FW-03

* * * * * * * * * F R U G A L W A T C H * * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of how to be frugal in the world's most
expensive country to live (unless you read this!), written
and compiled by Wendy J. Imura.

Regular edition, Sunday, 28th March, 2004 Issue No. 003

+++ INDEX

- What's new
- Frugal news
- Frugal tips
- Credits

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+++ WHAT'S NEW

Dear Frugal Readers,

Over the last few years, the "Ides of March" seem to have come a bit
late in the month for the Japanese economy. The US dollar approaching
record low levels, news of a continued slump in land prices (despite
a slight improvement in the rate of decline), and the jittery
Japanese stock market have all made for a decidedly sour mood these
last few weeks.

Maybe it's all the uncertainty in the air, but March always seems to
find me performing an "annual review" on the state of my personal
finances as well. In particular, I like to update my information on
the amount of savings that I have in my various accounts. Most people
seem surprised to hear that there are a number of useful, smart, and
frugal financial instruments offered by Japanese institutions that can
be of help to the intrepid ex-pat who seeks them out.

One of the easiest ways I have found to save money in Japan is the use
of the use a direct-deposit account (called a 'teiki yokin') through a
commercial bank, trust bank, or the post office. There are several
types. For 'salarymen' families or employed persons at a Japanese
company, there are "zaigata" savings accounts. These are essentially a
direct savings plan set up by a company for their workers, and contract
employees may not be eligible. The company usually manages these
accounts, and interest rates and holding terms vary. Talk with your
employer if you are interested.

For everyone else, I recommend the 'tsumitate teiki yokin' (automatic
savings timed deposit). This can be set up through any commercial bank
where you already have an account, and is even offered at the Japanese
Post Office. Term periods anywhere from one month to a year or more.
Minimum deposits are usually Y5000, increasing afterwards in increments
of Y1000. (Note that post office savings are limited to Y10 million per
person.)

Why use a 'teiki yokin'? Well, while interest rates are negligible,
it's an idiot-proof way of starting and keeping a habit of saving.
The money is automatically withdrawn from your main account into the
savings account, and while accessible in most cases (should you have
an emergency), most of the time it just grows without you noticing it!
I personally time my monthly savings (10% of salary) withdrawal for
the day after payday, avoiding any cash flow worries.

While there are many other unique 'teiki yokin' combination products,
including multiple currency options, the simple automatic withdrawal
plan is a very good first step to building savings, pain-free, in Japan.
Are you interested? Walk down to your local bank tellers' window during
a quiet hour (be sure and bring your passbook, ID, and personal seal if
you have one), and begin inquiring!

Happy savings!
Wendy J. Imura

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+++ FRUGAL NEWS

-> Spring shopping
Itching to do some spring shopping? Check out sales at major Tokyo
department stores this next week (March 26-April 2nd).
** Isetan's flagship Shinjuku store is holding its Spring Men's
Fashion Sale from March 31st-April 5th.
** Keio Department store is running a "Miki House Festival,"
featuring good prices on the popular children's clothing brands
from April 1st-6th.
** Those with young children might also want to visit Takashimaya's
"Pokemon Spring Festival (Haru Matsuri)" at the Nihonbashi store,
from March 24-April 5th, which is sure to feature more of the crazy
yellow cartoon character than most parents can handle. (Nikkei
Interesse, April 2004)

Finally, for those of you living in Northeast Tokyo and Saitama -
rejoice! Tokyu Hands has finally opened a store in our neck of the
woods, as part of the new Kita Senjyu Marui Department Store. This
branch opened on February 24th, and features all of the familiar
products we know and love. How is this frugal? It at least saves
on the train fare to Shinjuku!

-> Tired of running out of cash after a long holiday, or frantically
searching for an ATM that doesn't close at 6 PM? Well, the good news
is that Japanese banks are finally waking up to the fact that
convenience matters to customers. UFJ Bank is gradually introducing
24-hour service at many of its ATMs. Customers can open the doors to
stand-alone UFJ ATM booths by swiping their ATM cards in an automatic
reader at the entrance. Convenience store ATMs also offer an
alternative option. Currently, Shinsei Bank is the only retail bank
offering complete coverage at all convenience store chain ATMs (Seven
Eleven Japan, am-pm, Family Mart, and Lawson), while UFJ Bank
customers can utilize ATMs at all stores with some variations on
service level. Conversely, Mitsui Sumitomo Bank customers can only use
am/pm's ATM machines.

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>>>>---------------------------------------------------<

+++ FRUGAL TIPS

The Power of 'Su' - Japanese Vinegar

Vinegar is a well-known and commonly used ingredient in a
wide variety of homemade cleaning solutions in the West. But
what about Japan? Japanese 'su' comes in many varieties, and
is a popular component of healthy cooking and drinks these
days. It can also be used for cleaning.

One convenient way to use 'su' is to make Vinegar Spray. Simply
take 100cc of Japanese vinegar (the everyday kind sold in the
supermarket is fine), dilute with 200cc of water, and pour into
a spray bottle. (Plastic spray bottles can be found cheaply at
Y100 shops, but a glass spray bottle is better for storage.)
For those bothered by the strong vinegary smell, adding a little
fresh peppermint to the bottle can "freshen up" your cleaning
spray.

Vinegar Spray can be used in a number of household cleaning
tasks, including wiping away mold, dusting home appliances,
cleaning the refrigerator and the inside of microwaves, wiping
away grime on wood furniture, and for removing carpet stains.
Enjoy your frugal cleaning!

>>>>---------------------------------------------------<

END

+++ ABOUT US

STAFF
Written by: Wendy J. Imura (frugalwatch@japaninc.com)

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