If you are currently living with your parents, counting budget for next week’s groceries or having to look for a single coin for laundry might not sound like a big matter to you. But things come along with different sense to different people, right? Because for us, exchange students, those simple matters are what we call by small little things that feel like a tiny stone in our already bumpy road.
But, we, survivors, will always know the way to make the best out of our minimum budget. Living on a strict budget is nothing to go grey about. As a scholarship awardee, I would have to manage my scholarship as wise as I can so I do not have to count on instant noodle at the very and critical last week of the month. Choosing a comfortable housing, maintaining health by eating healthy and still have extra budget for going out every Friday night have to stay in balance, right? In this story, I would like to share some of the tips that I personally get from living my best on the minimum budget for 6 months in one of the most touristy areas in Japan, Kyoto City.
- Choosing your housing
One of the most crucial things about studying abroad is making sure you get the best housing option possible. As for the price range for housing in Kyoto, it can surely be different from one housing to each other. If you are lucky enough to be placed in International Student Dormitories which are owned by the campus you are studying at, the rent fee can be a cheaper comparing to the ones which are owned by a private company. By cheaper, I wasn’t kidding, it can be cheaper up to two times less than the ones which are owned by a private company. For example, I got placed in an international student dormitory which is owned by a private company and I have to pay around 33.000 yen (excluding electricity, gas, and shower – yes, I have to share bathroom and pay 100 yen for 15 minutes (worth of shower). While my friend who got placed in the university’s student dormitory only had to pay around 11.000 yen (including gas, electricity, and private bathroom).
- Getting around town.
One of the best option to travel around town is of course by public transportation. In Kyoto, taking the city bus is the best option for you to get around town and it will only cost you 230 yen for adults and 120 yen for children or you can buy the one day trip ticket for 500 yen and it lasts for a day. But, in case you are going out at night and it’s already past midnight, the taxi might be your only option and it can be a little bit expensive of course as the city bus stops its operation around midnight so you might as well check the schedule because the schedule for weekdays and weekends or national holiday might be slightly different.
- Food. Food.
So, where is the best place or restaurant to go when you are feeling like eating out? Well, it depends oh what kind of dishes you want to eat and of course, your budget. As for me, I usually eat at the campus cafeteria on weekdays because it will cost me only around 300 to 450 yen per meal. The campus cafeteria comes as a good option as they serve various kind of healthy dishes with good quality, nicely written ingredients (in case some of us are allergic to something), and good price. If you feel like eating out on weekends, there are so many restaurant options that you should not miss when you are in Kyoto. From cheap 100 yen belt sushi to five courses vegan meal, you will always have your options spread in all parts of this small beautiful town.
- Do not lose your National Health Insurance Card
Before I get to how to manage your monthly budget or where to shop for groceries or where to go out on weekend, I would like to point out one of the most important things if you live in a foreign and touristy country, especially in Japan. The National Health Insurance Card is basically a half of your life in the forms of a card, so do not ever lose it. If you happen to get a chance to study abroad in Japan, this card will make you pay only 30% of the total fee every time you are going to see a doctor or a hospital. This card will also work in certain pharmacies. So, I suggest you to take an absolute care of this card as the fee going to the doctor is not cheap here.
- Find the best priced local wholesale grocery store
When it comes to daily necessities such as food ingredients, I suggest you to find a wholesale grocery store which sell things in large quantities because they have the best priced goods comparing to your usual grocery store or convenience store. If you do not have any idea, where to find the wholesale grocery store, you can always ask locals as they will always know the best place to shop. If you happen to study abroad in Japan, one of the grocery stores that I think has the best priced goods is Gyomu Super from Kobe Bussan Co. At the moment, they have around 658 stores around Japan. One of their branches that I used to visit is the one in Sanjo-Kawarachi, Kyoto. They have a pretty good deal for fresh vegetables, frozen fruits, rice, pasta, even for cheap sake and beer. They also sell a complete range of halal food and food ingredients. But, I would recommend you to come here on weekdays as the place is not that spacious and it will be very busy on weekends, especially on Sunday.
- Spending the best out of your weekends.
When it comes to going out on weekends while you are on a strict budget, the option might not as broad as if you are home and can ask for money from your parents before you are going out. Here are some of things to do for you on weekends. If you feel like watching movie in a cinema, it will cost you around 1000 yen and 800 yen for popcorn and soda. Going out to Izakaya for a drink will cost you around 2.000 to 3.000 yen depending on what you order. But, you can always choose to spend your weekends with your friends in dormitory and maybe having some dvd marathon and order food delivery can be fun too, right?
After all, living in a touristy area should not be much of a burden when you can make the best out of your strict budget. I have always lived in a basic principle of 50-30-20, 50 percent for daily necessities such as rent fee, school supplies, laundry, food, etc. Thirty percent for entertainment such as going out on weekends and maybe some shopping, and the rest 20 percent goes into my saving account. If you have your budget well planned at the beginning of the month like that, I am sure you do not have to count on instant noodle at the end of the month. To live in a budget is a choice, if you can live in luxury then it’s you choice but you have to remember that you live alone and you have to be as wise as possible because you will only have one person to count and he is none other than yourself. But, one important note is do not perceive living on a budget as a torture, make it as something that will grow you as a person and make you wiser.
Photos provided by author.