A German expat living in New Zealand once asked me if living in Japan was expensive. Without thinking I said, ‘Everything goes on sale.’ I’ve thought about it since then, and realized that buying things on sale is the key to living on the cheap in Japan for my family.
There are axioms for shopping that derive from the fact that everything will at some time go on sale. One is that if you must have something ‘now’, then you’ll probably be forced to pay full price. Sometimes that can’t be helped, but with a little foresight and planning, this can often be avoided. Like the time our TV broke- we went to the electronics store and picked the TV we wanted. Then waited. In 2-3 weeks the TV went on sale, and we saved the difference. Of course, we had to live without a TV for a few weeks (a blessing, in my opinion).
Another point is that when things you like or often use go on sale, don’t just buy one, buy several. This works very well for beer- when summer rolls around we usually have a selection of imported beers in the fridge and cellar, cold and ready to drink, all bought at a discount.
Fruit in Japan is generally of very good quality, but of course you can pay royally for it, too. By eating the in-season fruit, which usually is sold at relatively cheaper prices, you’ll get a good yearly variety of fruit on your menu, and not have to pay 3000 for a watermelon.
The ubiquitous konbeni, or convenience store, in Japan offers you that, but usually at a sharp price increase. If you can live without the convenience, shop somewhere else and save.
All of these ideas require you to make a lifestyle choice, and often require you to take what you can get, rather than getting what you want now. But in the end, the meaning of Benjamin Franklin’s saying, ‘A penny saved is a penny earned’ will show make itself known in your savings.