FW-80 -- Frugal Watch Is Back, and "Managing Money with Baby"

* * * * * * * * 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, November 22, 2005 Issue No. 80

- Frugal Watch Is Back, and "Managing Money with Baby"
- Credits

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***Frugal Watch Is Back, and "Managing Money with Baby"***

Dear Frugal Readers,

Greetings fond Frugalites - and many thanks for your patience with
my maternity leave. I certainly appreciated the break, and
I know my family did. For the record, Baby Imura was born in
late September, and is doing very well - while we're not sleeping
that much, we certainly are enjoying ourselves. I'm happy to
be back again, and look forward to your continued readership
and participation. Yoroshiku!

While I can promise that babies and children will NOT be the
dominant Frugal Watch topic from here on out, I couldn't resist
sharing a few of the things (both frugal and not) I've discovered
over the last month or so. Even if you never have a baby in Japan,
it's bound to be interesting from a cross-cultural perspective.
So, with no further ado, please enjoy my top three tips for
managing money with a baby in Japan.

1) Make a post-baby budget AHEAD of time.
Many women (or men) take time off from work to care for an
infant. Whether your parental leave is six months or semi-permanent,
most families suffer through lost income a financial hit during
the first year of their child's life. Planning ahead, both through
creating a financial "cushion" and calculating your post-baby budget
before Junior is born, can save a lot of headaches later.

2) Have a realistic view of your post-baby expenses.
Some will go up, some will go down. Aside from medical expenses
such as hospital bills, you can count on higher water, electricity,
and gas bills for at least six months to a year, particularly during
winter. Babies create lots of laundry, particularly if you are
using cloth diapers. Diapers, formula (if your baby is not breastfed),
diaper wipes, and other myriad consumable items also add up
significantly. Keeping track of your baby-related expenses in a
separate category in your household accounts will help you control
them better.

3) Know, and take advantage of, the public welfare/company
payments due to you.
As you might know, expenses for a normal birth are not covered
under Japanese National Health Insurance or corporate insurance
plans. Instead, you pay out of pocket and are reimbursed by
a 300,000 yen "gift" to offset the expenses through the insurance
body. In addition, depending on your situation, a number of
other payments may be due: a percentage of your salary
if you are a regular employee on maternity leave, unemployment
payments equal to a significant portion of your salary if you
have a baby within six months of quitting your job (and you
paid into unemployment insurance), and even special allowances
from your town or city government or company. If you meet income
requirements, your child may also be eligible for reduced medical
care expenses (we only pay 500 yen for each doctor's visit until our
child is 5 years old!), or "kodomo teate" (welfare payments for
children) - 5,000 yen/month per child until the child reaches the
third year of elementary school. As with most public welfare payments,
you can only receive them if you apply for them. Thus, it pays to do

There are, of course, plenty more tips for controlling costs
when baby arrives, but these first three should help get you

Frugally Yours,
Wendy J. Imura

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

Copyright 2005 Japan Inc. Communications Inc.