A Case Study On Saving Money

Today I had to go to the government office to re-register as a foreigner living in Japan. Since I had been talking about saving money being your best investment even though it is under appreciated, I figured this would be a good opportunity to show how you can save a significant amount if you take a bit of time to think things through each day.

The first thing I did was think about how I would normally go about re-registering. This is what I came up with:

Driving to train station and back home: $2.00
Parking at train station for 3 hours: $9.00
Train to and from destination: $9.60
Lunch: $5.00
Photos: $20.00

Total budget: $45.60

Driving wasn’t really an option because of where the main city offices are located. There is one small parking lot that is free of charge, but it is always packed. Anything else is a $20 minimum for parking. Plus the drive there is on winding roads through the hills which I don’t like (Japanese roads are quite narrow and uses a lot of gas which is $5 a gallon here) or I would have to go through the tunnel that has a $15 toll charge.

Then I thought that although driving to the station would be the most convenient, it wasn’t a smart move to pay $9.00 for parking when I could easily get their by taxi. A taxi would have been $6 (no tipping in Japan). I could also take the bus for $2.20, but it only comes every half hour. I finally decided that since I wasn’t in any rush, I would simply walk which would take about 20 minutes. Even though it took a bit more time, it was free and I could always use the exercise.

Savings: $11.00

Since I was going to be gone from about 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm getting this taken care of, I would usually grab a bite to each when I had a free moment. That would cost anywhere from $5.00 on up. Instead, I ate lunch a bit early for me (I usually eat around 1:00 – 2:00) before heading out the door which cost about $2 (and was much healthier).

Savings: $3.00

I had to get photos for the registration re-application. When I called, they said there was a photo shop across from the main building where I could get the photos for $20.00. I called the local photo shop in our area and they said they could do it for $12.00. Since it was on the way to the station, there was no problem doing that.

required photo size
The size of the photo I was required to get for the re-registration

Savings: $8.00

As I was walking to the station, I came across one of those self photo booths that was only $4.00.

photo booth
My money saving self- photo booth

I popped in there, did my self photo and was out in less than 5 minutes with the photos I needed. They weren’t cut to the correct size,

photos from machine
My uncut sheet of photos – worse than my driver’s license 😉

so I borrowed a pair of scissors from a cashier at the store nearby and cut them to the correct size.

trimming photos
The end result that saved $16

Savings: $8.00 more

There was no discount for the train tickets (they used to have cards where you could buy a large denomination and get a certain amount off, but they discontinued those a few years back) so I paid the full price of $9.60 for round trip.

Japanese train card
The Japanese train card I used

Even though they don’t give a discount, I did use a train card because I can sell these to collectors either here in Japan for $0.10 each or on ebay for more depending on the card pattern. In addition to my card, I picked up 17 other discarded cards other people had left.

Japanese train cards
The stash of cards I found for free

Savings: $0.00
Potential Earnings: $1.80 – $10.00

After I had submitted all the paperwork and photos, I was told that my new registration card would be ready in mid November and I was to come back to the office to pick it up then. Since I really didn’t want to go all the way back just to pick up the card, I asked them if they could send it to me. Unfortunately, I have to trade in the old card at that time, so that wasn’t an option. I asked if there was any way that I didn’t have to return all the way out there and they told me I could pick it up at the local branch office if I wanted. Since that branch is right by the train station, I opted for that.

Future Savings: $9.60

Currently I’m always on the lookout for possible new sources of income for a $5000 challenge I’m doing. I came up with a new idea to possibly make some extra income for this challenge if I can figure out a way to secure what I want at no or low cost.

In Japan, they often have banners flying outside of stores. Most are pretty simple, but some have famous people on them such as this one I saw of Ichiro.

Ichiro banner
A banner of baseball player Ichiro Suzuki

Since I assume these banners are thrown away after the campaign is over, I am going to try and ask some stores if I can have their no longer needed banners. I would assume some of these would sell quite well on auction.

Savings: $0.00
Potential Earnings: ???

So I started out with a budget of $45.60 and ended up spending $15.60 for a savings of $30.00. In addition, I saved $9.60 in the future by arranging not to have to go all the way back there. I picked up 18 cards that I can possible sell for between $1.80 and $10.00 plus a new idea for making some extra cash. While walking instead of driving took more time, overall I don’t think I spent a lot of extra time. This is mainly because I took the quick photos. When I arrived at the registration office where I first planned to have the photos taken, there was a line out the door of people waiting to get theirs taken also (boy, does that store have a cash cow business) which probably would have taken me an hour or so to get.

When it’s possible to save $30 in an afternoon like this, it’s easy to see why I believe saving money is the best investment that you can make. You would have had to leave $750 in a 4% earning bank account for an entire year for what I received instantly (and tax free to boot) for changing a few ways I could do things which needed to be done. I’ll let you know if I sell the cards in the future and if my banner idea comes to life…

Now the important step not to forget is to place that money into a savings account of some type (mine has already been set aside to be transferred into my Roth IRA at the end of the month) because it doesn’t count as savings if you end up spending it on something else…

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6 Responses to A Case Study On Saving Money

  1. Caitlin says:

    Great post…I *love* this post because it so clearly illustrates the possible savings that are available when you are actually looking for opportunities to do so. Good luck on the banner idea!

  2. Madame X says:

    This is an interesting snapshot of life in Japan, as well as some quick and easy savings!

  3. Gail says:

    Great article! It really shows that with some thinking and ‘giving’ up some things you can save money. Your ‘giving’ up driving to the station resulted in increased savings, increased ideas for more savings and of course some nice exercise. Also interesting about how things work in Japan.

  4. Myrna says:

    Awesome article, Jeremy! I love inspiring articles like these…keep on writing.

  5. Reality Bites says:

    Jeremy, where do you live in Japan?

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