Back to the list

5 ways how I budgeted my precious yen for my first 60 days in Japan


One of the overwhelming things that almost made me quit from pursuing my application in Japan was the reminder to bring at least 500,000 yen. 

That is equivalent to more or less 200,000 in Philippine peso. 

Why? 

That's because for the first two months, you have to shoulder your everyday expenses in Japan. 

You have to pay for your apartment, food, transportation, and other things you need. 

 When I first read that, I instantly said, ``all right, this one is not for me''. 

I knew I had no 200,000 pesos to begin with. 

But, when I became desperate, I set aside money matters and went straight to the orientation at Chesham Recruitment in Makati City. 

There, with the crystal-clear explanation of Mr. Ryan, I further understood that if there is a will, there is really a way. 

I made several loans from friends and siblings just to meet the necessary financial requirements. 

Did I bring 500,000 yen in Japan? 

No, I didn`t. 

 

The total amount I was able to loan from different persons was 245,000 pesos. 

Amazing! 

That was actually more than enough. 

But I had to allocate them properly. 

The first 100,000 pesos went to my placement fee. 

Another 100,000 pesos was allocated for my two months allowance in Japan. 

The 45,000 pesos went to many pre-departure expenses. 

I couldn`t believe that I spent almost 45,000 pesos prior to my departure to Japan. 


I am from Bicol. 

 I travelled from Legazpi City to Manila. 

I spent five days in Manila before my flight. 

I needed to stay in an inexpensive hotel. 

Good thing if you have a relative or family in Manila or if you are living around Manila or close to Manila. 

I accomplished several essential documents or requirements in which I also spent some money, especially the IDP. 

I attended PDOS somewhere in Manila, and the pre-departure orientation at Chesham`s office. 

Of course I had to spend money for my daily transportation, food, and other necessary expenses when I met some of my friends. 

I also bought some items that I could bring to Japan. 


A day before our departure, my five co-ALTs had already exchanged their money from peso to yen. 

They were so diligent enough to find a money changer with a higher rate. 

If you are diligent, you may also want to try searching for a money changer with a higher rate. 

 I was not able to do this since I had to attend to some important matters. 

At that time, it was such a rainy day in Manila that even though I wanted to go to the money changer that my colleagues recommended, it was really hard. 

I was so busy finding a computer shop because I wanted to print my flight details. 

I thought I could not enter the airport if I had no printed copy. 

To my surprise, at the airport, the other passengers in front of me were just showing their flight details on their phone. 

I felt a bit disappointed because I just wasted my precious time last night finding a computer shop. 


I exchanged my money at the airport, although the exchange rate is a bit lower. 

I exchanged 115,000 pesos to yen. 

I saw the other five ALTs who were departing with me. 

It was so funny that one of my colleagues had an excess baggage. 

She had to transfer some of her items from her baggage to her carry-on bag. 

She really had plenty of things in her two big luggages. 

It seemed that she brought all her life from the Philippines. 

Before we passed through the immigration department, she once again checked her carry-on bag and she found her big scissors. 

We were all laughing since this scissors may cause the alarm to sound if she were to pass through the scanners. 

So, her only choice was to throw away her precious scissors. 


Teachers, be careful with your luggage weight. 

And don't bring scissors. 

There are lots of them in Japan. 

There are many Daiso stores in Japan. 


I felt so stingy when we landed to Narita. 

It was as if I didn't want to spend any single yen. 

But I had to. 

My first expenses were in Tokyo when we had to eat lunch. 

My goodness, each lunch cost 1,399 yen in that short stop over before we proceeded to our accommodation. 

I realized we were in Tokyo and I had to eat. 

I just ate a familiar-looking pancit (which is yakisoba) with egg and vegetable toppings. 

Then, at the succeeding lunch and dinner times during the training, I was buying food from the convenience store which was around 300 to 600 yen per meal. 

It was really tempting to eat at the surrounding restaurants. 

The food were really appetizing and something really new. 

Of course I tried some but it was hurting my pocket. 

So, to save my precious yen on my first 60 days (and even after 60 days), I have been doing or practicing these five things. 


1. Go to cheaper yet better restaurants 

Whenever I want to eat outside, I visit Saizeriya or Sukiya since the food are really affordable yet delectable. 

I became fond of eating at Saizeriya because I like Italian cuisine. 

I know, the meals are not authentic Italian, but I can still taste something Italian. 

I like their pasta, cheese and bread, lamb barbeque, and the 100-yen wine. 

Another restaurant with a very affordable meal is Sukiya. 

There are many choices but my favorite is the rice bowl with chicken toppings. 

I frequented these restaurants on my first few days in Japan. 

But, since I am used to cooking my food, I was always thinking of cooking my meals, especially rice.

As soon as I arrived at my new apartment in Nagoya City, I wasted no time and explored the area. 

My goals were to find cooking utensils and inexpensive supermarkets. 

After a few hours of searching google map and walking, I finally found my heart's desires. 


2. Buy items from Hyakuen stores and second hand shops 

Depending on your location, you will always find hyakuen stores. 

Famous of them are Daiso stores. 

In my place in Nagoya, the famous hyakuen stores are Daiso and Hyakuen stores. 

Then in Hamamatsu, there are Daiso stores too and Lemon. 

These stores, especially the bigger ones, have almost everything you need for your new apartment. 

You can find stuff for your bedroom, living room, restroom, bathroom, kitchen and dining room, garden, office, and even materials for your classes. 

There are also some grocery stuff that you can find for a very minimal cost. 

I bought many items here like plates, glasses, spoons and forks, table napkins, body soap, pots for my tiny plants, school supplies, and even socks and slippers.  

Second hand shops are different from hyakuen stores. 

 In most second hand shops, you will find not only used items or clothings or appliances but also new ones for a very minimal cost. 

Some famous second hand shops in Nagoya are Komehyo, 2nd Street, Nagoya Recycle Shop, SaiRyo market Kurokawa shop, Harada Works, BuyChari, and so on. 

I bought my rice cooker (3500 yen), frying pan (500 yen), and iron (500 yen) from Harada Works. 

The quality of the items is still very good and I thought they were brand new. 

I just called this store and I reserved the items I wanted. 

Then, I walked for 15 minutes and picked up the items after paying. 

It was a little bit challenging to carry these items as I walked back to my apartment, but it is worth my effort, time, and money. 

Imagine if I will buy a brand new rice cooker like the one I got, that will cost me between 8,000 to 12,000 yen. 

A brand new frying pan costs 3,500 yen. 

And the iron is around 3,000 to 5,000 yen.

 You can be assured of their quality and they will surely last for a long time. 

 When I was transferred to Hamamatsu City, I had to pack all my things and ship them to my new apartment. 

Definitely, that's another extra expense. 

I could leave my things behind, but it would cost more money if I would buy new stuff in Hamamatsu. 

Again, as soon as I arrived in my new apartment in Hamamatsu City, I started looking for hyakuen stores and second hand shops. 

In Hamamatsu, some second hand shops close to my apartment are Pick Up, 2nd Street, and Acty. 

I bought my water heater and other bathroom stuff from Acty.

And I bought winter clothings from Pick Up. 

There are also several Daiso stores and a big Don Quixote store nearby. 


 3.Cook your own food 

 When I finally bought my second-hand rice cooker and frying pan, I started cooking my own food. 

 Would you believe that the average amount of my food expenses per week is 2,500 yen only? 

That was cheaper compared to my 3,500 yen food expenses in Tokyo for only four days! 

How did I do that?

Of course I was wearing my Saver`s Hat. 

I usually cook my dinner every other day. 

Whatever I cooked for dinner would be good for two days. 

That means, my dinner and breakfast and dinner the next day are the same. 

And I don't mind that as long as I have food on my table. 

I eat lunch at school, which I pay on a monthly basis. 

(The price of lunch varies from school to school.For instance, in one of my schools, the price of lunch per day is 280 yen, while in another school, it is 350 yen. Definitely, the higher the price, the more the contents of my lunches are.I believe the price of lunch in Junior High School is more expensive than Elementary School.) 

Going back to my Saver`s Hat, for example, when I cook chicken with squash, I divide it into three containers. 

I keep them in the refrigerator and reheat one container for breakfast, and the other for dinner. 

Most of the times, there are leftovers that I can still eat for the next breakfast. 

Hence, I only cook for dinner. 

Another strategy I do is going to the supermarket between 6pm and 7pm. 

I did not know this when I arrived here in Japan, but I learned this when I went to a supermarket in the evening. 

I found many items that are on sale between 20% to 60%, especially food. 

Since then, I frequented the supermarket close to my apartment. 

I buy discounted chicken or shrimp or squid or sushi. 

In the case of cooked shrimp or chicken or squid, I cook them again usually with some vegetables. 

In terms of rice, it is cheaper to buy 5 or 10 kilos of rice than 1 or 2 kilos. 

The only problem is its weight when I had to carry them from the supermarket to my apartment. 

But when I got a bicycle, it became easier to buy stuff from the supermarket. 

If you don't like cooking, you can still keep your expenses lower by finding an inexpensive restaurant. 

But in the long run, you will need to learn how to cook if you are serious about saving more money.  

No doubt, cooking your own food can help you save more. 


4. Get your own bicycle 

This one is not urgent. 

However, if you want to save more time and effort, you may consider buying an inexpensive bicycle. 

Before you get one, make sure that you know how to drive a bicycle. 


My friend excitedly told me that she bought a bicycle after two days she arrived in her new apartment. 

She was happy to get one. 

But at the same time, she was unhappy to walk back to her apartment with her new bicycle. 

I asked, `why did you walk while in fact you just bought your new bicycle`? 

She answered, `I don't know how to ride a bicycle!` 

Holy macaroni! 

We were laughing so hard, especially when she told me that she tried to ride her bicycle only when no people around or no cars passing by. 

She mounted her bike several times, drove a few feet several times, hit fences several times, and crashed several times. 

She did not give up though. 

Today, she can drive well; and she has two bicycles. 

She got a new one after damaging her first one because of many attempts to learn. 


I admire her courage and determination. 

I hope you already know how to ride a bicycle before you come to Japan. 

I bought my bicycle for only 8,200 yen from Pick Up second hand store. 

That was already a good deal since the bicycle is a brand new one. 

It was equipped with a built-in lock, reflector, headlight, and a bike basket. 

The staff does not want to sell the bike because it has only one gear. 

I told him that it was not a problem. 

We proceeded to the counter and he was like explaining something about the paper. 

I hardly understood him and I said wakarimasen. 

He was getting impatient and scratching his bald head. 

My little Japanese knowledge did not help me. 

Finally, I saw a group of Filipino families and approached them. 

`Sumimasen. Are you guys Filipinos? Do you guys speak Japanese?` 

 `Yes, we speak Japanese. Anong problema?` the guy in his early 30s answered. 

`Can you please help me. I need to buy a bicycle and the staff and I do not understand each other,` I explained to the guy. 

`Sure, no problem`, he replied and then we walked towards the counter. 

The staff was explaining that I need to register my bicycle and there will be an additional 600 yen for that. 

I have the options though if I may or may not register my bike. 

The good thing if I register my bike is that, in case it is stolen, I could report it to the police and they will find it. 

If not registered, the police will not search for it. 


There I had it. I paid. I thanked the guy (I already forgot his name). I tested outside. 

Then, I drove to the supermarket and bought supplies. 

Very helpful since I didn't need to walk to the supermarket or carry the groceries. 

I also used my bicycle to go to church every Sunday, explore the area, visit temples and shrines, discover new places, and most importantly, I used my bicycle to go to my schools. 

Instead of taking a bus, I use my bicycles and it has been helping me save more yen. 

Again, getting your own bicycle is not so urgent. 

You can always do it on your first pay day. 

But if you still have enough allowance until your first day, you can spare 9,000 or 10,000 yen for your bicycle. 


5. Buy what you need and control what you want 

Do not be tempted by the consumerist culture in Japan. 

If you are serious about budgeting and saving your money, do not buy things that you do not really need. 

Many ALTs give in to the temptation to shop online and offline not only because of the enticing beauty and fashion displayed in the market, but also of the very attractive prices. 

I know it's normal to desire those glamorous things and fashionable items. 

But be very careful. 

Discipline and self-control are your best buddies here. 

You can tell yourself to just wait for your payday or for the right time. 

I know it is quite challenging to control our desires, especially you have plenty of freedom to buy this and buy that. 

A friend of mine shared one time that she loves buying things for her apartment because it is only here in Japan where she feels the freedom to decorate her own house or her own room, her own kitchen and her own bathroom. 

I could see how happy she was as she was sharing her experience. 

Believe me, there is nothing wrong with that. 

And I also like to do what she is doing because it really feels good. 

There is a certain satisfaction that we feel when we do that. 

But hey, we must also remember that all the things that we have may also cause us some discomfort, stress, or problems. 

That includes the material things we buy. 

How did I experience that? 

First of all, the things that I buy become my problems when I need to move to a new apartment. 

Big stuff cannot be brought. 

Others need to be shipped and they cost a large amount of money. 

You are fortunate if you decide not to move from place to place. 

Or if you are certain that you will stay at the same place or same work until you move back to the Philippines. 

But in my case, I keep moving because I keep finding a better job. 

You will understand why I keep moving once you get to Japan. 

It will be a lot easier when you experience it yourself. 


For more insights about buying things here in Japan, you may read my article about Impacts of stuff accumulation in Japan


Those are the five ways how I budgeted my precious yen for my first 60 days in Japan.

And since these ways help me save money, I still do them up to this day.

How about you, what were the ways you did to budget your money on your first 60 days here in Japan?

We will be happy to learn from you. 

Please share your ways below through the comments sections. 

Thank you!