Yen & You is a recurring feature written by Austin Morgan, a JET in Fukui Prefecture. Austin enjoys concerts, baseball and Mexican food. Check out his blog, Foreigner’s Finances, for more personal finance insight for 20-somethings.
Last weekend I came out of my hibernation igloo in Fukui and ventured south to visit a friend and go to a concert in Nagoya.
While I was preparing to leave, I was trying to figure out how much money I would need to bring since I didn’t have a credit card.
It’s always difficult to accurately guess how much money you’ll need for a trip. I tried to figure in food, travel, and entertainment and then add a buffer, but I still felt uneasy about the amount I was bringing.
What if I fell in love with a new computer, iPod, or camera, but it was over the amount I brought?
After a while, I realized that I could stop worrying because I had a savings account with the Japan Post Office.
This account allows me access to my money across Japan, as long as I can locate a post office location with a working ATM. It also saves me a lot of worry because I don’t have to be concerned about carrying 50,000¥ on me for a long weekend.
This account is especially worth it for week long trips where you could be spending upwards of 100,000¥. Do you really want to carry that money on you? Chances are no one will steal it, but misplacing a bag or losing a wallet is something that can happen to anyone.
This isn’t the only plus of a post office savings account. As I mentioned in my first Yen & You post, an account with the post office can act as a barrier that prevents you from spending your entire paycheck on karaoke, rice balls, and arcades.
Instead of hoping I save enough money every month, I take out 33 percent of my paycheck a couple days after pay day and deposit it in my post office savings account. This money is deemed untouchable because it’s my long-term savings money (i.e. the money I will use to get a car and apartment when I go back to the States someday).
Separating spending money (normal bank account) from savings (post office account) is essential for visualizing the savings. After a while, the monthly savings will become a habit and you’ll start to appreciate the growth of your savings.
The third reason a savings account is beneficial is for easy transfers home. There are multiple ways to send money back to your home country, and the post office is one of them.
You can do a money order for around 2,000¥ and since your money is already at the post office, the transfer will be painless. You’ll have previous experience with the post office, and you won’t have to worry about figuring out the lay of the land, or talking to the attendants.
Almost every JET travels outside their home prefecture every once in a while, so the ability to access your money across Japan is worth the 15 minutes it took to open a post office savings account.
If your Japanese is not so good, ask a friend, your supervisor, or a JTE to help you out with opening an account. Bring your hanko, alien registration card, and passport and you’ll be ready to go in 15 minutes.