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Can You Survive on a Teacher Salary in Japan?

Here is a breakdown of my teaching salary for August 2018. If you’ve ever wondered how much an average English teacher in Japan makes, here are all the raw numbers.

My Monthly Japanese Income for August 2018

Income

230038 yen

My paycheck was slightly higher this month due to a few hours of overtime that I worked. I would like to increase this over the next year by teaching private English lessons, making YouTube videos, and building up traffic to my website.

This salary is about how much you can expect to make once income taxes, city taxes, health insurance, and pension funds are all deducted. All-in-all there are around 60,000 yen or so of fees that get taken out of your pay every month.

I have been really struggling to pay my student loans since being enrolled in the mandatory pension. I have one major loan that is currently in deferment, because I’d be in the negative each month otherwise.

Increasing my income over the new few months is critical. I need take-home pay of at least 300,000 yen per month to start whittling down my debt and not drown in it.

My Monthly Japanese Expenses for August 2018

Rent65500 yen
Electric6000 yen
Gas7000 yen
Water6000 yen
Internet2500 yen
Commute9100 yen
Food30000 yen
Travel10000 yen
Medicine5000 yen
Total141100 yen

The cost of rent is pretty typical for a 1 bedroom apartment in Yokohama. I live just a six minute walk from a major shopping mall, that has everything I need. It is possible to find much cheaper apartments, but they’ll be older, and a long walking distance from the nearest station.

I don’t plan on living in this apartment much longer after September, so I should be able to save the money I would usually spend on rent and use it towards my student loans. It’s really tough finding ways to squeeze extra money out to pay enough on your loans to actually get out of debt.

I barely have any clothing, and can only afford one small trip per year. Definitely not enough to go back to the states to see my family…

The commuting fees are always reimbursed, but then just get spent on the same thing each month, so it cancels out.

I buy medicine about every 3 months, so the 5000 yen is set aside to cover the doctor’s visit, my train ticket, and the cost at the pharmacy.

My Monthly US Expenses for August 2018

Credit Card$95.34
Phone$40.00
Student Loans$260.10

My credit card is something that I would like to pay down quickly, but it’s hard with my large student loan payments.

What you don’t see here is the ADDITIONAL $600 loan payment that is currently being deferred. Otherwise, I’d be paying $860.10 per month just on the student loans. It’s currently going in interest, and growing as a worry in the back of my mind.

It’s simply not possible to pay off massive student loan debt as an English teacher living abroad. The salaries are just too low.

Worst part is, the company I’m with doesn’t give raises.

I showed them how my salary has been decreasing every year since I started working for them, and they offered me an extra 5000 yen ($50) per month if I agreed to work more hours as a trainer.

That $50 won’t do anything for my massive $860 loan payment…

Personal Monthly Expenses for August 2018

Clothing4000 yen
Household1000 yen
Hair10000 yen

These are estimates for things I only let myself indulge in if I have any money left over after everything has been paid, and a little tucked away in savings.

And let me tell you, it doesn’t happen often.

Most months I don’t buy any new clothes. If I do, it’s usually just one or two tops that are in the $10-15 range.

Household items are basic necessities such as toilet paper, dish detergent, laundry detergent, shampoo, and conditioner. It won’t be enough to buy all of those things in one month, so usually I have to take the money out of the clothing and hair budgets to get everything.

I go to the salon once every 3 to 4 months to get my hair straightened. It’s the only way I’ve been able to make my hair manageable here in Japan. I’ve tried so many products on my naturally curly hair, but everything leaves it feeling too dry and breaking off.

I try waiting between hair sessions as much as possible before going in for another straightening.

It’s cheaper to get Japanese hair straightening than to get the products I need to take care of my naturally curly hair sent to Japan from the US.

Final Calculations

  • Income: 230038 yen
  • Expenses: (-200751 yen)
  • Savings: 29287 yen

In the end I’m able to save about $263.55 this month with the current exchange rate, and with my federal loan in deferment.

My name is LaShawn and I have been living in Japan for seven years. Check out my blog to learn about my experiences or get advice on how you could do the same!

13 responses

  1. I left a comment and thumbs up. Unfortunately, I can’t watch it until I have reliable internet. Glad to see you posting again.

    1. Thank you! I decided to suck it up and just use my broken lens. As long as I don’t have to zoom too much it should be okay. The hardest part is getting over my awkwardness in front of the camera.

      1. I still can’t put myself in front of a camera so you’re already way ahead of me on that part.

    1. Thank you! And welcome to Yokohama 🙂 It’ll be interesting to read about your experiences here.

  2. I’ll watch the video later as I’m currently at the hospital now.

    You actually earn more than me but we have different contract, our company pays everything and deduct in my monthly salary BUT they if the deductions exceeds (or even how much the deductions increase) the salary I have to have cannot be less than 150,000¥ plus the ¥50,000 transpiration alloance.

    1. I’m sorry to hear you’re in the hospital! Are you going to be okay? I hope it’s nothing too serious.

      Does your company also pay for your rent? If so, that’s not a bad deal. Your transportation allowance is huge, but if I remember correctly, you have to travel between different schools a lot.

      1. No I just had an annual check up. Sorry I didn’t make it clear lol.
        Everything is deducted already – rent, water, taxes, pension, insurance, health insurance, etc.
        For the travel alloance I seldom travel maybe once a month if other school needs so.

      2. Glad to hear it wasn’t anything bad lol. I think in the end you make more since your company covers rent and utilities, but doesn’t let your salary drop any lower than 200,000 (150,000 pay + 50,000 travel). I could save so much if my company did that.

  3. Wow, I was just reading something about the cost of living in Tokyo and how 350k yen/month is pretty much the minimum required to living comfortably and not feel like you’re in poverty. And here you are getting by just fine with ~230k. Yeah I think I’mma have to pass on living in Tokyo… lol.

    1. 350,000 yen per month will probably end up only being 290,000 once taxes, health insurance, and the pension fees are taken out. You could make it work if you rent with a roommate or get a share house. Yokohama is significantly cheaper though, especially if you’re willing to live at least 10 minutes away from the nearest station. In that case, you can get an apartment that’s double the size for the same price as Tokyo.

  4. Damien Anderson

    Hey mate, I like your blog. I was the same when I first came to Japan. I started on 25man. I really recommend networking in Japan and finding a good school gig. I work for a private school, it’s the easiest job in the world (I do like 7-8 teaching hours per week) and I get 32man plus a lot of benefits, like 2 bonus ( worth 3 months salary per year), a free 4 bedroom house, very good health insurance, super and holidays. Don’t grind to make an eikaiwa rich. Switch to school and keeping hustling on the side like you’re doing.

    1. LaShawn

      You’re right. I’m tired of making this company so much money and getting very little in return. I have two job interviews this week 🙂

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