This article originally appeared in the April 2023 issue of CONNECT.
Alexandra Crombie (Gunma)
My friends probably think I’m being hideously hypocritical writing this article. I am not known for my financial literacy, but hopefully my ineptitude will make these tips that actually worked for me all the more helpful for you.
My job as an ALT in Japan is my first full-time, salaried position. I have worked in various different part-time roles since I was a teenager, but this is the first time I am able to plan ahead with some sense of financial stability.
My first and most important piece of advice is: don’t be too hard on yourself. Everybody’s situation is different, and what is possible for some will not be possible or realistic for others. These are some tips that have recently served me well.
Aiming to save too large a portion of your income will likely lead to failure and guilt. I had grand plans for the savings I would make on JET, forgetting that I actually might want to enjoy my time here by living, breathing, and traveling.
When deciding on this realistic target, take into consideration any responsibilities back home. For example, I have to send money back each month to pay off student debt.
Alongside setting a target amount to save, set an amount you are allowed to spend. If you want to buy an expensive item, wait until payday is closer and make small cutbacks on other things in the run up so that the purchase feels more like a reward. I personally find it easier to restrict my spending when I know exactly what I want to use the money for later on.
In addition to establishing a target amount to save and spend, I would recommend leaving a cushion. You may think it’s pointless now, but when your car needs new tires or your only pair of smart shoes break, you will thank yourself. This is why it is so important to be realistic. It allows you to prepare better for unexpected costs.
The 24 hour rule
Adhere to the overnight rule. If you see something you want but don’t absolutely need, give yourself 24 hours to mull it over. If you still want the item the next day, go for it. This has saved me from many questionable purchases.
A great alternative to splashing on meals out is hosting a dinner party in your apartment. You could even ask everyone to bring a selection of conbini food to share, which splits the cost between everybody.
Also, prepare your weekday lunches on the weekend. This is great advice that I personally find extremely hard to follow or maintain. If you manage it, good for you. If not, don’t feel guilty, life is busy.
Keep friends in the loop
Let your friends know you are trying to stick to a budget. Hopefully they will respect this and try to accommodate it where they can.
Most importantly, take care of yourself. Money worries are particularly malignant and can really influence how you feel on a day-to-day basis. Please talk to someone if you are struggling because there is often some sort of help available, in the form of financial assistance or mental health support.
Alexandra Crombie is a first-year JET living in Gunma prefecture. Her favourite colour is a dark, muted blue, and she likes to spend her free time camping or exploring with friends. She also enjoys watching copious numbers of films.
Feature image photo credit: Towfiqu barbhuiya on Unsplash