Jun 24, 2011

How do Japanese wives manage the household finance?

By coincidence, I came across a TV program special, 『がっちりアカデミー』, on how Japanese wives manage the household finance. It was so interesting that it triggered my urge to blog about it.

Before I came to Japan, I heard from friends, that the Japanese wives typically controlled the finances at home. Husbands will hand over their salaries, and wives will then give them allowances.

It is a bit hard for me to imagine, as young families in Singapore are dual-income. Typically, the couple will have a joint account for household expenditures, whereby contribution proportion would have been discussed beforehand and decided. We usually do not have the practice of the wives controlling the household finance. It's a shared responsibility.

Or for more traditional families, like mine, the breadwinner will pull the purse strings. Not my mum. My dad does. So it is a bit stretching for me to visualise the said scenario in Japan.

Then I came across this TV program. The crew surveyed 1200 couples randomly, and from there picked a few couples as representatives to show us the different ways of managing household income.

After the husbands hand over their salaries. What happens next?

1. Wives will decide the frequency and amount of allowance for husbands.

Some examples I caught from the program:
-Daily 300yen (about S$5)
-Weekly 5000yen (about S$80)
-Monthly 30,000yen (about S$460+)

It is recommended by the program to set the allowance as 10% of the salary. Yeah. 10%?!

2. Where do the other 90% go to?

This will be for the household expenditure and savings.

Set aside a few envelopes which indicate the different kinds of expenditures. Eg. Telephone bills, Utility bills, Children's expenses, Grocery, etc.

Fix a maximum amount and the household cannot spend beyond that amount. The rest will be savings. Anything not spent will be savings as well.

It works for Japan, as it is still very much a cash society. I am used to direct bank deductions, and cashless payments, so bounderies drawn by envelopes doesn't really help though. :( But I do like the idea.

3. How to curb spending?

For example when going grocery shopping, bring only the minimal amount in cash, and spend within that, to curb oneself from buying needless wants.

Again, it only works if it is not cashless payment. :(

4. Small change does matter.

Diligently clear out the wallet and set that as savings once the day ends, and top up with the new allowance set for the day. A family actually managed to use that piggy bank of small change to exchange for a day of family fun at an amusement park!

5. Set goals.

Have goals, so that saving money is more achievable.

Long term goal is not enough. Short term goals are needed too.

For eg. one of the families' long term goal was to build their own house, and because of that Daddy's allowance was a mere 5000yen per week. But he had short term goals. Every day he saved up his allowance and spend it on gatherings with his friends and colleagues, limited to 3 times per month. Short-term goals will keep the discipline towards long term goal.

6. How to survive on the meagre allowance?

Daddys in the TV program, will buy cheap lunches at the convenience store, or only from cheaper vending machines, or even better, bring Mummys' homemade bentos to their workplace. With that lunch money is saved. Need drinks? Drink from the pantry water dispenser/ cooler.

7. Control splurges. Give and take rule.

One of the daddys' hobby is collecting expensive jackets. So Mummy allowed him to splurge once a month. But in return, every time he buy a new expensive jacket, he needs to give up one old one, for Mummy to sell.

Lastly, to share on my tips:

8. Compulsory savings

Once salary is received, set aside a fixed amount as compulsory savings, which should not be touched, regardless. With that, at least a minimal amount is saved every month.

9. Shop on days with discounts

In my neighbourhood, supermarkets have sale on every Tuesday and Wednesday. It is the same for MaxValue, Seiyu and Apita. And for my most commonly-frequented MaxValue Supermarket, on 20th and 30th of every month, there is a 5% storewide discount.

For some drugstores, they also have daily specials, eg. For Mondays, rice are on sale.

It is not restricted to only shopping, even eateries like Dipper Dan sells all crepes at 290yen only on every 9th, 19th and 29th of each month.

10. Make use of Loyalty Cards

The loyalty card system is very popular in Japan. Most stores have them. Their benefits include:
  • Redeem points for money rebate.
  • Special discount coupons for members only.
  • Special discounts for members only on certain days.
  • Redeem a free item at the nth stamp.
  • Redeem gifts with points.
On the TV program website, they also did an online special on tips contributed by audience on how to cut spending.

Some are really jaw-dropping for me... like pitching a tent in the apartment and sleep in it, to cut down on heater usage during winter and wearing magic wipes as indoor slippers (killing 2 birds with 1 stone!) (ŐдŐ๑)