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."© Japan Today