Budgeting While on JET

The best thing about being an adult by far is having a steady stream of income. No living paycheck to paycheck, no asking your parents for loans. It’s just you making your own money work for you. Unfortunately in the beginning stages of your adult life, finding a steady stream of income to fit your lifestyle is easier said than done.

A couple of my non-JET ALT friends bring up the JET salary when the topic of money comes up. And while it is higher than the average ALT salary it’s not amazing. I don’t advise coming onto JET if your only goal is to make money. All JETs are paid a base salary but the amount of money you are able to save depends on your situation. JETs that live in big cities usually have to pay higher costs of living than JETs that live in the country side. Those of us that drive have to worry about car expenses over taking public transportation.

But no matter what your situation is, it seems that everyone has been able to save up a decent amount of money to put towards their future goals. Let’s have a look at the standard JET salary for first year. I’ll be doing the calculations based on my first year living on JET. Remember everyone’s cost will vary greatly depending on where you live and what you do.

First Year Salary: ¥280,000    After Taxes ¥225, 645




As you can see after all my expenses have been paid off I was still able to keep about half of my paycheck. Since I didn’t have any outstanding loans or commitments to worry about back in America for my first year of work I tried to save at least $200-$300 every month. I think my savings goals were probably on the low end compared to others but I was able to enjoy my first year to the fullest.

While you can’t control how much money you make from the BOE, you can control how deep you dig into your pockets. Here’s what I did to keep myself from overspending every month.


Set a Goal


With everything you do in life, you should have a goal. It’s easy to say “save your money” but if you don’t have a goal to save for, then it’s even easier to justify spending that money. Weather it be for student loans or graduate school write down something you want to save your money for. Then set date specific goals on the amount of money you should have saved up. That way you can stay on track and keep your money in your account. If this is your first time living on your own I suggest using a spread sheet like the one above, to track what you spend money on. Write down exactly how much money you spend and track all your receipts. It seems tedious at first but you’ll quickly realize how fast your money can disappear on you.



Stop Eating Out



It looks good but it’s so pricey 

It’s no secret that Japan’s quality of food is much higher than the US. While $5 can get you a small value meal from McDonalds 500円 in Japan can get you a much better quality meal from the convince store. Even though it’s “better” for you it’s still considered fast food, and the costs add up quicker than you will expect. 500円 for three meals turns into ¥1500 yen a day. Then that turns into about ¥10500 yen after seven days. It’s  easier to just buy fast food everyday but it’s cheaper and healthier for you to cook most of your meals at home. Save eating out for the work parties and weekends when it’ll be really worth it.


Buy your Groceries in the Evening

Discout Bentos

The price is a little bit cheaper in the evening

Continuing with cooking at home, shopping in the evening can save you a great deal of money for groceries. Many department stores sell their left over produce, meat, and bentos at half off. The idea is that they don’t want to the food to go to waste since they’re just going to throw it out. So even if you’re still itching for a good bento box you can wait a couple hours later for a cheaper price.


Discount Sites/ Recycle Shops

Shopping in Japan can be frustrating because brand new items are very overpriced. But due to the nature of Japan’s “motainaii”(literal translation: what a waste) mentality second hand stores usually offer really good deals. Most items are in like new condition and cost less than half off the original price.  Sometimes you can find good deals on Amazon Japan but other discount shops like Rakuten and Mercari will usually have better deals*Disclaimer these sites are in Japanese*




Hostels and Capsule Hotels

Capsule Hotel

Your own space for 2,000 yen/night 

While on JET you want to be able to travel at least around Japan. Traveling in Japan can get rather expensive especially during peak holiday times. A way to cut down on those costs in staying in hostels and capsule hotels. Instead of having one private room, you share a room with several people. Neither of these are particularly fancy stays but they are cheap sometimes going for 2,000 yen a night. All the hostels I stayed in had English speaking staff and some of them offered breakfast or tour guides through the area.


While you can’t control how big your checks from the BOE are you can control how deep you dig into your own pockets. Saving money on JET can be difficult but not impossible. If you’re really adamant about what you’re saving towards.

What about you? Have you had any trouble saving money while on the program? Are there any tips and tricks you can give for saving your money, leave your comments below.

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