J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
* * * * * * * 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, January 16, 2005 Issue No. 40
- What's new (High Gas Bill Got You Down? Read This!)
- Weekly Bargain Roundup (USB Flash Memory Roundup)
- Frugal tips (Efficient Cooking for Reducing Your Gas Bill)
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+++ WHAT'S NEW
Dear Frugal Readers,
Winter is a time for many seasonal things in Japan: hotpot nabe,
mikan, the warm kotatsu, and ... higher utility bills! Our bills
go up an average of 4,000-5,000 yen during the winter for a family
of three (including my father-in-law), but even when I was single I
noticed a significant jump. This year, the gas bill in particular
was an unpleasant surprise -- around 12,000 yen/month in winter, vs.
5,000 yen in summer. Whew! So, I began to do a little research to
see what we could do to lower this monster!
The largest winter gas expenditure is, without a doubt, the ofuro,
or bath. Did you know that the average Japanese bathtub holds 200
liters of water, and that filling up that bathtub ONCE with water
15C warmed to 40C (not that hot, actually) costs a total of
92 yen (66 yen for the gas water heater, and 26 yen in water at
0.13 yen per liter). That's a total of 2,760 yen per month (assuming
you bathe each day) and doesn't even include time in the shower!
To keep your bathwater nice and warm between uses (we're talking
about a Japanese-style furo here, where you wash and rinse BEFORE
you get in the tub), a bathlid (or furobuta) is a must. These
are usually sold at supermarkets, home centers, or even department
stores. A sturdy plastic lid (can be rolled up or stacked, depending
on the type) usually runs around 1,000-1,500 yen, but does a great job
keeping the bath warm. 100-yen shops also sell mylar bath sheets that
float on top of the water, though I don't know how long
they would last.
Running the shower (as your mother probably told you) is also
pretty expensive. Shortening your shower by one minute can save
up to 3.7 yen per shower, for a total savings of 444 yen per month
for a four-person family.
Another major expense during winter is warm water for
washing dishes. It's amazing how frigid that faucet
water can get! Many housewives recommend the purchase of rubber
gloves for dishwashing in the winter -- your hands don't get cold,
and you save on gas expense too. Most drug stores carry special
dish-washing rubber gloves with a warm fuzzy coating on the
inside, usually priced at around 300-500 yen. Finally, using a
plastic tub in your sink with warm, soapy water to soak your
dishes before your rinse them is also smart.
Wow -- there's loads of practical advice in this column!
Enjoy, and email us if you have any other additional gas bill
Wendy J. Imura
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+++ BARGAIN ROUNDUP +++
Yesterday, I used a floppy disk (3.5") for the first time in
several years, and felt almost nostalgic. These days, most
people either send their files electronically, or use one of the
handy new portable memory devices. The most popular of these is
the pocket US Flash Memory type. Usually as small as a keychain,
these handy devices plug into most PCs' USB slots. Here are
EasyDisk Mate EDM-256M/W 2,835 yen
Made by industry mainstay IODATA, this basic 256MB flash memory
disk stores the equivalent of roughly 170 floppy disks. It can
be used with both Windows 98/98SE and above and MacOS 9.0X. It
weighs about 12 grams, and is roughly the size of a half a pack
of gum. Check kakaku.com for the cheapest price here:
MF-FU2512CGT (512MB StarSuite 7) 8,110 yen
Need more memory? Try the 512MB StarSuite. Twice the data for about 3x
the price, the StarSuit is among the cheapest of the 512MB models I
found. The simple, black design is pretty darn cool, and Success
(an online electronics store) is offering this for a fair discount off
the 11,000 yen list price. Interested? Check:
ED-NAME32 USB (32MB) Price unlisted
Okay, so here's a twist on the USB memory sticks I found: IO Data Japan
has combined a 32MB drive with a rubber hanko (name stamp)! Two useful
items in one. Checkout this entry from the Engadget Blog for more
details and a picture. Should be released later in January.
(BONUS ROUNDUP: In the market for a child's flash memory disk? Try this:
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+++ FRUGAL TIPS
BONUS GAS BILL REDUCTION TIP!
You can even reduce your gas bill through efficient cooking. The
most efficient setting for cooking on a standard Japanese conro,
or two-lid gas stove, is apparently "chubi," or medium heat.
(The kanji are "chuu" or "naka" for middle and "hi" for fire.)
According to calculations, it actually costs less (3.0 yen) to
heat an 18cm teapot with 2 liters of 15C water for 16 mintues at
medium heat that at low heat (4.1 yen for 42.8 minutes)
or high heat (3.7 yen for 9.8 minutes). So, when boiling something,
choose medium heat!
(From Manekuru Kakeibo, Japanese money-saving tip site.
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+++ ABOUT US
Written by: Wendy J. Imura (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Edited by: JI
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