Asia,  Japan,  Waseda

11 Money-saving tips while studying abroad in Japan

While studying abroad, it is important to keep track of your money. Imagine living carefree your first semester, to find out you don’t have enough money and struggling during your second semester. Saving money is a good habit to learn in general and while I studied abroad, I was always trying to spend the least amount of money possible. (While of course having fun and eating a lot). I want to help you with your year abroad! Im here to help you save money in Japan!

Hakodate red bricks
Hakodate

1. Don’t buy anything big, heavy, or anything you don’t really need.

Remember that you will eventually need to go home. Buying more items will cause you trouble when it comes time to go home. Overweight suitcases will cause you extra costs and having extra luggages costs even more. If you really want, you can even mail stuff home, but that will also cost alot of money. During the time while people were moving out after our year, the amount of things that people had to toss away was crazy. The things that I had to leave behind were usually stuff that I bought on a wimp. Throwing things away because you don’t have space at the end will make you sad in two ways. One thinking about the money you spent on it and two, having to leave it behind. To avoid this, just don’t buy anything that you don’t absolutely need. One thing that I realized I should of not of bought too much of were plushies. Even though they are so light, they take up so much space!

Me with a huge plushie that I definitely didn’t need but got

2. Do not buy textbooks unless you really need it.

Textbooks are one of the things are the heaviest things to bring back home. Plus they can get very expensive. I know in America renting textbooks are popular, but I didn’t really see that option in Japan. Big textbooks for classes are usually kept in the school’s library, and as long as you have the school’s id, you can just go find the textbook and read the book at the library in Japan. The only books I would say you should get is language learning textbooks and workbooks. Obviously, these cant be rented, and having your own physical book will help you learn much faster. Another thing you can do is join a Facebook group that is based on your school and selling textbooks. I’m not sure if other schools do them, but Waseda has a page just for SILS and students usually sell their own textbooks that they don’t use anymore for less than retail price. This is a great tip to save money in Japan while on exchange.

Waseda University class
One of classes at Waseda

3. When using transportation within Tokyo, look up the cheapest way to get there.

Tokyo has many different companies for the train/bus system and sometimes a certain way of getting to the same place is cheaper than another. Google maps will tell you how much the train ride would cost using different train lines. Sometimes, fewer transfers doesn’t necessarily mean that it is cheaper, so make sure to see all the options and the prices. Also, buy a Suica or a Pasmo card as soon as you arrive. This will help you to pay for the train without having to calculate costs on your own. In the photo below, google maps shows 4 different ways to get from my dorm in Shinjuku to the Tokyo Tower. The 4 different ways all relatively take the same amount of time and all have one transfer, but costs differ from 200 yen to 470 yen. This is very important to keep in mind if you want to save money in Japan.

Google maps on save money in japan
Google maps

4. If you plan on traveling around Japan, do not be afraid of cheap stays

Japan is a very safe country and anywhere you stay should be fairly safe. I have never done room shares or capsule hotels while trying, but I have been in hostels were you share everything, but get your own room. All my experiences was bought through Airbnb and my experiences with my hosts has been very great and if you want to know my recommendation on where to stay feel free to message me all my contact information is here. Also, I have an affilate link in which you can save $20 on your first Airbnb booking. It’s a win-win for both of us!

Airbnb in Kamakura
Airbnb in Kamakura

5. Take advantage of the school cafeteria and know the cheap food around your area.

Since you have to take care of yourself, you will find yourself having to spend a lot of money on food. Please do not try to save money by not eating, there are so many great and cheap eats all around Tokyo! Usually, school cafeterias have full rice bowls for around or less than 400 yen, which is less than $4! My favorite bowl whenever I went to the school’s cafeteria was the salmon bowl and it was so filling and was around 380 yen! Other than the school cafeteria, just be sure to look around to see if any restaurants have anything in your budget! I made a blog post a while ago on the cheapest and yummiest eats in Tokyo, so check it out! Also, don’t be shy and buy food from the convince store once in a while! They got great eats and bentos! A generally good way to save money in Japan!

Hamazushi is great for an inexpensive meal!

6. Pick the cheapest room option for your dorm. Save money in Japan through housing

I wanted to save the most amount of money as possible and one of the most expensive costs is the cost of living in the dorm, so I personally picked to live with a roommate which cut my costs from ~$800 to ~$400 a month! I know it sucks having a roommate or having a smaller room, but you probably won’t be home too much anyways since most people spend their time exploring the city and doing homework at a cafe or the living space within the dorm. You can save all that money for food or travel! My room was basically just used as a bed. If you want to know the different optiond of living abroad in Japan, check out my blog post on it here.

Nishi Waseda Waseda Dorm save money in japan
My side of the room

7. Do not buy a lot of clothes

Clothes is the number one thing that people had to leave behind cause it takes so much space inside of luggage. If you really want to have a big wardrobe, I would recommend buying fast fashion clothes so you won’t be as sad when you have to leave them behind.

save money in japan  clothes
Clothes shop in Tokyo

8. Walk! Save money in japan through Transportation!

Tokyo is a city and anywhere you go is a whole new adventure! You might notice things you never noticed and its also good for your health. Whenever I would go to Shinjuku, instead of paying for a ride and going on the train for 20 minutes, I would walk and explore the way there and get there after 40 minutes of walking. Walking in Tokyo feels way less than what it actually is since there is always so much to look at!

Shibuya crossing

9. Take advantage of school events/dorm events for international students to save money in japan

It depends on the school, but some schools have special events just for international students. These are sometimes made by the school or the dorm. Most of these for me was the dorms. They had Christmas parties, going away party, and basically every party for any holiday, so just hop in and take advantage of the free food!

For Waseda, there were also special trips that the school hosts were they paid for everything including all transportation and all the activities while there. I think there were trips during my first semester, but these events were on Saturdays and I had Saturday classes so I couldn’t sign up for it. During my second semester I was able to go to a trip to Yamanashi which is right where Mt.Fuji is. We were able to go to pretty landmarks and make food together and everything was free! There are so many special opportunities for exchange students so be sure to be in the loop!

save money in japan Yamanashi
Dorm trip to Yamanashi

10. Go to free festivals/Activities all over Tokyo! Best way to save money in japan!

There is so many free things to do all over Tokyo at any given time, so be sure to check them all out! There are so many great festivals that temples hold and festivals that Yoyogi park holds. I once went to a dog festival in Yoyogi park and it was so adorable! Yoyogi Park has festivals every weekend and is usually international food festivals.

There’s also so many parks and rooftops to just relax and do homework in and most of them are free of charge. I also made a blog post on the Best Parks in Tokyo to Relax in. Parks are such a great place to catch up on homework and get fresh air!

Street Food - Takoyaki
Street Food – Takoyaki

11. Join a club to save money in japan and make friends

Joining a club is a great way to have fun and make new friends without having to spend any or very little money. I joined Waseda International Festival, a dance club and we met 2 times a week to practice dancing. After practice, we would also go out and eat at Saizeriya, which is one of the cheapest restaurants in Japan! (Their dorias are so good!) There are also so many other clubs in Waseda geared towards international students, so be sure to check all the clubs when you arrive at the school!

Waseda sai save money in japan club activity
Me dancing at a Festival at Waseda

My year abroad was so much fun and I hope I can make yours better! If you have any questions or wanna talk to me about anything, feel free to shoot me a message. All my contact information is found here. I also made a bunch of youtube videos while in Japan and all my travels so check it out! I hope you enjoyed this guide about how to save money in Japan!


Email me at pennylesstravels@gmail.com for consultations to plan your trip to Japan or more!


If you want to know about how my day in the life of an exchange student at Waseda University, check out my youtube video! While you are there, subscribe to my Youtube Channel!

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Some Useful Sources when traveling to Japan:
My Japan posts: Pennyless Travels Japan posts
My kpop posts: Pennyless Travels Kpop Posts!
Youtube Channel: Just Coneys Corner
Food/Travel Instagram: @coneystravel
General Tourism information: Japan Travel Website
Best E-sim for travel in Japan: Airalo
Airport pickup pocket wifi: 4G WiFi pocket wifi

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