The old adage about nothing being certain but death and taxes is getting a lot of play these days. At midnight on April 1, the consumption tax applied to all goods and services in Japan jumps from 5% to 8%. And the impending increase is already impacting on consumer behavior as people stock up on various commodities in the hope of saving a few extra yen.
If you’re planning to leap into the fray and join the hordes of hoarders, advises Nikkan Gendai (March 8), there are some things you will need to consider, such as shelf lives of the various commodities that you buy in bulk. The tabloid is also advising that you shop soon, because store shelves are likely to be picked bare by the final week of March.
It appears the second and third weeks of March will be the time to get the shopping done, particularly for rice, beer and wine, seasonings, laundry detergent and shampoo (buy 2 to 3 months’ worth) and beverages in 2-liter PET bottles.
Any time before April 1, it’s a good idea to stock up on ink cartridges for your computer printer and pay a visit to your barber or hairdresser.
Before the month is over, savings of up to 4,000 yen can also be realized by checking into a “human dock” for a complete physical examination. Specialty clinics generally charge about 100,000 yen for these. If you wear disposable contact lenses, it’s also a good time to stock up on a three to six-month supply.
While the increased consumption tax is disruptive to the economy, it’s not a given that the prices will go up on all goods. Television receivers and personal computer are subject to frequent fluctuations in the market, so unless your current unit needs immediate replacement, it’s probably better to wait.
If you were planning to purchase a high-ticket jewelry item or famous brand goods, now’s the time to do it, as long as the items you chose are not sold at outlet stores or on the gray market.
“They’re saying that it’s a good idea to buy two to three sets of dress shirts and underwear,” Takayuki Suzuki, an authority on marketing and distribution, tells the tabloid. “Likewise for appliances that don’t undergo frequent model changes and whose prices tend not to fluctuate. If you are planning to replace your refrigerator or washing machine with a new one, it’s probably a good idea to do it during March.”
Another type of item it might make sense to stock up on would be disaster preparation goods, which many stores will be displaying with conjunction with Tuesday’s third anniversary of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.
“Emergency foods such as those in pouches or cans, or certain dried confections, typically have a storage life of three years,” says a retailer, who advises that the older edible items on hand should consumed and replenished with new goods each season.
The biggest savings advantage within this month, according to the items in Nikkan Gendai’s list, appears to a memorial marker for one’s cemetery plot. Yes, order and pay for your “boseki” now, the tabloid advises. Since they can cost several millions of yen, that means possibly saving tens of thousands of yen. Which, presumably, you will put to good use, on something that will give you enjoyment in this life.