When I was little, I’m not sure about the details, but true or not, this is what I remember. My Dad worked full time as a mechanic and my Mum was a full-time housewife. I know she worked part-time, but I’m not sure if was when I was a child or not. She was always at home when I wasn’t at school, anyways. My Dad used to give my Mum money for housekeeping. I’m not sure who paid the bills, but the impression that I got was that my Dad was in charge of the money. Here in Japan, where the man is basically still “the boss”, is almost always the main breadwinner, often paid more than women in the same job, allowed to get away with being a lazy bum at the weekend because he works his bum off in the week, you’d think it would be the same?
Nope, not at all. This is one of the things I secretly love about Japan. I say secretly, because I don’t want to let on to my husband that there is another way. Women and men know their place in this society pretty much. Roles are accepted, tolerated, never questioned, as society teaches. A woman takes care of the home, children, finances, and the husband slaves away at the office and brings home the bacon. I’ll not get into after hours drinking/playing because we could be here all day otherwise…So since Y and I got married, we have been sharing our finances, and I have been in charge of them. It was fine at the start, because I earned almost twice as much as Y (he would never admit that to anyone). He was just starting in his career, and I was in middle management. We had no children, and were basically rolling in cash…ahhhhhhh, those were the days! Now that I don’t work, and we have two children to support, things are a lot tighter. I’m generally not one for talking about money, but just to illustrate, our child care bills alone are around 20 percent of our income..which is fairly excessive, I think. Now I work, but only once a week. I teach a family of four every Sunday for two hours, and I get 40,000 a month for it. Y often says that there are ways to save money to enable me not to work if I didn’t want to. But to be honest, although a life of luxury and being a lady what lunches appeals to me, being a stay at home Mum on a tight budget is pretty depressing. I keep fairly busy. I like a tidy house, have to run errands, cook, play with my children, plus when they are poorly, or something happens at kindergarten, I’m “on-call”, so to speak. In practical terms, having one parent at home would be better. I live in the same town as my MIL and SIL, but they both work full-time. MIL will retire from next April though, and is happy to help with the children if needed, so that’s good to have that support.
So the reason why I’m holding off work now even though both children are now full-time at nursery, is because of our trip back to the U.K. From the end of June until the end of September, we’ll be gone! Not Y of course, just me and the children. I told my family of four about this holiday plan before I started teaching them, and they were fine about it. But to simplify things, I stopped advertising my services while I know that I’ll be going off for a long time soon. The family were fine about it, but others might find it odd for me to advertise when I already have plans to leave. When I come back, the man that I worked for before would like to find me more kindergarten work, I will advertise for more students, and hopefully get more work there too. There are a few full-time teaching jobs around, but the hours are so unsuited to working mothers, and I know that I’m only going to be able to work part-time, at least while the children are small. If I can get just an hour a day that would be perfect!
Well on to the point. About every three months or so, Y suddenly has a cash panic attack. He’ll read a book about “the correct way to save” or “how to plan for the future” and grill me about how much we need to save for the future, usually ending in me yelling at him that I save a tiny amount once a month and we have no way to “put away for the future” otherwise…This particular argument stemmed from him seeing the bank balance. He hasn’t seen it for ages, and despite me telling him so, he didn’t truly grasp it when I said we were living beyond our means. So he started grilling me about the budget, where the money goes and if he can see the receipts. This made me really pissed off. I hate doing the budget really, because I’m crap at maths..truly crap. But I like to think I have the basics down. I have to admit, I do get overwhelmed by spontaneous demands, such as tax that just comes from nowhere, PTA payments, residents association payments. It all does get a bit much for me sometimes, but him asking to see the receipts sounded more like a trust issue than anything else, and that got me annoyed. He gets 20,000 a month to do whatever he wants with, and I don’t ask to see HIS receipts… When I first started handling the money, Y was positive that he would prefer me to do it, because he said otherwise he would just spend it. So once again (as I said, this happens regularly, and Y has a bad memory), I sat down and copied out all the information from the housekeeping book for last month. AGAIN, he said, “wow, it’s so neat, I had no idea you wrote it all down so nicely”. I said nothing, although inside I was thinking, “you big fat liar, this exact same thing happened three months ago, and you said the exact same thing.. do you have Alzheimers!??!” And then I just told him that I’d had enough, and if he wasn’t happy, then he had to do it himself. But that he’d better not mess it up…
And do you know what? I feel relieved. A little worried that he will mess it up, but also confident that if he does, he won’t mess it up too much, and to be honest, he’ll probably do a better job than I have been doing. So from next month, he’s giving me 60,000 yen for the groceries. And has said that if it’s too much, that I can keep the extra. Ha ha, tempting, but I don’t think I will. I’m fairly confident that I can do a months groceries for 40,000 though, so the extra can go into the savings. I think I can focus a lot more on the rest of the stuff without having to worry about the finances. Sound stupid?
I’ve been reading stuff about families of four living on a 20,000 a month food budget, but I really don’t see how that could be possible…if you are one of those people, I’d love to hear how you do it. The prices for meat they show in these magazines are cheap as chips too, I’d like to know where they shop!
Today is the first day of my budget plan. I know it won’t start until next month, which means from 21st May, but I’m trying to get into good habits and was really surprised when today’s full shopping basket of planned meals for this week was only 3,980 yen. I think I’ll probably have to go back to the shop for milk mid-week, but that’s pretty good right? Of course it won’t be that little every week. It all depends on buying staples like rice and sauces, etc., but I’m quite excited at how we can improve the budget, even if I will be earning more later on in the year, it’s always good to be economical. So what are your good money-saving tips? Help me to be frugal!!