A Rough Budget for ALTs

After deductions for various things, your monthly JET paycheck for your first year will probably come in at around 240,000 yen. Here’s a rough breakdown of how much money you could be spending.

budget breakdown

  • Rent – 60,000 yen. This is a generous estimate since most ALTs pay less.
  • Cell phone – 10,000 yen. Also a bit generous since they usually run between 8,000-9,000 yen.
  • Combined utilities (gas, electric, water, internet) – 20,000 yen
  • Food – 80,000 yen. This includes all groceries, work parties, restaurant trips with friends, and even combini stops.

So after the 170,000 listed above, you should still have roughly 70,000 left over for anything you want.

Knowing that you’ll have 70,000 yen left over, why not put away a small chunk of it for saving? Take out 20,000 for saving and you’re left with a perfect 5/7.

If you really want to get the most out of your yen then here are some yen pinching tips:

Home heating/cooling

Consider using fans instead of aircon, as well as keeping windows open (with screens!). In the winter, using things such as kerosene heaters or kotatsu, as well as dressing for the weather (this is where heat tech comes in!), can save you a bit of money. Running an aircon unit constantly WILL run up your power bill.


For food, it is cheaper to eat Japanese style more than “Western”. Things like rice, fish, seaweed, miso soup will be much less expensive than other meats, bread, grains, ect. Fruit is rather expensive in Japan as a rule, but those living in the inaka will probably be able to find cheap vegetables from local farmers and even fruit in season. You will learn to love to hate mikans especially. Canned fruit is also an option for those who need it. In Japan, most homes do not have ovens, so you need to be okay cooking primarily on a stove top, or getting creative with things like rice cookers and toaster ovens to prepare food. You can also invest in an oven/denshi range combo if you want to bake on occasion. [There are tons of resources on cooking Japanese food and making stuff in rice cookers, check out the home economics section of your school’s or city`s library!]

Keep an eye on sales days/days specific items go on sale (my local supermarket`s general sale’s day is saturday, and meat is on sale on Mondays, and you can`t find parking due to the sales, usually there will be a flyer posted at the front of the store!). If you can, check out the supermarket after 7 PM. Many items get marked down if they will go bad that night or the next morning, and you can snag stuff for half the price!

Buying imported ingredients

Foreign foods are imported and available in Nagasaki City, but they will be expensive. If you absolutely need a food, it is best to order online or make a trip to Costco in Fukuoka and buy in bulk.

School enkai/social committee fund

Your school will occasionally have drinking parties for special occasions such as welcome parties, end of the year parties, farewell parties, etc. These events can add up, so don’t feel obliged to attend all of them (usually many of your schools with have drinking parties around the same times of year for welcome, end of the year, and farewell parties), but do remember they are a good chance to socialize with your co-workers. You may pay for each drinking party as it comes up (which can range from 3,500 to 10,000 yen, not including going out afterwards) or your school may collect money as a fund. Some schools also do collections monthly or yearly for things such as beverages for teachers in the kitchen (coffee and tea) so please ask someone at your school if you don’t know about any food/drink/drinking party fund collections.

Household items

For most of you, your predecessor left you everything you needed. But perhaps, you now want a fancy denshi renji to bake with or you find yourself in need of an actual bed instead of a futon. Or, for some of you, you moved into a new place that wasn’t furnished. Never fear! This is where recycle shops (in Japanese, リサイクルショップ) come in! Places like Off House (part of Book Off and Hard Off) and other local recycle shops tend to sell used items for a fraction of their cost when new, including furniture, clothes, electronics, instruments, etc. There are also facebook groups for used goods (usually from departing ALTS)  such as the Greater Kyushu Co-Prosperity Sale.

Travel- bus and train

Buying multiple ticket packs for frequently visited places: There is a 4 pack of tickets deal from Nagasaki to Fukuoka by Kamome. This pack of tickets is roughly around 1 man. It is a great way to split costs with a friend for a week to Fukuoka, or if you need to get to the Fukuoka Airport. Busing to Fukuoka is cheaper than the kamome, but it takes more time. You can buy a 4 pack of bus tickets to Fukuoka for around 8000 yen, and they don’t expire (kamome tickets do).  In general, a bus will be cheaper, but a train will usually be a more direct route and faster. Night buses (not quite like Harry Potter) also exist, and are very cheap.

Travel – flying

Peach and JETstar are LCC (low cost carriers) that fly to popular destinations, including international ones like South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. They tend to be cheap, which is great for a weekend trip, but be warned. If your flight is canceled or should you need to change it, you will need to pay and they don’t tend to be as accommodating as other carriers. You get what you pay for. In Japan, you can usually bring food onto planes (as long as it is bought after security) so you won’t receive any complimentary drinks or food on a LCC (not that you need to) and seat space tends to be small to maximize the amount of people on each flight. Be warned: LCC tend to have very strict luggage policies. If you sign up for them, Peach will also send you emails letting you know when they are having sales to certain locations.


100 yen shops like Daiso are the most wonderful places on earth. You can get almost any household item there, from cleaning supplies to hair bows to plates to art supplies, for 100 yen. This is also a good place for teaching supplies, such as crafts or stickers, if you need them! There are other 100 yen stores as well, such as Seria, if Daiso doesn’t suit your fancy.

Point cards

For most other shopping, getting a point card allows you to gather points and receive discounts or coupons later on. 

The bookstore Tsutaya, which is where you can also rent movies (I know? 2016 and you can do that), has a T-point card that also gets points from places like ENEOS gas station and Family Mart. I used my points to rent a movie for my students for free once.