Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I finally finished calculating how much money I spend on food. For those of you interested, here's how much things cost around here.

In the month of September I spent about 57,700 yen ($577) on food. This doesn't include stuff like drinks from the vending machines and from places where I didn't get a receipt. I didn't calculate as accurately in September.

In the month of October I think I misplaced some receipts in my closet, so for now I have recorded a spending of 46,500 yen ($465). Same comment as above about the receipts, and I am pretty sure I spent more anyway.

For the month of December I decided to give myself a food+transportation allowance, which is 15,000 yen ($150)/week. Out of that money transportation is about 1600 yen ($16) per week, and "food" expenses include everything you'd get in a grocery store, such as aluminum foil, toothpaste, shampoo, etc.
Here are some examples of how much various food items cost.

Same as Canada: meat, fish (roughly), bread
The expensive things are fruit, vegatables, and rice.
Milk (0.5L) 120, I think ($1.2)
Apples (1 apple) 100-300 ($1-$3)
Tangerines (12) 300-400 ($3-$4)
Rice (2kg) 1000 ($10), for an estimation, I went through 1 kg in about 1 month, I think, I mostly eat rice, not noodles/bread
Eggs (8) 180 ($1.8, I think)
Tomatos (1) 70-150 ($0.7-$1.5)
Cooking oil (400g) 300 ($3, I think)
Soy sauce (1L) about 250 ($250)

Hmmm, I went grocery shopping yesterday, so I can't remember anymore, and I can't really read my receipts, but you get the idea. The stuff above is what I eat mostly. I guess if you eat seasonal veggies/fruit that are on sale, it's not so bad. By the way, this totally explains the whole seasonal cooking tradition in Japan. There is no way in hell you can buy fresh peaches this time of the year. Well, I am sure you could, but for crazy prices, but normal people wouldn't really go fishing for peaches, I don't think.

The store owner who gave the talk on brown rice (see post below) was saying how we should be grateful and appreciate the food we eat (he used the word かんしゃしている). I think that living here has really made me start appreciating these things. I get excited when apples are in season, and it's not just because they are cheap. Especially after the business and environmental change geography course I really started thinking about exported food and how many resources are wasted in the process, and this really does make me appreciate the food I can buy in the grocery store. Sure, we didn't have tangerines except in winter in Canada either, but picking up a bag of tangerines in the store the other day really felt like a special treat to me. I think I missed these kinds of feelings, gratitude and appreciation of what I have access too, so that's one of the reasons I like living here. So really, while this post is about prices, it's not just about prices. One of my adult students, a 71 year old man (I think that's his age) is a farmer. Sometimes he'd tell some stories about his work (he farms rice, alone, without any help), and you should see how his face lights up when he talks about his field. His Field. You know, makes me remember those eyes every time I eat rice for dinner, because I know it's people like him, his hands, that made it possible for me to eat that rice, both literaly (since he plants rice), and otherwise (since he pays me for teaching him English).

Anyways, back to prices.

Restauraunt food and prepared stuff (bento) are about the same price as in Canada. I got sick of those though, at least the bento (even though that's what I usually eat for lunch 3 days a week when I don't work in my city). I don't usually eat in restauraunts except with friends, so mostly I spend money in the grocery store. I end up shopping a lot here, at least once a week. Volume-wise I always think, wow, I am going to eat all this in one week? And of course I usually do.. Well, I buy stuff like milk too though, that I don't finish in one week.
I did loose weight in my first two months here (not this month though, so need to go back to eating less). So I've been eating less than in Canada, and if memory serves me right, $200/month for food was quite enough if I don't eat out. Maybe I am remembering wrong though, and parents usually helped me too with stuff like canned food, and rice, so my numbers are off anyway. Well, for those of you who live alone, you can compare.

So here is a rough break-down of where my money goes every month.
I get payed 250,000 ($2500).
I spend:
Tax: 12,500 ($125)
Rent: 52,000 ($520)
Utility/cell-phone/internet bills: 23,000 ($230)
Food + other small expenses like stationary, magazines, etc.: roughly 60,000 ($600)
Transportation: I get reimbursed for work travel, so I won't count it here
Clothes, house expences (like pillows, cups, etc.), stationary: this month I have a 20,000 allowance, but I spent more than that the first month because I needed to get some stuff for the house.
Piano class: 5,600 ($56)

So that's about $1700, which is not bad, I suppose. For the first three months though (Sept, Oct. Nov) I had to pay the apartment deposit of 27,000 ($270), and I also spent money on traveling (Nagoya, Osaka, Tokyo) last month, and before that too. Plus I had more personal expences for kendo (the local bogu shop is a bit pricey, the cheapest shinai was 3000 or $30, and I bought two, plus a shinai bag, and a new gi). I also spent money on stuff for the house, etc. as I mentioned above, and on the entrance fee for the piano school (which was the price of one month of lessons). I am also saving for the ticket back to Toronto in February.

So roughly it looks like I need $1700 per month if I don't travel. In September and October, although I did save some money for the ticket back to Canada, I zeroed out completely (ok, not completely, I had $30 left in my account). This month should be better, even with the savings for the ticket. Next month I have no rental deposit, but I'll probably spend that money on traveling over the holidays.

I do hope though I can cut down on food, that would be nice. Especially if I can loose more weight, hehe.

Anyways, this was a lot of detail, I bet... I guess it's a public blog, but then I don't really mind, I think this is pretty educational, no?

Now I feel like going to the nearby convenience to get a drink. Or not... :P


LGOD said...

Hey Katya,

This is very educational!
Now that you are living in the "REAL" world, you have to worry about budgeting and only spending on necessities first.

A very thorough breakdown!!!
At least you still get a chance to spend for kendo and leisure travel! plus your SHOPPING needs!

Well good luck, and continue to budget your money wisely!

(maybe you desrve that drink at the convenience) haha
If not just drink water!!!

Katya said...

Yeah, you know, thank goodness I don't have to pay for kendo practices, and I didn't need to buy any kendo equipment after the first time when I bought a few things. I had to get my kote repaired, but that wasn't expensive.