The Tako family has returned from Japan, and it’s time to face the accountant’s calculator. Did we burn through the yen at a crazy-insane rate, or did we “frugal it up” for our month in Japan?
Unfortunately trying to figure out how much we spent in Japan was harder than I expected. Read on to find out why….
Expenses In October
Expenses in October amounted to $7,192.31. That’s certainly not our most expensive month for the year, but it isn’t the cheapest either.
Most of October’s discretionary spending was in Japanese yen (¥), so to make the conversion back to USD ($) I will be using an exchange rate of 1 U.S. dollar per ¥113 yen.
Clearly we didn’t spend under $2 in food for the entire month. What gave it away? Maybe it was all the food photos I took…
That $1.79 in food spending listed above was a final trip to the grocery store before our trip started (a couple bananas and yogurt for breakfast). The rest of our food spending was in yen, and can be found lumped together with the rest of our yen (¥) spending in the “Other” category.
Why? Mainly because of vending machines!
Credit cards are not as commonly used in Japan, and it’s a society that uses A LOT of vending machines. The vast majority of these take cash and don’t spit out a receipt (or it wasn’t obvious how to get them to spit out a receipt).
Roughly half of our yen expenses ended-up not having receipts (boo!). However, I did try to estimate the individual categories in the “Other” section below.
We didn’t drive our cars enough in October to require a tank of gas. Regular fuel costs were $0 in October.
In Okinawa, we needed to refill the rental car with half a tank of gas, which cost $30. This was lumped together with the rest of our Yen spending in the “Other” category — we paid cash for the gas at a self-service vending machine.
Mortgage & Childcare
Even though we were out of the country, we still had to pay our regular mortgage and childcare expenses. These were our largest expenses for the month.
Unfortunately the bank won’t let you skip paying on the mortgage for a month, and childcare facilities will give up your kid’s spot to another child if you neglect to pay for a month. You still have to pay even when you go on vacation!
We tried to negotiate a lower rate on our childcare for the month of October, but the facility wouldn’t give out discounts — If our kids attended a single day, we were expected the full monthly rate. Lame!
Without these two costs dragging us down, our month in Japan would have been very affordable.
Utilities & Internet
Utilities were prepaid in prior months, so utility spending in October was $0. If you ever go on a long vacation, this is the best way to deal with paying regular household bills — Just prepay before you leave, and you don’t have to worry about paying the bill while on vacation!
Internet expense for the month was our usual $49.99. It wasn’t worth the costs to disconnect our service for a single month. In Japan, we just stuck with free wifi for our internet access.
Insurance for October was $0. We paid our annual car insurance bill in September, and it was a killer! Thankfully that doesn’t happen every month and insurance was a lot more wallet-friendly in October.
Other (aka Japan Trip Expenses)
This is where the ‘meat’ of our spending was in October, and the bulk of it was in-cash.
Japan is a largely cash based society. While some places do take credit cards (like hotels, car rental places, and some grocery stores), many do not. Knowing this, we primarily used cash during our trip. Our total spend for the entire trip was ¥300,000 ($2698.75). That’s $99.68 per day for a family of four.
Based upon the receipts I do have, I estimate our trip expenses broke-down like this:
As you might expect, food expenses were significantly higher than what we would normally spend in a given month. Yes, we ate a lot during this trip, but tried to do so in a frugal way. The food in Japan is just sooo good!
Another notable expense, was the cost of trains and buses in Japan ($450). Again, in most situations you pay in-cash at a vending machine which doesn’t spit out a receipt.
The cost of trains adds-up quickly when you travel in Japan. That said, we spent roughly half of what a typical tourist might spend on a Japan Rail Pass! Yes, you heard me right — the Japan Rail Pass isn’t always a great deal.
For one, the rail pass doesn’t allow you to take other train companies that can be significantly cheaper. You’re stuck with JR.
To give an example: I remember one express trip from Kyoto to Osaka on the Hankyu Railway that cost a mere ¥470 (roughly $4). If we took a Shinkansen (bullet train), this same trip would have cost ¥3,020 (or $26.72).
How do I know this? You can estimate the cost of any Japan Rail trip using the Hyperdia website. Do the math before you travel folks! It’s possible to save A LOT while traveling in Japan by using cheaper alternate lines, and avoiding the Shinkansen.
(Note: If you do plan to travel around Japan via bullet-train frequently, the Japan Rail Pass can save you money.)
Our cumulative expenses for the year are now $61,756.56 which is more than we spent in 2016. Expenses were higher, mainly because we did more traveling in 2017. Including airfare, our trip to Japan cost $5,690 alone!
Outside of daycare and our mortgage, we’re pretty frugal people — core expenses have only amounted to $17,981 for the year (this includes travel expenses).
While our mortgage and daycare expenses are quite high, those expenses certainly won’t last forever. The cost of daycare in particular is going to be one expense that I will celebrate when it’s gone.
Dividends In October
Dividends in October amounted to $3,587.74. This was slightly lower than what we usually receive at the beginning of the quarter. This was mainly due to preferred share redemptions we saw in August. Fewer preferred shares in our taxable accounts means lower dividend income.
In total, we’ve received a total of $42,859.34 in dividends for the year 2017 (so far).
I fully expect that December will be another nice quarter for dividends, bumping us up into the $52k territory for the year. This is slightly behind what I originally estimated for the year, but it will be very close to the 10% dividend growth goal I set.
It’s not perfect, but I’m quite happy with how our dividend income has grown in 2017!
October Sleep Report
This section of the monthly report is dedicated to my quest to get a decent night sleep.
Believe it or not, the trip to Japan did wonders for my sleep! A full three-quarters of the month I successfully got 7 hours of sleep per night! Whoo-hoo!
I attribute this change to all the additional walking and time spent outdoors — I was dead-tired after a day of trekking around Japan, and all the extra time outdoors did wonders for keeping my internal clock in-sync.
Reportedly, I fell asleep very quickly and snored very loudly (to the irritation of the rest of the family).
Normally I don’t snore, so all the additional noise could be a combination of being very tired, or the fact we slept on the floor.
Can I keep getting a good amount of sleep going into November? I’m definitely going to try!
Investment Changes In October
What can I say? There were no big investment changes in our portfolio in October. We were on vacation! I spent very little time looking at the stock market, or my portfolio. We were too busy adventuring around Japan!
That said, we did see another preferred share redemption in October, to the tune of $2627.45. This happened automatically while we were in Japan. That money needs to be reinvested at some point, but it’s going to be impossible to find preferred shares with similar yields in today’s environment.
As always, the hunt for good investments continues.