Tips for Budgeting Like a Tokyoite

That just-been-sucker-punched sensation when you buy your first ever round in London is a rite of passage for every new arrival to the city . But that’s nothing compared to the world capital of high cost living- we’re talking about Tokyo, where over twenty years of economic stagnation and shaky business prospects have halved  the amount of money most business people have to spend on a daily basis. 

Of course, even in a land of astronomically expensive rice balls, everyone has to eat. Modern Tokyoites have become world class masters of thrift, finding innovative ways to make their meagre lunch money go that bit further. Why not follow some of these top tips we’ve gathered from the land of the rising credit card bill, and see if you can save some pennies too?

1)      Bigger is not always better When your working day has you leaving the house at six am and returning well into the midnight hours, why bother with a palatial domain, especially when for every square meter of land you’ll be paying an international premium, and you’ll hardly have any time to enjoy it? Renters, take a tip from Tokyo, and channel your assets into a more modest space that won’t have you pushed to very edge of your overdraft to pay the rent every month. Then with the few delicious hours you do get to enjoy in your bed, you won’t be tossing and turning wondering how you’re going to pay for it at the end of the month.

2)      Eat out as a treat, not a habit With a fifty percent reduction in leisure funds over the past 20 years,  many Japanese have dramatically cut the amount of cash they shell out on snacks and meals out. Whilst city dwellers in the past would eat out around six times a month on average, this has fallen to once or twice, with many preferring to eat very late at night upon returning home over a restaurant pit stop.

3)      Eat eastern style Think about your daily diet. Most Japanese tend to eschew packaged goods in their home cooking, favouring long life noodles or rice, served with vegetables, and very modest  amounts of protein such as fish, tofu, or small slivers of meat. Compare that to a Western diet which is heavy on larger, expensive cuts of meat, processed staples such as oven chips, and perishable items such as bread and cheese, and you’ll see where grocery shopping savings could be made by adapting home cooking from Japan into your weekly menu. And no, this doesn’t mean going for sushi or downing sake every evening!

4)      Bring your water with you Anyone who has sampled the undeniably metallic tap water in Tokyo will tell you that quite simply, drinking from the office kitchen faucet is not an option. But whereas in the past people relied on the battalion of vending machines lining the streets of the city for refreshments on the go, recent years have seen a boom of  designer water bottles popping up in stores, as people look to free up cash by bringing cheaper water from home.

5)      Take you store cards seriously You may be proud of achieving a fully stamped Nando’s card, but in the world’s costliest city, food stamps are the tip of the iceberg. Almost everywhere, from electronics  stores to corner shops, has some sort of loyalty scheme. Anyone living in Tokyo for more than a few weeks will soon find an index of customer reward cards stacking up in their wallet as they desperately cling to any money saving options available. Conversely though, beware the trap of being tempted to spend more in a particular store just to get the reward.


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