Wherein I complain about exchange rates

My bags are packed. My passport and visa are ready. I’ve canceled my cellphone, Zipcar, and cable accounts. I’ve alerted my credit cards that I will be overseas. Yesterday I completed my final preparation for Japan. I converted my money to Japanese Yen, and closed my checking account.

My company suggests bringing roughly 400,000 to 500,000 yen when you first arrive in Japan. This large number is to cover the move-in cost for the new apartment, household purchases and standard living expenses. The paychecks are issued on the 14th of the following month, so my first paycheck will not arrive until May 14th. Given that I will be arriving a few weeks early and staying in Chiba, I was hoping to have closer to the high end of that for my arrival.

Two years ago, when the exchange rate was close to 1:1 that would be easy. The $5,100 I had in my bank account would translate nicely and give me a good cushion for my arrival. However, the dollar is not quite what it used to be. Current market rate is about 90 yen to each dollar. Trouble is my bank no longer exchanges at the current market rate, but at their set “retail rate.” This is generally a few points lower, about 84 yen to each dollar. So my $5,100 becomes about 430,000 yen. That’s 20,000 less than what market rate would give and 70,000 less than what I would like to have. It’s like I lost $700 just because.

So this puts me into accounting mode. I’ve gone through a much more detailed initial and month to month cost analysis, but I won’t bore anyone with that here. A very brief overview though: My initial payment for my apartment will be about 210,000 yen. Any major household purchases I can most likely put onto my credit card. Utilities should run about 12,000 a month and food about 48,000. Multiply these by two that’s 120,000 yen. The remaining 100,000 yen should cover any unexpected costs or miscalculations until May 14th. So long as I’m watchful of my spending that is. In my small city cost of living should be quite low. The initial move may be a little rocky but I should be fine.

Despite the money lost in translation and the rough beginnings, there is a plus side to this. The exchange rate, which shows no sign of flipping any time soon, means my paycheck will be worth more in the States. I have some debt to pay down, and with a potential 10% increase on yen to dollars, I can pay the debt down that much faster. That’s the plan anyway. I may not be able to rock out quite like I wanted to with Nick and the crew from East House II when I arrive, but I’ll be able to get by. I was really looking forward to Ageha, too. Maybe I can set some cash aside for that.

As of today there are three days before I fly out. Monday 1:25pm. Going away party is tomorrow, and I doubt I’ll get another post in before I leave. Take care everyone, and hope to see you on the other side of the world sometime.


One response

  1. I wonder if there’s a Japanese equivalent of Mint.com?

    March 15, 2010 at 7:51 pm

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