’s Lemon Tea so I have a budget for that every month, but other than that I just spend whatever I have when I go shopping. I’ve been trying to limit my grocery trips to 2x a month but sometimes it ends up with me popping in 1x a week. I’m planning to start setting a stricter budget for groceries, as most of my money goes to this. I’ve just enjoyed having a bigger kitchen.


In January my old laptop died suddenly, and I had to dip into my saving to buy a new one, so that set me back at the start of the year. I switched back to being frugal again for the next few months and am now back comfortably to where I want to be.


Transportation fees to get into Kanazawa for meetups or shopping is around 800 round-trip for a one hour+ commute. Not bad but the commute time is annoying for the city being super close. I live close to work, both my school and City Hall, so I walk to and from, saving a lot of money each month on that.


Payday for me is the 21st of each month. In Japan, it is common to only get paid one time a month rather than bi-weekly as some may be used to in their home countries. It works out for me since my rent is due the 27th and most bills usually aren’t due until the end of the month or middle of the following month.


Finances in a nutshell so far, rounded up in yen:

Monthly:

Internet 6,000

Rent (plus misc fees included in it) 52,000

Electricity 3,000-7,000 depending on season. Winter caused me to run the A/C heater a lot more and so the cost went up, but it still was not bad. The cost also went up when I had to replace my old A/C unit and the new one is stronger.

Gas 2,000-3,500

Mobile 3,700 (7GB data); switched to higher 20GB plan temporary for March and April at 6,000 (YAY Deskwarming Corona Version)

Adobe CC Teachers Discount 2,200

Pocket wi-fi (300GB unlimited; July 28-December 29th) 2,700*

*I do not have a work laptop from the past decade. The ancient brick they gave me takes over an hour to open a single word document and print it, as well as has 0 internet/network capabilities. I have to bring in my own laptop to work and use my own data to get work done. I have been trying to get a new work laptop, but it has failed so far. Previous ALTs have just used their own data and it set a trend in the office that they are unwilling to budge on.
I originally got the pocket wi-fi to use at home because it usually takes months to get wi-fi set up in apartments in Japan but it only took a week this time! So, I ended up using it at work. I thought that I could get by with lower data by just tethering my phone in the end, so I tired it out for January and February but regretted it immediately. 7GB when deskwarming and downloading files for lessons is not the best, especially not when I need some data when I’m out and about using my mobile. The 20GB was also not enough when faced with an entire month of deskwarming during the school closures in March. I’ll be switching back to a pocket wi-fi shortly; cheaper for a lot more data.

Student Loans 50,000-100,000
I make 1 or two transfers a month depending on the FX at the time. I use Transferwise to send money overseas and it is great.

Water (bi-monthly and is deducted with my rent) 1,000-2,000

So, my monthly expenses tend to end up being around 73,900 (excluding loans) or 123,900/173,900 (with loans).


Even with the monthly expenses with loans, I still have a decent amount of saving at the end of each month because I do not let my balance fall below a certain threshold. If something comes up and I have unexpected expenses, then I simply transfer less money over or wait for the following month.

In the end, my financial situation 6 months into the JET Programme has steadily been improving. It is also a major improvement to what I had to deal with in the US. Every situation is different on the JET Programme, so some people are able to save a lot more and others might be in a tougher position than me. Your placement and own financial situation and habits will play a significant roll in your own situation.

If you have any questions, tips, or want to share your own experiences on the JET Programme, comment below!

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