How much money can I save teaching English in Japan? Monthly budget and expenses.

How did I become “theRippedNomad”, you ask?

For the last 6 years I’ve been working from home as a translator, allowing me to live and travel wherever I like. But my journey actually started by teaching English in Japan.

Teaching English (assuming you come from an English-speaking background) is a great way to travel and live in various countries. If you want to live in Japan, then it’s probably about your only option unless you are: a) completely fluent in Japanese; or b) have some other highly valuable skill.

Job Options:

There are three main job options:
a) For-profit English schools known as “Eikaiwa”
b) Assistant language teacher (ALT) in an elementary/middle/high school
c) University lecturer

Of the above, it’s pretty easy to get a job for a) and b) without any qualifications whatsoever. To work as a university lecturer, you’ll generally need a Master’s degree and published works. I’ve personally done both a) and b) – worked in an Eikaiwa for 1.5 years, and then worked as an ALT for 2 years.

Salary: how much money can I make?

These days it seems to be a race to the bottom in the English-teaching industry in Japan. In general, salaries for full-time Eikaiwa teachers and ALTs should be around 200,000 – 300,000 yen per month.
If you are an Eikaiwa teacher, your company may offer a salary package that includes housing – when I worked for a major Eikaiwa in 2007-2008 I was paid 270,000 yen and had 55,000 yen deducted for my apartment each month.
When I worked as an ALT in 2009-2010 I was paid 260,000 yen a month.

For reference, check out the job listings of GaijinPot for an idea of salaries.

Let’s take the average of my Eikaiwa and ALT jobs and give me a salary of 265,000 yen per month.
If shit goes to plan, you will be getting 26.5 of these babies a month.

Expenses: How much money can I save teaching English in Japan? My monthly budget

Social security (health insurance + pension):
There are basically two types of social security in Japan: Shakai Hoken (for company employees) and the national pension/insurance for the self-employed.
In general, if you are working for a reputable school, you will be enrolled in Shakai Hoken. These expenses can differ very slightly depending on the prefecture in which you live and your age. But in my case [age: under 40, living in Osaka] the monthly expenses are as follows:
Health insurance: 13,169 yen
Pension: 23,636 yen

There is a national income tax and a prefectural resident’s tax. I’m not going to go into details about how they are calculated, you will just have to trust my calculations here
Income tax: 5,200 yen
Resident’s tax: 10,816 yen

Note: Resident’s tax is actually payable the following year. I.e. If you work from Jan-Dec 2017, the resident’s tax will be due from mid-way through 2018. Many people who live/work in Japan for 12 months usually don’t bother to pay this.

After-tax income: 212,179 yen per month 

Let’s assume you will live in the standard one-room 20m² shoebox-style apartment that most English teachers live in. When I worked for the Eikaiwa school I lived in a LeoPalace apartment which cost me 55,000 yen a month. In fact, many Eikaiwa schools will give you the option to sub-lease their apartments for between 50,000 and 70,000 yen a month.
When I worked as an ALT I lived in a furnished rental like this one which cost me 67,000 yen a month.

These are figures for Osaka. Tokyo will be a little more expensive, and rural areas will be cheaper.

Let’s assume a rent of 65,000 yen a month

These will differ depending on the month – higher bills in the summer months when you use the air conditioner a lot, and higher bills in winter if you use a heater. The following are my average expenses over the course of a year
Electricity: 7,000 yen
Gas: 2,000 yen
Water: 2,000 yen
Internet: 4,000 yen
Phone: 1,000 yen   [note: to save money I used a data-only SIM card in my unlocked Android phone and used apps like LINE, Skype and FB Messenger to make voice calls. IMO there is no need to subscribe to an expensive plan unless you plan to purchase a new phone here.]

Average monthly utilities: 16,000 yen

At both the Eikaiwa school and ALT company, transportation passes were provided by the company; this is generally the case for most companies. If you work for a particularly shitty company, they may not pay for your transportation to and from work. In this case you’ll probably have to pay between 6,000 – 10,000 yen a month for a transportation pass.

This is probably the most variable expense. Let’s assume you shop at the supermarket and generally eat the majority of your meals at home. The basic staples I purchase are as follows:
Chicken breast: Around 500-600 yen for 1000 grams
Eggs: Around 200 yen for a dozen
Milk: Around 200 yen for a liter
Steak: Around 1500-2000 yen for 1000 grams (cheaper cuts of steak)
Frozen veggies: Around 400 yen for 1000 grams (purchased in bulk)
So, if you ate eggs for breakfast, a protein shake or something for lunch, and a basic chicken (300g) +veggies meal for dinner, it’d be possible to eat for 500 yen per day. On average I spend 40,000 yen a month when bulking up and 30,000 yen a month when dieting. It should be noted that I’m generally “careful” (read: cheap) with money, and purchase in bulk where possible. So I’d say 40,000 yen would be a reasonable average.

Groceries: 40,000 yen a month

Yes, this is a necessary expense. You can find more information about gyms in Japan here. I’d budget 10,000 yen a month for the gym.

Summary of expenses: 

Salary 265,000 yen
Social security 36,805 yen
Taxes: 16,016 yen
After-tax income 212,179 yen
Rent 65,000 yen
Utilities 16,000 yen
Groceries 40,000 yen
Gym 10,000 yen
Discretionary income 81,179 yen









So you should be able to save around 80,000 yen (approx. $700 USD) a month if you don’t eat out at restaurants, travel, smoke, go drinking at bars and clubs, go shopping, buy clothes, etc.

Being more realistic… let’s assume you buy lunch every day at work (700 yen x 22 days a month = approx. 15,000 yen), eat out at a restaurant for dinner once a week (3,000 yen x 4 = approx. 12,000 yen), and go drinking at a bar/club once a week (5,000 yen x 4 = approx. 20,000 yen).

This will leave you with around 34,000 yen a month left over. This is a pretty accurate reflection of how much money I saved (approx $8,000) after 2 years of teaching English.

If you want to go crazy at the clubs and enjoy trips around SE Asia, it’s certainly possible if you pick up a few hours of private lessons during the week in addition to your main job. (If you earn side income of 200,000 yen or less, you don’t have to declare it as tax).