There are few people lucky enough that they do not have to concern themselves with money. However, for the rest of us be it because we fell on hard times or because we have financial goals for the future tips and tricks for saving a little bit of cash is always welcome advice.
In this blog post we will focus on 10 simple things that you can do to save yourself some money during your time here in Okinawa.
1. Only turn on the hot water when you need it.
If you’re living in Japan you have probably noticed that hot water does not flow through your pipes unless you prompt it but turning on your hot water heater. This can usually be done from a panel somewhere in your home which allows you to adjust the water temperature and turn on the heating element.
Because this tankless hot water heater does not store hot water in a tank and heats water relatively quickly there is no reason to leave it on continuously. Turning on and off the hot water heater when needed not only saves fuel (for those who are trying to live a more eco friendly lifestyle) but it also saves you a LOT of money.
2. Collect water rather than let it run down the drain.
Have you ever wondered how many liters of water you’re letting run down the drain each day while waiting for the shower to get to the right temperature? In my house it’s about 8 liters. That’s 4 of those big PET bottles that you can buy at a convenience store. . . . . down the drain. . . . . . . and you just paid for it! Then consider all the other ways you use water throughout the day. Maybe you have a garden that you water, pets that need to have their water bowl filled, or even dishes to soak. All of these things can be done with the water that would have otherwise been sent down the drain.
Saving this water and reusing it isn’t that difficult or costly either. In my house we simply save some old PET bottles and full them up each day while preparing to take a shower. Then whenever I need some water for whatever purpose I can grab a bottle and use it as required.
3. Ditch the American appliances.
Everyone is familiar with the appliances from their home country and for some of us with the opportunity (like moving over here with the US military for example) we want to stick with the brands we know. Unfortunately for Americans who have grown attached to American appliances (washers, dryers, microwaves, coffee makers) this can sometimes mean dishing out extra cash.
The reason for this is not because of the purchase cost of these appliances while overseas but rather the cost to run the appliances themselves. American appliances draw more power (because there is more power available in the US) than Japanese appliances. More power means more money and that can simply be avoided by replacing some of your American products with Japanese alternatives.
4. Dry clothes on the clothes line.
One of the many things that is desirable about Okinawa is the beautiful weather and warm (although some would call it scorching) sun. This makes it the perfect place to dry clothes on the line rather than utilizing a dryer. The best part about drying clothes on a clothes line rather than using an electric dryer is that it’s absolutely no cost to you! With a deal like that how could you pass it up?
5. Utilize surge protectors with on/off switches.
One of the many great ways to save money is to not only turn off appliances when they are not in use but also to unplug them and prevent them from drawing something referred to as vampire power. This is when appliances such the life. . . . I mean power. . . . even when they are not in use. This is one of the main reasons that people have the nightmarish stories of the ¥60,000 electric bill. Although this is hugely beneficial to your wallet it can sometimes be a nuisance. That is why I started using power strips with individual on/off switches. These easy to find and very affordable power strips/surge protectors allow you to control which socket is receiving power with the quick flip of a switch!
6. Take it easy on the AC.
The summers in Okinawa can be brutal and for many the solution is to crank up the AC and pump in as much cool air as possible. However this can sometimes cause electric bills to skyrocket. Although I think that it is unreasonable to suggest, especially for newcomers, a 100% cutback on AC usage there are still things that you can do in order to bring the costs down to a manageable level. For example, rather than keeping all of the AC units in the house on at once limit usage just to the room you and your familiar are utilizing. Also try utilizing the dehumidifier function on your AC unit rather than the AC itself. The main source of discomfort in Okinawa’s summer months is actually not the heat but the humidity. In many cases running the dehumidifying function (available on most Japanese air conditioning units) will make the room feel much cooler and use less power than the AC on it’s own.
7. Take advantage of natural light.
Turn off the lights! Mother nature provides hours of natural light every day at absolutely no cost to you. Pull back the curtains and enjoy!
One of the great things about Okinawa is that almost every neighborhood is within walking distance of anything you could need on an average day. This is great for people who don’t have a car to get around but it’s also great for those who are wanting to save a little bit of cash and stay fit in the process. Rather than taking the car to get a few thing from the grocery store or that dozen eggs that you forgot why not walk? It’s a great way to get a little exercise, save some money on gas and best of all do a little exploring on the way. You’ll never know what you can find in your neighborhood until you take the time to check it out on foot!
9. Forget about the guide book!
Believe it or not most of the fun stuff to do and see here on Okinawa is actual free and open to the public. Hundreds of parks, historic sites, museums and much much more are just out there waiting for visitors to walk through the front door. In fact, there are so many things to see and do on Okinawa that even after my almost 10 years on this island I have barely even scratched the surface! (NOTE: Most of the sites that I feature in my videos or blog posts are actually free and open to the public. There are few which have a small admission fee of only a few hundred yen but for the most part it’s a penny pincher’s paradise here in Okinawa!)
10. When in Rome. . . . . . . eat like the locals eat.
Everyone needs food to survive but that doesn’t mean that we need to sacrifice huge chunks of our paycheck at the grocery store each week. In fact you and your family can reduce the cost of groceries you purchase each week by simply eating local. Rather than focusing only on meals that you would find yourself eating in the US try some dishes out that the people of Okinawa enjoy.
Eating what the locals people eat is not only a great way to save money on groceries but it’s also a way to immerse yourself into the culture, learn some new cooking techniques and eat healthier meals (as Okinawa is known for having a tremendously healthy diet).
Have a money saving tip that you think would be beneficial to others? Put it in the comments below!