FW-65 -- Frugal Housecleaning/Helper Services

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, July 25, 2005 Issue No. 65

- What's New (Frugal Housecleaning/Helper Services)
- Frugal Friends: (Know Theyself Better: KNT Co. Ltd)
- Frugal Tips (How I Found a 1,000-yen Sewing Machine)
- Credits

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+++ WHAT'S NEW (Frugal Housecleaning/Helper Services)

Dear Frugal Readers,

All right, you're probably scratching your head in amazement and
wondering: "Is there really such a thing as a frugal housecleaning/helper
service," especially in Tokyo, recently voted the most expensive city in
the world?

In a word, yes! There are several options available to those either too
pressed for time to do their own housecleaning, or in need of general
help around the house. "But wait," you reply, "truly frugal folks don't spend
money on things they could do themselves!" Well, you may be right. But
at a certain point in our modern lives, the time gained by outsourcing certain
tasks becomes more valuable than the money spent on the task.

The primary solution to this issue is one of Japan's best kept frugal
secrets - the Silver Jinzai Center, or Senior Citizen's Work Center. The
concept is ingenious: retired Japanese folks (men and women, usually in
their 60s or 70s) who are still healthy and desiring of a way to earn money,
feel useful, and contribute to society register with the Center. The Center, in
turn, dispatches them to households in the area with various needs. The list
of jobs that these folks can do is amazing: basic household chores such
as cleaning, laundry, shopping, meal preparation, housesitting/petsitting,
help after the birth of a new baby, accompanying aged relatives needing
nursing care on walks or to the hospital, gardening, weed-pulling,
babysitting, light carpentry work, light office work, kimono repair, and even
mail/pamphlet delivery.

Each locality(city/ward/town/village) runs its own Silver Jinzai Center,
so prices and services vary by location. I've used the service in the
past for gardening (1,000 yen/hour) and housecleaning before a move
(16,000 yen for 4 hours/2 people). A friend in Kyoto swears by their
babysitting service, which she has used for her two children three
days a week for three years (800 yen/hour).

Who uses the service? Many people! Families where both spouses
work (especially those with children), singles who work long hours,
and even stay-at-home moms looking for a break once a week to
accomplish some shopping, get a haircut, or just relax away from
their children.

A few things to be careful about: the staff registered with the center
may be not be able to do more heavy cleaning (such as A/C cleaning
or heavy lifting)/construction work due to physical limitations or their
age. Also, the relationship between the staff member and the client
is more that of a "volunteer/helper" and friend than that of a service
provider/client. Thus, sometimes it can be difficult to get precisely
what you want out of the service due to personal issues and other
concerns. Altogether, however, I hear mostly good things about the

To find your local Silver Jinzai Center, check your locality's newsletter
(Koho), or call or drop by the City/Town/Ward Hall to inquire about it.
Usually the Silver Center is housed in a different location, but the city
hall staff can usually point you in the right direction. (Be sure and ask
for Shiruba Jinzai Sentaa in Japanese!)

A slightly more expensive option (but still cheaper than using a
commercial cleaning service like Duskin or Mini Maids) is utilizing a
'kaseifu' or housekeeper introduction service. These services act as
"matching" agencies for housekeepers, 'homehelpers' (those that
help the elderly or disabled in daily living tasks), or even home nurses
and their clients, and often charge an introductory fee on top of basic
rates. Rates for these firms vary, but Sugamo Kaseifu Shokaisho
(Sugamo Kaseifu Introductory Service) offers part-time maid service
from 9:00-5:00 AM from 1,500 yen/hour (three to five hours), plus
a 10.5% surcharge from the service and a 670-yen registration
fee. The client also pays transport costs directly to the housekeeper.
Again, not especially frugal, but they offer a wider range of services
than the Silver Jinzai Centers, and also enable a more professional
customer/service provider relationship. Check out Sugamo's website
here (Japanese only):

Whatever type of service you choose, remember it's sometimes
necessary to outsource major household tasks (or even minor ones),
due to a particular event or situation in life, or even just to get a
"mental health break!"

Frugally yours,
Wendy J. Imura

PS: Information in this article was inspired by the July 24, 2005
Sunday Nikkei article "Kaji wa Pro ni Omakase."

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+++ FRUGAL FRIENDS (Know Theyself Better: KNT Co. Ltd) ++++

Welcome to a new section on Frugal Watch: Frugal Friends! In this
corner, we introduce foreign-owned or foreigner-friendly businesses and
services around Japan. If you know of a Frugal Friend-worthy business,
or would like to introduce your own business to our nearly 1,000 readers,
email Wendy J. Imura (frugalwatch@japaninc.com)!

**** KNT Co. Ltd (http://www.kntnet.jp) ***********

At certain times in one's life or career, it often becomes necessary to
take an inventory of your personal strengths and weaknesses. Likewise,
sometimes the encouragement or help of a professional coach can be
a true motivator in achieving a personal, career, or even family goal. To
help meet these needs, I'm proud to introduce Terry Nii and KNT Co.
Ltd. Learn a bit more about KNT from Terri herself:

"We established KNT 5 years ago and 2 years ago we started the
Coaching division. The focus is individual personality assessment to
promote self-understanding and personal development. I use the
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, an excellent tool in helping people to
objectively view themselves and identify their personal strengths.
Through improved self-understanding, people are better able to set
personal and career directions."

"Details on the process, etc. are on the website. I have tried to set a
frugal fee so that individuals can take advantage of this great
assessment. The Press section has a Japan Times article that
describes application of the Myers-Briggs (MBTI)." Indeed, please
visit the KNT wesbite (www.kntnet.jp)
to learn more about the MBTI and its unique applications.

Looking for some frugal, but valuable, life direction? Check out KNT!

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+++ FRUGAL TIPS (How I Found a 1,000-yen Sewing Machine)

This is one of my most recent frugal buys, and I am very happy. I was
looking for a very simple sewing machine to accomplish a few basic
projects. I hesitated to buy a new machine, knowing that I would rarely
use it. I searched high and low for a used machine (called every dealer in
town), but none sold any used machines in my price range (3,000-5,000
yen). There was, however, a booming market in used commercial sewing
machines. No friends living close by had a machine I could borrow, and
no local notions or craft stores had a machine available for rent (some,
however, do - usually 300 - 500 yen/hour, in store).

About to give up, I tried www.bidders.co.jp as a last resort.
Bidders is my favorite online auction site. I searched through the items on
auction, using the Japanese term for sewing machine ('mishin' in katakana)
and the Japanese term for used ('chuuko' in kanji). Low and behold, a
simple sewing machine, used, was available for 1,000 yen from a reputable
auctioneer (you can view past comments to determine their reliability).
I won the auction (very few people bid on used sewing machines,
apparently), and will pay for the item by postal transfer. With shipping
included, it comes to 2,160 yen - well within my initial price range. While
there is some risk in buying used and buying online, the same would hold
true for using Ebay in the US, or any other auctioneer.
-Wendy Jonas Imura, July 2005.
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Written by: Wendy J. Imura (frugalwatch@japaninc.com)
Edited by: JI

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