Magazine offers advice to reduce the sting of surging inflation


With coronavirus pandemic, the war in Ukraine and plunging value of the Japanese yen, Japan's consumer price index in March rose by 9.5% over March 2021, rising at the fastest clip since the second "oil shock" of 1973.

"When consumer prices rose back in the 1970s, these were offset by a corresponding rise in wages," said chief economist Toshihiro Nagahama of the Daiichi Life Research Institute Inc. "But this time the burden will fall on consumers. We're concerned that people's livelihood will be adversely affected."

"We're projecting an annual rise in expenditures of around ¥50,000 for a household of three," said Nagahama. "This breaks down into energy-related outlays of around ¥40,000 --- for electric power, city gas and gasoline --- and ¥10,000 for foodstuffs."

So Shukan Post (April 29) has put together a special section on what readers can do to avoid falling into "inflation hell," with a multifaceted strategy consisting of nine ways to safeguard one's assets. 

"We're likely to start feeling the effects of the war in Ukraine," predicted Harumi Maruyama, a financial planner. "I suppose things now are still on the beginning stage.

"If you're going to stock up on any items, it would make sense to buy staple products, preferable those with a long shelf life," Maruyama advised. "Since earthquakes have been occurring frequently, I would suggest you stock up on the same kind of items you keep on hand for an emergency. These would have a storage life of from one to two years, so you could consider buying a six-month supply."

Government data released in 2021 noted that the practice of drinking at home has increased due to the coronavirus pandemic. Compared with 2019, the amount rose by 21.9% in households where the main breadwinner was aged 45 to 49 years. Handouts of monthly kozukai (pocket money) allotted by wives to their husbands dropped below the ¥10,000 level to ¥9,678, a 22.3% decline from 2019. (In better times the figure was over ¥30,000.)

The purchase of PB (private brand) items offered in chain stores such as Aeon and Seiyu, as opposed to famous national brands, may reduce food outlays by as much as ¥5,000 per month.

This is not to be sniffed at: the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, in its most recent annual survey, determined that in households where the main breadwinner is in his 60s, and spends ¥258,000 yen a month on average. So reducing outlays for food by 10% should realize a savings of ¥5,000 per month; a 20% reduction will save ¥10,000 per month.

Since the deregulation of utilities came into effect, the careful selection of your power utility may result in annual savings of ¥10,000. Another good idea is check out the best plans offered by cell phone providers, which can reduce monthly billings by as much as ¥3,400.

If you drive, you can save money merely by weaning yourself from old driving habits.

Instead of jamming on the brakes, take your foot off the accelerator some 300 meters from the stop sign.

"In the coasting mode, an engine does not consume fuel," said Takahito Nakamura, a motoring journalist, who also pointed out that careful maintenance, such as proper air pressure in the tires, or not keeping heavy items like golf bags in the trunk when not playing, also helps conserve fuel.

"Nineteen Costco stores have gas pumps," Nakamura noted. "At the outlet in Kisarazu, Chiba, regular gas sells for ¥154 per liter -- ¥15 less than the national average. For every 100 liters you consume every month, that's a savings of ¥1,600 -- so three months of fuel purchases alone will cover the annual Costco membership charge of ¥4,840."

After doing all of the above you're still feeling tight, you can also do some moonlighting. Look for sources of income, like participating in surveys, that will bring in between ¥10,000 to ¥20,000 yen per month.

Unfortunately, one of the institutions that have helped people hold the line on inflation, 100-yen shops, may soon vanish from the retail scene, caught, as they are, between soaring costs for materials and the declining value of the Japanese yen.

Nikkan Gendai (April 25) reported that Masashi, one such shop located in Tokyo's Chuo Ward, closed on April 20, bringing its 15-year history to an end. 

Keigo Horiuchi, the store's manager, told the tabloid that companies that manufacture the products sold in his shop have been going out of business. The remaining eight Masashi stores in Tokyo will be successively closing, Horiuchi added.

Some firms, however, are determined to hold the line at ¥100 per item.

"At present we have no plans to shift to selling high-priced items," said a spokesman the Seria chain, which operates 1,800 outlets nationwide. "Through cost-cutting measures, such as self-operating cash registers, we will endeavor to maintain the 100-yen price across the board."

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chief economist Toshihiro Nagahama of the Daiichi Life Research Institute Inc. "But this time the burden will fall on consumers. We're concerned that people's livelihood will be adversely affected.

The concern has been minimal from the LDP and the financial sector or they wouldn't have endorsed policies that have worked to impoverish workers and make their lives more precarious for the last 30 years.

As with at the start of the pandemic, here is news recommending depression era food strategies and rapid diminishment in lifestyles as the only solution to the crisis. While companies that suffer a dip in earnings are bailed out by the taxpayers.

The old austerity socialism for the rich game.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Buying six-month supply of whatever doesn't work if you live in a small place where space is an issue.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

But this time the burden will fall on consumers. 

That’s right, but also wrong, because always and all burdens fall on the last ones in the chain, and those are the consumers of products and services. There isn’t such a thing, that someone else positioned earlier in the chain has more costs or burdens or penalties and so on, everything is handed through to to the next stage of the cycle. Always the last persons , the consumers, pay everything and in full of the costs, burdens, energy , resources, plus the profits of every stage between, when buying something and paying for it.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The concern has been minimal from the LDP and the financial sector or they wouldn't have endorsed policies that have worked to impoverish workers and make their lives more precarious for the last 30 years."

Absolutely ...the billion$$ in pork barel for white elephant projects, J-Inc subsidies, buying more military hardware, throwing huge sums overseas for imaginatory "soft power " influence, anything to do with politician and public service budgets untouchable. Meanwhile the peasants can exist on eating cups of noodles and white rice, drink tap water, walk to and from work and just dress up / down instead of using electricity. God forbid plebs got a tax cut or a meaningful increase in minimum wage. But yeah, don,t forget to vote LDP again at next election...they do care about you..yoroshiku. TIJ.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Being Shukan post I did not expect terribly useful advice, but even with these expectations the recommendations seem old for something written in 2022, it is hard to believe the people interviewed could not give more advice than what could be done 10 or even 20 years ago.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Poor people often cannot afford to stock up and wealthy people do not need to save cash, but shortages and energy rationing will be an issue post-globalisation. We are exchanging an economy that worked for one that does not, and it will be a bumpy ride.

Switch to LED lighting. Turn your phone off when you are not using it. People can message you. Better still, switch from a contract smartphone to a simple PAYG feature phone. If you do stick with a smartphone or need a new one, get one with an extra-long battery life. It will weigh a bit more, but will last longer when the power goes off and you cannot recharge it.

You will need an uninterruptable Power Supply (UPS) if you use a PC, or the power going off with do bad things to your hard drive. Get a cheap one that will give you time to shut down. Or switch to a laptop. Laptop batteries decline over time, so consider getting a new one from a reliable third party supplier. Most laptops have higher capacity battery options. They weigh more, but can double the time you laptop works without power. They are not widely advertised.

Get an adaptor so you can recharge multiple devices when the power is on. Keep everything topped up.

Keep stuff in good order and read the manuals - boilers, aircon etc. It is cheaper to keep something working well than to pay someone to fix it. Draught-proof your home, even if only with tape. Buy base layers to keep you warm.

Making money can be easier than saving money. If you have experience with anything collectible - CDs, figures, toys, designer gear, books - scour charity shops and flea markets and sell online. Aim for a minimum 100% profit on everything. Sell anything you don't need for cash and space - both are important. Make and mend your own clothes - there are tutorials online. Patch clothes. Wear odd socks. Buy cheap but hard-wearing clothes such as unbranded jeans.

Defrost your freezer and use all available space in your fridge/freezer by storing things in plastic bags rather than the chunky cardboard packaging you buy them in - but remember to retain the cooking instructions. Microwave or eat cold, rather than using an oven or hob. Buy fruit cheaply when there is a glut and learn how to store it, as out-of-season produce will vanish.

Storage is difficult in Japan, but if you have space, maximise your use of it in terms of consumable quantities/protein/cost. Dried legumes are top of that list. Buy food wholesale (with friends) as it is cheaper. Eat smaller portions but don't ban treats, you will just make yourself miserable. If you have a garage see if you can squeeze in a chest freezer. Change your meals to avoid waste and simplify them to reduce costs. To avoid waste, stick labels on all food with the expiry clearly marked, colour coding them if necessary. Then store the longest-lasting at the rear. Keep a list of what you have with expiry dates. If a quantity of something is likely to go off, donate it to someone who can use it in advance. If you drink bottled water or fizzy drinks, get a water filter instead. Drinking a bit more tap water will hydrate you and your health will improve - most of us do not drink enough of it. Reserve alcohol for celebrations only.

Stock up on OTC medication and painkillers. Avoid wasting money on popular traditional remedies. Maintain a good medical kit and a supply of strong mints (dizziness) and menthol sweets (blocked nose/cough). As the article says, buy generic everything. Get spares for things, such as electric shavers, before they need them - they will cost more later or vanish from sale. Stock up on any batteries you use or go rechargeable. If you haven't got one, get a basic radio. Learn some first aid.

If you have more space, buy your next printer, scanner, toner, phone, laptop, TV, monitor, microwave, shaver, headphones, DVD player, toaster, vacuum cleaner, whatever now. Everything is going to cost more and there will be shortages. Get a couple of second hand PCs or laptops (that use the same battery as your current machine) and set them up with the software you use. Make two backups of all of your data on external hard drives.

Make sure you have enough cash very well hidden to last you a month for basics. Power cuts can be boring. Have some rechargeable lighting, books and music ready. If you have a garden/balcony, grow food. Easy stuff: Legumes, blight-resistant tomatoes, sweet peppers, radishes, onions, rhubarb, courgettes, berry bushes, fruit trees on dwarfing rootstocks and, if you have space, culinary herbs. Make your own compost and your own pots, and grow from seed. Share seed with friends.

A back-up generator may be useful in some less urban properties. Use your car as little as you can. Check out deals for low cost bus and rail travel. Car share with friends for shopping trips. EVs will be cheaper to run but are very expensive to buy. Buy a bike if you haven't got one. A battered old one with new tyres will cost less and may not be stolen as readily as a new one. If you get rid of your car, consider renting out your garage. Solar panels and residential power cells would offer you more energy options. In rural areas consider getting a wind turbine.

If you are thinking of having kids, do some sums. They are not cheap, and you may not be bringing them into a pleasant world. Pets can also be expensive. Think hard about your education and career options. We may not have much of a future, so plan carefully.

Just as the Roman Empire fell, our globalised civilisation is being ended by our political leaders with no 'Plan B' to replace it. We are moving to our own 'Dark Age'. Get dug in and prepare.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

This is advice for the proletariats.

The bourgeoisie in Japan (and elsewhere as well) could care less about how much pain the "peasants" feel.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

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