Hello, hello, hello. Since the last time I've been here (yesterday), I've decided it's the year of the Sparkle Dragon. I made a comment about it being the year we sparkle on facebook. And in Chinese astrology, it's the year of the Water Dragon. (Technically, Chinese New Year doesn't start for a while, but Japan does this weird thing of observing Western New Year AND embracing Chinese astrology.) So anyhow, it's the year of the Sparkle Dragon.
The first thing on my list of goals is:
My financial situation
I make 300,000 yen a month. I can afford to be this open about what I make because everybody on the JET program makes the same money. And if anyone in the world wanted to find out how much that is, all they would need to do is find a Japanese embassy or government website, phone number, official.
How much is 300,000 yen worth? When I first came to Japan, 3 1/2 years ago, 105 yen was a US dollar. Now, the yen is holding fairly firm while everyone else's money drops through the floor (except Australia, it seems). We're up to 79 yen a dollar. (GBP 179 -> 123, CND 90 -> 77, EUR 139 -> 102.) With everything in such a state of flux, it's hard to say what it's "worth". That said, my monthly salary used to be just shy of $3000 US, now it's around $3750. I make almost $1000 more in exchange rate alone.
There is one final consideration to be made when it comes to my salary. The US value may have gone up, but I don't live in the US. I live in Japan. I make my money in yen, and I spend my money in yen. The prices here have remained mostly constant. So if I struggled to have left over money before, I will still struggle to have left over money now. But of course, if I can find something to save, it's worth more. What used to be $100 US, is now $125.
(I keep talking in US because the Barbados dollar is tied to the US, ie, we have a constant exchange rate.)
You can only save what you don't spend. Really every discussion on saving is about spending. Amazingly, lots of people (*waves from the audience*) don't really analyse their spending habits when they try to save. Fail waiting to happen? That's what she said! ;)
I'm pretty bad about impulse buys. But I live in the back-bush of Japan, 600 km out of Tokyo, 300 km away from a really major city. My last in-town shopping spree was at the stationary store! There's not much else to spend random money on. (Let's ignore my $30 "One Piece" pencil sharpener.)
Where I fail (massively) is online. I spend a lot of time online - on the blogosphere, on twitter, in my emails - and it's way easy, with credit card info saved in my brain, to just buy stuff. My biggest issue is books. All of you awesome people write/reccomend awesome books. And it is virtually impossible for me to buy 1 book. Book shipping prices used to deter me, but now that I have a Kindle, and Book Depository for free shipping of non-Kindle titles, I've got nothing to lose but my paycheck.
Late in 2011, I devised a new system: Shopping Cart Fridays. If I find out about a book that I ABSOLUTELY HAAAAAAAAVE TOOOOO REEEEEADDDDD, then I slip it into the Shopping Cart. On Friday, I swoop by the shopping cart (and my Goodreads TBR), decide how many books I can afford and buy them. Why Friday? Because it's my busiest day, so I don't have time to faff around on Amazon, which means I'm less likely to buy random stuff which hasn't been through they Shopping Cart trial.
In 2009, I was in 9 countries. Even I can't afford that. There was a month where I ate ramen for dinner every day. So not kidding. In 2010, I decided I wasn't going anywhere, for the sake of saving, but still managed to eat through the same amount of money. I guess I switched from bein frugal in Japan, and travelling externally to just traipsing up and down Japan. I'm beginning to get this under control by finally getting over (mostly) the need to be at everything. And by having a semi-budget.
I can crunch numbers, but I'm not one for living off a sheet of paper. So what I've done, again in the last few months of 2k11, is to think out how much I need, and withdraw that money at the beginning of the month. Then I divvy it up into 4 or 5 weeks. Each Friday, I open up a stack. It's not written in stone, that if I'm out of money early, I can't access more. But the perk of this system is that I can see down to weekly spending if I'm doing well or poorly, and it's easier to adjust than on a monthly system.
I plan to go to a conference this year, which will eat a couple thou. And I plan to go home, for another couple G's. Other than that, I hope to save lots of money. I'll say $125 US, for starters, every month, but I'm really hoping it's more than that. Especially, since this is my last full year at this guaranteed salary.
Sure I'll succeed though. It IS the year of the Sparkle Dragon!