Can a Family Survive Tokyo on a $2,899 Salary? One Couple’s Struggle

A 27-year-old woman and her 37-year-old husband are struggling to save money each month while raising their newborn son in Tokyo. With the husband as the sole earner bringing in a salary of 400,000 yen ($2,899) per month, this family of three is finding it difficult to afford costs like rent, food, and utilities in one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Housing Eats Up the Biggest Chunk

The couple’s largest monthly expense is 116,000 yen ($812) for a small rental apartment in Tokyo. Housing eats up nearly 30% of the husband’s pay. On top of rent, the family spends 43,000 yen ($283) on health insurance, 18,000 yen ($116) on taxes, and 25,000 yen ($164) on utilities like water, gas, and electricity.

Getting Around Adds Up

Getting around Tokyo also chips away at their budget. The husband spends around 10,000 yen ($65) per month on public transportation passes to commute to work. Owning a car in the city is out of reach for most families.

Little Left for Variable Costs

After housing, transit, and fixed costs, the couple has little wiggle room left for variable spending. They manage to save around 20,000 yen ($131) of the husband’s salary for remittances to family abroad. Their phone bill costs 8,000 yen ($52) monthly. An allowance for the husband’s daily work lunches takes another 25,000 yen ($164). Basic groceries and household items claim 15,000 yen ($109). Dining out on weekends adds approximately 25,000 yen ($164) more.

Barely Saving Each Month

In total, this family has only about 8,000-10,000 yen ($65-$78) remaining each month after covering all their expenses. This small cushion provides little security or ability to save substantially. Like many middle-class Tokyo households, they are struggling to stretch a single paycheck to cover the city’s high baseline costs. To carve out breathing room in their budget, they may need to find cheaper housing farther from the center or trim discretionary costs.

The Challenges of City Living

The couple’s financial challenge highlights how Tokyo’s high rents, transit fees, and other expenses strain residents. While salaries in the capital are also higher than the Japanese average, this does not always compensate for the towering cost of living. This young Tokyo family will need to make some trade-offs to make ends meet in such an expensive megacity.

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