* * * * * * * * 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, June 27, 2004 Issue No. 014


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

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Dear Frugal Readers,

Four weeks ago (when the weather was a bit more bearable), I introduced
a rather ambitious topic: debt-proof living. After defining debt-proof
living, I promised to revisit the idea with further details later.
Well, the time has come. This week will be the second in a "once-a-
month" series of articles devoted to steps to achieving debt-proof
living. Let's get started!

The first step in becoming debt-proof is the most vital -- a change in
your attitude. How many times have you been shocked by your high credit
card bill or your too-low bank balance? The shock might have spurred
you to temporarily mend your ways by paying off a few credit card
balances or saving for a few months. But gradually, most people
return to their former habits. Sometimes a sudden or unexpected expense,
like doctor's bills or home or auto repair, puts you over the edge,
or you may have a gradual lapse in principles, like overspending on a
vacation. Regardless, a major lifestyle change is usually required to
make any permanent progress toward debt-proof living.

Mary Hunt, author of Debt-Proof Living (can be purchased at
www.frugaljapan.com) and the original source of these ideas, identifies
six fundamental principles behind debt-proof living. The major thrust
of these is that we are stewards of the money we are given to use.
It is a gift that is ours to manage wisely, not to pilfer away, and
that we must never keep or spend all of our money. Unsecured debt is
ultimately a hazard to financial well-being -- and more money is
not the real solution to our problems.

Practically speaking, the change in attitude has to begin with a
commitment on your part to do the following:

1) Recognize that money is both a gift and a tool, to be managed and
nurtured wisely, through the principle of wise stewardship.

2) Set aside a certain ratio of your income to save, give and use.
(Mary Hunt recommends a 10 percent, 10 percent and 80 percent formula,
but individual needs should determine this.)

3) Incur no additional new unsecured debt, and work to reduce the
debt you have. If you must incur debt, try to pay it off within
the month.

4) Realize that the scale of your spending generally grows to meet
your income, and that a higher income will only result in more
expenses unless you get your spending under control.

There is a lot of heavy-duty information in the two paragraphs above,
and it might take some to sink in. If you are serious about learning
to live a debt-proof life, I recommend taking a good look at
Mary Hunt's website: www.cheapskatemonthly.com. The price of online
membership alone should be more than rewarded by the changes you
find in your life if you are able to make the serious changes

In July, look forward to some concrete tips on how to make the second
step towards debt proof-living -- assessing your personal financial


-> Japan's Hi-tech Toilets -- How Much do they Cost?

One member of the Frugal Japan community recently asked a very
interesting question: Are the high-tech toilets in Japan, which will do
anything from wash and warm your nether regions to measure blood sugar
levels, frugal? While certainly convenient, one does wonder if the extra
expense is really worth it -- heating the toilet seat, the extra water

Let's take a look at the costs and savings of Japan's popular toilet

First, there is the 'Otohime' -- a noisemaker installed in public
restrooms in Japan that emits a flushing noise to mask human bathroom
sounds. Previously, many Japanese women would flush twice -- once before
going, and once after. The Otohime, however, is estimated to save as
much as 20 litres of water each trip to the bathroom. An article
on Web-Japan.org estimates that "In an office building with 400 female
workers, installing sound makers can save over 10 million liters of
water in one year, assuming that each woman goes to the bathroom five
times daily -- and that, without a sound maker, all of them would
flush twice). This translates into a reduction in the water bill of
7.74 million yen." That sounds frugal to me! For the record,
you can buy these for home use: both my parents' and brother's
homes in the US have one, bought for between 8,000 yen (off brand)
to 16,800 yen (Toto brand).

Next: the heated toilet seat! Obviously, this product is more of a
luxury than a necessary expense. Low-priced "washlet" seats range from
around Y30,000 to Y60,000 and above, plus installation costs. Then there
are the running costs to consider. Toto's latest energy-saving model (the
slim Apricot N series) costs around Y210/month to operate, as opposed to
Y690/month for former models. Newer models also use 50 percent less water
for "cleaning functions". Unlike the Otohime, which was designed as a
way to save money, the heated toilet seats are clearly more expensive
than the traditional plastic variety. However, as the costs of operating
that luxury are probably going down, you can feel a little better about
buying one!

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Please enjoy this Frugal Japan Summer Vegetable favorite -- now is a
great time of year to enjoy delicious summer vegetable recipes for
half the usual cost.

Amazing Summer Gaspacho
(For those not in the know, gazpacho is a cold tomato base soup
originating in Spain. My grandmother made a wonderful version, so I
always thought it was a traditional Southern food! Little did I
know it was originally European.)

Ripe tomatoes (1 kg, or 8 or 9 medium-size tomatoes)
(Note: Apparently, only the very red tomatoes will work. The paler
pinkish tomatoes do not have enough flavor to make a good soup.)
Onion (1/2)
Small green peppers (piman) (3)
Cucumbers, peeled (2)
Chop the above vegetables until they are chunky.

Stale bread, broken up into crumbs (30g.)
Garlic, peeled and crushed (one clove -- you can add more according to
Olive oil (5 to 6 tablespoons or oosaji)
Salt (1 to 2 tablespoons according to taste)
Wine vinegar (3 to 3 1/2 tablespoons -- other types of vinegar may be
Cumin, if you have it (a little to taste)

Add the mixed seasonings to the chopped vegetables in a bowl. Mix well.
Let the mixture "marinate" for 2-3 hours, preferably in the refrigerator.
Run the mixture through a blender. Add one cup of water to thin out the
Very easy, and very refreshing for summer. Serve in a chilled dish and
with parsley sprigs for garnish.



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

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