Friday, 29 May 2009
Of course if I ever develop a cocaine/internet shopping/pachinko/insert any fun, addictive activity here habit, Ryota might be a bit screwed. He literally has noooo idea where our money goes and lucky for him I'm super organised about our budget.
It wasn't always this way, before I came to Japan I lived at home and really had no idea about budgets or how much those 1 hour showers were costing in water bills.
When I came to Japan, I was all like 'hell yeah! Look at all this money in my account, I'm going to spend it all on vodka in the first week! WoooooHooooo!' I never had a budget, I just lived from paycheck to paycheck and would find myself riding my bike to work and living from the 99 yen store in the week before I got paid.
When I unexpectantly lost my job and had no savings, it was a huge shock for me, and I quickly got my arse into gear about being better with money. I amazed myself with how much money I was wasting and made it my mission to not only pay off my debts but to save for that rainy day, which turned out to be me getting knocked up! Helllooo, less of a rainy day and more of a freakin downpour!
So I thought I'd share with you the ways we try and save money, living on one salary can be very tight but we still manage to have a good time with what we have. If anyone has other things they do to save money I'd love to hear them!
#1- Keep track of everything you buy. I write down all our estimated expenses at the start of the month, then all our actual expenses at the end of the month, and adjust the budget or our spending habits accordingly.
#2- Don't use credit cards. Japanese credit card companies make the deals look all sweet. Never works, the bill is always a shock and the miles never get you anywhere. (In my experience anyway.)
#3- Have a strict budget, and stick to it. I divide all our money into cute lil envelopes so I know how much I have left, this is how I divide our money; Rent, food, car, house, Ashton, bills, phones, internet/cable. I also have an envelope where any left over money goes at the end of the month to put in the bank to save or pay off anything Ryota might have snuck onto the credit card.
#4- Don't keep big amounts of cash on you. I never have more than I need in my wallet, otherwise I spend it.
#5- Keep small notes. I get all our money changed into 5000 yen notes, if I have big notes I tend to spend it all.
#6- Never go to the supermarket hungry. Because you will buy loads of unneccessary crap. :)
#7- Cook at home. Or more importantly, dont get fast food. I'm all for going out for dinner, I love it, but getting fast food is such a waste of money and bad for you anyway.
#8- Have a goal to save for. At the moment, I'm saving for a new snazzy 100,000 yen (about $1000) oven.
#9- Shop at the 100 yen store. (sorry for those not in Japan!) Some of the stuff there is crap but a lot of it you can get in other stores for triple the price. I get all my tupperware and stuff like that from the 100 yen.
#10- While you're at the 100 yen store, pick up one of those 500 yen piggy bank thingies. My last 3 trips overseas, I saved my spending money in 500 yen coins, because it's just a coin you don't feel like you're saving that much but it really adds up! We've got a massive 300,000 yen one at the moment which will go towards our wedding (if it ever happens!)
#11- Make gifts instead of buying them. OK I'm not talking crappy macaroni necklaces or whatever, but for example, this mother's day we had just moved into our house and money was really tight, so I bought a cheap(ish) photo album, printed photos at home, got some cute stickers, and made an album with little notes and photos of Ashton for my mum. She really loved it, much more than anything I could have bought.
#12- Fill up the freezer at the start of the month. If we have nothing planned for dinner we can always grab something from the freezer rather than go to the supermarket or get take away food.
#13- Use everything in your fridge/freezer. I usually make Ryota's bento with leftovers and try to use everything in the freezer at the end of the month.
#14- Keep clothes/kitchen stuff/ everything in general organised. I find if all our stuff is organised, it looks like we have more, when everything is in a mess it's hard to find things and I'm more likely to buy new things.
#15- Wash don't buy. haha This sounds obvious but there was a time when I would buy new socks rather than wash them, so bad!!!
#16- Plan cheap, fun things to do on your/hubby's day off. I find if we have nothing planned we'll do something expensive like get movies or go random shopping where I'm bound to buy something.
These are all I can think of at the moment, let me know if you have any more tips for me!
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
I'm happy to say that I am exactly the opposite now, and I truly believe that it was coming to Japan that changed me. I am now the one who jumps up and down on the plane to freak people out, I say people, I mean Ryota. :) I'm the one who gets in the 2 hour line up to ride the scariest freakin thing at the amusement park. I really don't worry like I used too, and thank god, I would have ended up with a stomach ulcer by the time I was 25 the way I was going!
When I was in high school, people would ask me, "So what are you going to do in the future??" and I would reply "I'm going to go to Japan." Of course I had no intention of going, it was just something I said to keep people quiet and because the real reply was "I have no fucking idea and it scares me sooooooo much! Stop asking me!!!!!!" while blowing air into a paper bag.
Even when I went to university and studied Japanese, I would still tell people I was going to go to Japan but still had no intention of going. And I was still a very negative cynical person, a true pessimist. I figured if I set myself up for the worst possible outcome I would never be disappointed. Of course this never works, I don't know why, but it never does.
It could possibly have been the fact that I couldn't have prepared myself for the worst outcome when I got my heart broken. How dramatic! hehe, of course looking back it was so stupid, I thought I was going to die and all that jazz of first heart break. So to pull myself out of the well of self pity, I actually did come to Japan, and even then I was still being negative and thought I'd probably come home after about a month or so. But I didn't, and it was hard, but it was the best thing I have ever done. And because it was so scary, it was like nothing else was scary in comparison. And that was it! My negativity, my fear, my hesitation all disappeared!
So for the last few years I have felt so free compared to when I was younger, I'm not scared and I love it.
There is a little verse that is hanging in our genkan, Ryota tried to read it yesterday and couldn't understand a word of it, he figured he should understand anything that is on our wall so I translated it for him and we both agreed on how true it is, an oldy but a goody:
Monday, 25 May 2009
Maybe since the mother's day blowout? Or I also have sneaking suspicions that someone in Ryota's family may have given him an earful that if he upsets the foreign girl too much she may just run back to Australia with the first grandson and never come back.
Either way I'm happy, Ryota has been incredibly sweet and helpful lately, which is good because it makes the 5:30am bento making a little easier! Hmmm let's see, tamagoyaki, meatballs, salad and a side of bitterenss sweetheart? haha that's what it can feel like sometimes when I'm pissed off!
But mornings like this morning are great, where I get up and actually want to get on with the day and make an effort to do nice things for Ryota. Of course this could all change when he gets home tonight and does something to make me want to tear my hair out...
Up until now Sundays haven't been very relaxing, since they are the only day Ryota has off they have been used for fixing the house, I say fixing the house, I mean Ryota gets busy with the drill while I instruct him where to put things... It wasn't good for either of us, so now the house is pretty much done, Sundays are more of a date/ family type day.
Yesterday we went pet shopping and had lunch out with little Ash, the weather was really nice and then we came home and watched a movie, had a little nap and Ryota cooked dinner for us, which is very rare!
It could be our 'kekkon shukudai' (Marriage homework) rule we now go by. Every Sunday night when we go to bed, we choose something (reasonable) that we want the other to do for us at some time in the coming week. Last week, Ryota wanted me to make more of an effort to lock all of the doors in the house. Fair enough, although with Grandma on the prowl any burglar would be pretty ballsy to mess with her! And I wanted Ryota to be a little bit more romantic. hehe Such a girly, vague request, but he did very well.
From what I've heard, Ryota's ex-girlfriends weren't very girly girls and weren't into the whole romance thing and it's going to take him a bit more time to perfect the art I think!
I recommend marriage homework, it helps you get what you want without nagging, although I still do my fair share.
On a totally different note, I hope my Ashton boy isn't too fat?! He's almost four months old and already 9kg. He's in L size nappies and such a pudgy little thing! Is it dangerous for babies who are exclusively breastfeeding to be too big or am I just being paranoid??
Here's my little sumo man...
Saturday, 23 May 2009
We live VERY close to our in-laws, as in 2 leaps away, however I do have quite long legs so I'm going to say 4 steps. Those of you who live in Japan will understand how close houses can be, in Aussie terms the only way I can describe it is like a block of townhouses where the one directly in front of ours is the in-law's house. (I'll try and take a photo and put it up here)
I was very worried at first, but seeing as though we are paying only 30,000 yen a month for quite a nice two-storey house, we really couldn't pass on it.
It has good and bad points, the good usually outweighing the bad, for example, as I type this I am munching on 'happy town' snacks and sipping coffee, Ashton boy is off with MIL on a shopping trip, so having them so close by is a big help to me. It's also good if i run out of something or need to borrow something, things like that.
My MIL really isn't the interfering type and is not old school medalling at all but we do have our differences.
In the past, whenever we have been out in public she refuses to let anyone else hold Ash, even when she's busy filling out forms or whatever, probably just grandchild pride but does irritate me a bit. Another thing that irks me a little is the fact that if Ash is crying, (as babies will do) Grandma-in-law will be over to our house in a flash asking what's wrong with him....Err, he's a baby...? hehe But overall, they are great and I like living so close, I'd probably get lonely otherwise.
So I think I may have pissed MIL off a bit with the issue of giving Ash a bottle. From the beginning I made it clear I wanted to exclusively breastfeed until he was about 6 months old but be up for starting solids/other liquids from about 4 months or if he seemed ready. From when I came back to Japan, (Ash was 6 weeks old) MIL would subtly slip in how much easier it would be to give him formula, how I could sleep better blah blah blah. I smiled and nodded, then got my boobies out.
I'm very happy I'm still able to breastfeed, I have nothing against bottle feeding but it was just what I wanted to do.
As soon as I got back to Japan, MIL brought over some of those little mugi-cha for babies drinks. What is mugi-cha?? Does it have caffeine?? Because as far as I know, in Aussie, tea is a no no for babies. I told her this and even though it says they can drink it from 1 month on, I pretty much told her straight out that I didn't think he needed any other liquids yet. All good, mugi-cha goes in the cupboard.
Not much mentioned, until the other day when the mugi-cha came out again. It's been quite hot lately and I was thinking of giving Ash a bottle of water, so I agreed to try him with the mugi-cha but I really wasn't all that keen and the look on my face probably showed that.
Ash took the bottle no problem, but as soon as he started drinking his face screwed up with a 'this isn't freakin warm, sweet milk!!' look. I must say, I got a bit of satisfaction knowing that he didn't like it, if he had gulped it down MIL would have had an oppourtunity to shove other stuff down his throat, and there's a nice warm fuzzy feeling from your son needing you and only you. After Ash showed he clearly didn't like it I wanted to stop but MIL kept persisting until I said in a pretty shrill voice, "Stop it, we don't give kids tea in Australia!!" I really didn't mean to come out the way it did and I think MIL was alittle bit shocked, I'm not usually so straight.
Anyway, after that day she was a little bit distant...funny, I don't know, just not usual, so she might have been pissed off. I'm not that bothered though, it's really the only issue we have had so far so I think we're doing pretty good! I am a bit concerned about the future though when Ash is eating solids, I can see him eating all kinds of stuff I don't want him to when he's over there, I'll just have to put my foot down I think.
Another thing I found funny with the in-laws was the whole, 'I can't fight with my family' thing. Recently my SIL and BIL went to Thailand and stayed with a friend of the family who owns a guest house there. SIL got offended at something that was said and basically went mental at the friend in Thailand (friend is Japanese). I was really shocked at this, SIL is always very polite and quiet, I didn't expect it. She told me that she can be angry at friends no problem becasue she can just wipe them from her life, but she can't be angry with family because you can never get rid of them!
haha I thought that was funny, and realised my family is kind of the opposite, I can fight with my mum, dad and sister because I know we'll forgive each other, but I'm more reserved with friends, I'm not really sure why! Maybe because I know I can lose them quite easily???
Anyway, we're having dinner over there tonight so MIL couldn't have been too angry with me! On the driving front, I've now driven the nice smooth family car, been scootering like an Osaka Obachan pro and even been out AND parked the big whale of a land cruiser. Driving here isn't that hard eh! Everyone goes much slower and is much more forgiving when changing lanes etc. So I'm getting pretty confident! (Scooter will take a while though!!)
I best go collect my son, MIL might be giving him black coffee or vodka shots or something!
Wednesday, 20 May 2009
I've been meaning to get my licence here for a while now, seeing as though we have a car, MIL has a car I can use, and we have two scooters, it seems like a waste that I'm always being driven around.
It will be easier when I need to duck to the supermarket or someone needs dropping off/ picking up at the station or work.
I am however, a teeny bit scared of Japanese roads. They. Are. Tiny. And I don't mean like 'hmmm that's a bit of a squeeze....' I mean I think it's a footpath when it's actually a road meant for two cars.
Now I think I'm a pretty good driver, I've never had any penalties or accidents, (scraping a door in a car park soooooo doesn't count) but I have been known to panic when driving.
For example, when I was learning to drive I couldn't do a hill start and resolved the solution by bursting into tears and getting out of the car much to the dismay of my dad beside me and the line of cars behind. So I am a bit anxious about driving here. But the speed and aggression of other drivers isn't half as bad here as it is in Aussie so I think I'll be fine. Just in case, buckle up if you're in the kansai region!
The process of getting the licence was like most paper worky stuff in Japan; lots of waiting, checking my name was spelt right and a huge group of people listening to a lecture that nobody really understands or cares about.
I had to go to the foreign licence section so there was a few other people doing the same thing as me, and I think I got off veeerrrrryyyy easy. The paper I got off the internet was made for all foreigners getting a licence so it didn't specify whether a paper or practical test was needed, but I was sure I'd read on the internet somewhere that Aussies don't have to do any tests. So I was mighty relieved when I didn't have to. Especially since I'd been listening to the people infront of me and was shit scared of the staff by the time it was my turn, they sounded really scary! Lots of "...な！？"s and ".....やろう！？"s, in a tone of voice like, 'Do you get it or not foreigner!?' But it must have been the stock standard racist to other asian people but sweet as pie to whities becasue they were soooo nice to me.
The people infront of me were from the Phillipines and they were asking them questions like; "Have you ever caused an accident in Japan?" "You have to pay penalties in the Phillipines before you can get a licence here!" But this was how my application went:
Staff: So you'd like to get a Japanese licence?
Me: Yes please.
Staff: And you're from Australia?
Me: Yes that's right.
Staff: Wow!! Your Japanese is great! That's amazing! I guess seeing as though you have a baby you need a licence right, so just sign this paper.... Oh my! You can read Japanese too, that really is great!!
No grilling at all!
And another thing that puzzles me about foreigners getting a licence here is, I believe Americans (or some states at least) have to do a practical test! At first I thought it must be because of the different side of the road thing, but I think Canadians get off with no test too and Canada drives on the right, right...? Now as an Aussie, it's only patriotic of me to take the piss out of Americans, (hehe) but isn't that weird!? I think if I had to do a test I wouldn't bother.
So after the non-grilling, we had to pay and get the paid stamp, (still don't get the stamp thing either!) then wait a few hours so we had lunch, go back and take our pici, (which is terrible by the way) and then stand in the foreigner line by myself and pick up the licence. One card. Over 8 hours!!!
Ashton woke up at 2am and 4:30am so I am buggered but little Ash was a trooper all day and didn't cry (much) at all, he actually made all the nervous test-goers smile with his big gummy grin.
All in all a wasted but not bad day, one of the driving centre staff ladies came up to me in the line which is always dread for me because I think they're going to tell me something is wrong with my application and to vacate the building/area/country immediately but she enquired in a very tiny voice about the meaning of my tattoo! haha!
Road trip anyone...?
Monday, 18 May 2009
Friday, 15 May 2009
I thought I'd weigh up the pros and cons:
*A fusion of cultures
*Dual nationality for our kids
*Being able to help each other in the other language
*Having super cute kiddies (just look at mine! hehe)
*Funny language mistakes
*Always having relos to stay with in the other country
*A sense of individuality
*Learning how to cook food from partner's country.. OK I'm stretching now, I was trying to get 10, will leave the star just in case something hits me.
*Hating a part of the other culture but just having to live with it
*Kids being unbalanced in one language and therefore disadvantaged in the other
*Someone will always be homesick
*One set of grandparents will always miss out
*Having to cook/eat weird food (hello, uni!?) and engage in unfamiliar customs
*Not being able to argue or get an important point across properly in one language
*One person always more reliant on the other
*One person always feels a little 'out of place'
*One person always feeling like they are sacrificing things for their marriage/partner
Hmmm, didn't struggle as much with the cons... But I guess it depends on the individual couple too right. Sometimes I wonder if I did the right thing getting married in Japan, to a Japanese guy, it's definitely NOT how I imagined things would end up! Everyday things can get so much more stressful, you can feel stuck and stranded and alone.
Then again, this photo is possibly the best example of why I love being apart of an international marriage with a Japanese man...
The night before we "got married" (Quotation marks are because I was at work at the time!!! Ryota just went to the city office with my passport and inkan!) Ryota took me to a beautiful restaurant on top of a hill in Kobe, he said he was so sorry he couldn't afford to buy me an engagement ring and we had an incredibly romntic candlelit dinner.
We were moved to this private little room for dessert where they brought me this cake. The bad grammar made me laugh so hard, because I realised it didn't matter, the thought was there and that's all I needed.
We definitely have good days and bad days, but I think the good outweigh the bad.
Tuesday, 12 May 2009
So I took the time yesterday to do what a good Japanese wifey would do, and said it with food. I made Ryota's favourite dinner and then a ごめんなさい cake (Sorry cake). Isn't it purrrdy! (And so sickly and corny that you wanna vomit all over it!)
Monday, 11 May 2009
I think I had every reason to be pissed, and pissed I was. I'd been dropping hints all week about mother's day, I bought a present and made a card for his mother and grandmother and sent my mum a gift well in advance. So by these things I thought it would be pretty clear that mother's day was important to me in some way. Obviously not.
Sunday started like any other day except I wasn't all chirpy as usual, then I went on a cleaning frenzy as I tend to do when miffed. Then I cuddled up with Ash on our futon for a 'sleep' which was actually a cry. I was thinking how good it is to have a two-storey house now, when we lived in the apartment I wasn't able to have a good private sob.
Anyway, Ryota knew something was up and came to talk to me. I am very annoying in arguments, I do the whole "I'm fine, just having a bad day/headache/PMS" etc. Even though it's clear that I'm angry or upset for a reason... Ryota often tells me how Japanese I am in that way haha.
After I finally started to tell him why I was angry the flood gates really opened, I started ranting about how we skipped the romance part of our relationship and that he got off easy with no dates and presents and stuff. After I said that I felt like a selfish bitch but I can't deny that's the way I feel sometimes, and he doesn't get that I don't want expensive gifts, I want gifts from the heart, or at least the head. Making something, doing something he knows I like and all that stuff that men are just not programmed to do.
I also pulled out the 'we never even had a proper wedding' card, which I know upsets him, but I figure if I don't tell him, the bottling up could be dangerous later on.
I felt muuuccchhhh better after letting it all go, but then he went overboard and started up the "I'm a terrible husband" guilt trip bullshit, took me shopping to Nishinomiya gardens, (which is awesome by the way) and tried to buy me expensive stuff which pissed me off soooo much cos it showed that he just didn't get it. *sigh*
I may have overreacted a little but I think it was more of a build-up of a few things, the fact that I always feel a bit homesick on holidays and being a housewife can send you insane.
I think relationships take time and effort on both sides, so I have to try harder too.
We made up though and like always after an argument, feel refreshed in some way. we agreed that I wouldn't do anything for fahter's day this year, (but I know I will) and then we'll start fresh from next year when he will spoil me rotten.