How to save money in Tokyo? Shopping at 100 yen shops is obvious. Shopping late at night to get discounted food is child’s play. Here’s how I save enough yen so I can have fun doing the things I love to do.
Make The Most Of Commuter Passes and 1 Day Passes
Generally companies pay for for workers’ transportation. So I try to do all that I can within the boundaries of those stations.
In my gyaru days I had unlimited access to all the entertainment and shopping spots in Shibuya. Combined with my 109 shop discount and free club entry/drink tickets, I could afford to go out every weekend.
Those days are behind me of course, but my commuter train and bus pass allow me to go to Ikspiari, LaLaPort, Ikea, Costco and more.
When I’m going beyond those stations I rely on 1 Day Passes to help me get the most of my trip.
For example, a round trip train fare to Shinjuku from my home is 640 yen. Round trip fare on the bus (to and from the train station) is 420 yen, brining my total to 1,060 yen. But, I can buy a bus and train pass for 700 yen, and save a few hundred yen.
Having a day pass means that I can get on and off the train or bus when I please. I can’t stress enough how great that is when the monster is out of control or I want to find a quiet place to nurse. They’re also great when I’m out on assignment for my latest writing project and want to explore Tokyo a bit after my work is done
It pays to shop online! Doing the Monday to Friday thing, I hated going out on the weekend and holiday so online shipping was a life saver. Especially now that I have a have a baby, shopping online makes everything easy for me.
The trick is to look for items that ship for free or come with bonus points.
I rarely ever use Amazon Japan (unless I have a coupon — more on that later). Instead I prefer Rakuten and Yahoo Shopping.
Rakuten has monthly “shopping marathons” where your bonus points per 100 yen increase for every shop you visit. This doesn’t mean that I buy useless things for the sake of earning points.
Instead I strategically plan what household items/personal items I need to buy – dish detergent, Febreze, diapers and wipes for baby, dog food, hand sanitizer, sanitary napkins, cosmetics… then I buy it all during the shopping marathon.
I also like Rakuten for its Wednesday Asu Raku（あす楽/next day delivery) campaigns. If I can’t wait until the next shopping marathon, I’ll wait until Wednesday morning to shop. When I check out using the next day delivery option, I earn triple points for every 100 yen spent. Asu Chaku is my everything when it comes to buying bottled water and baby diapers in bulk — heavy things that I can’t manage on my own.
As a Softbank user, I automatically get 10 points for every 100 yen spent on Yahoo Shopping. I’m not a fan of Yahoo’s interface, but for 10 bonus points per 100 yen, I can deal with that!
Points and Point Cards
To get the most out of my yen, I’m all about points, points, points! I love point cards so much, I even have point cards that I use for my favorite restaurants and cafes in Seoul!
How I earn points:
Make point cards from the places where I work or near my home. No need to make a point card for a place that I rarely visit. They’ll just take up valuable space in my wallet l.
Before I shop, I ask myself, “How many points can I get from this?” I don’t waste my time collecting points at a rate of one point per 100 yen or 200 yen. I try my best to maximize the use of my point cards by shopping only when it’s bonus point day or when certain items come with 10, 20+ bonus point.
My neighborhood supermarket has triple point Friday (and ice cream is 20% off!).
For ingredients that I need immediately, I go to the convenience store or the supermarket near my work station and rack up points that way.
I sign up for mail magazines so I’ll be on the know for opportunities to gain extra points. It’s a ton of inbox spam, but I like knowing when the next sale is going to happen.
Find out more about earning and redeeming points on my article at Best Living Japan.
Credit cards, when used properly, can help loads when trying to save money in Tokyo. They’re a great way to earn points, too!
I know getting a credit card is a big hurdle here. I remember getting rejected for the 109 credit card — even though I worked there! — simply because of my visa status.
But once I got my foot in the door with a student credit card, I’ve learned a few tips about using them in Japan.
I maximize my point per yen ratio by shopping only at places that give me bonus points when I use my ANA branded cards.
Among some of the benefits are:
I get bonus points when I buy my ticket directly from ANA and bonus miles when I fly on an ANA flight. Plus, I also earn bonus miles based on the rank of my card.
I also get bonus points when I shop at 7/11, Rakuten, Matsumoto Kiyoshi, and many, many other places. I have bookmarked ANA’s page so I can use it as a reference at any time I want to shop.
Once points are converted to ANA miles, those miles can be further converted to ANA Sky Coins. Sky Coins are awesome because they basically function as cash. So, if my travel dates won’t let me book a reward ticket, I use Sky Coins to buy a ticket- and I get flight miles for my trip!
If I’m not flying ANA, I’ll book a ticket through Expedia (earning bonus credit card points). My flight to Australia was on Qantas, which earned my JAL points that I later used for 3,000 yen worth of coupons at Family Mart. On top of that I earned T-Points when I used those coupons!
On top of the extra points, another valuable perk is travelers insurance. I hope I’ll never need to use it, but it’s good to know that I’ll be covered just in case.
I love to cook so this is easy for me. People who don’t like to cook may find this challenging, but cooking is an awesome way to save money.
My husband and I do eat out occasionally, but we make it a rule that what we eat must be something that I can’t easily make a home, like sushi, katsudon, pizza, or a chargrilled burger.
Cooking also lets me save money since I don’t have to buy baby food (except for some that are in the family emergency bag). What baby doesn’t eat, Kokuto will, so I save money on dog food, too!
Online Surveys and EC Sites
I have signed up with several Japanese sites where I complete surveys and earn extra yen or free products for testing. I also complete surveys for T-Points and Rakuten points as well. Click on the image above to sign up for EC Navi (link in Japanese).
I’m not exactly swimming in yen with surveys. Still, the ¥500 Starbucks coupons are a great reward since I only go to Starbucks once or twice a month.
I shop via ec sites to earn extra points, too. If I plan to buy something on Rakuten or Yahoo, I make sure to access the shopping portal via the banner on the EC site. That way I get EC points for every 100 yen spent, AND the credit card points/T-Points that I mentioned earlier.
I exchange those EC points for cash to be deposited into my bank account, or I can exchange points for coupons to be used at Amazon Japan.
Recently, I’ve discovered a world beyond Yankees Twitter — it’s a world where you follow an official account, retweet, and earn free products! In one day, I scored a free full sized sample of liquid eyeliner, a coupon for a 600ml drink at Mini Stop, and a coupon for a Lawson boneless chicken.
I also got pair tickets to the Yokoyama Taikan exhibition through a Japan Times Twitter contest. Truthfully, I should be using Twitter to connect more with other content creators and bloggers. But the allure of free stuff is too hard to resist!
I’ll add this one in as the final entry. It goes without saying, but taking up a part time job is an awesome way to add extra yen to your wallet. Work in customer service, and you can even improve your Japanese! Depending on your field you can even get discounts or free meals. I continued to work in fashion retail long after I made the switch to teaching. Simply because I liked the employee discount valid throughout he entire shopping mall.
What lengths do you go to save money? Let me know in the comments!
Tips For Saving Money in Tokyo
Now take the yen you saved and treat yo’ self: