I found yet another intriguing little article on the Asahi Shimbun newspaper recently about an enterprising fellow who has become a local celebrity in Tokyo: the Bonsai Rider. The Bonsai Rider is a local gardener who wasn’t selling many bonsai trees, and decided to take his wares to the streets, where surprisingly he has sold a steady stream of trees, even after the economy worsened, and earned a name for himself.
I enjoyed this uplifting article as it is proof, that a smart business person can succeed under any economic conditions if they have a well thought out plan, are customer-centric and keep costs frugal.1 Economic downturns are simply a sign of the market adjusting itself and shedding failing business.2 The story shows also how many in Tokyo are downsizing their lives, just as their choices in bonsai are getting smaller and more frugal, and still enjoying life.
Living in Ireland for a year taught me a lot about the benefits of a frugal lifestyle too. My little family and I moved there shortly before the global economic crash, but even then, I could tell my fellow Irish co-workers were a lot more frugal than what I remembered back at the home office. These were successful technicians and well-paid by Irish standards, but many of them still brought their lunch from home, or if short on time, simply bought the ingredients at the local Spar, and made it themselves. You could get a nice half-loaf of Johnston, Mooney and O’Brien’s bread, some luncheon meat and good European mustard for a few quid, make it at work, and it might last you a whole week. I quickly adapted to this change in lifestyle and stopped eating out so much like I did back in Seattle, and started buying lunch ingredients at the store. I was relieved to see they had peanut butter there, and I ate more peanut butter at work than any other co-worker. Clearly it was an American thing. Since coming back to the US, I have tried to continue these habits, such as making coffee at home and bringing it to work in a thermos (no more Starbucks except on weekends), and buying a big can of oatmeal (yet another Irish specialty) to eat at work and spending no more than $10 a week on basic provisions at the office, while saving the extra money for the following week.
The joys of frugality are certainly something promoted on a religious level as well, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of either. Don’t let your friends influence your spending habits, take pride in saving money and being clever about it. And if you’re thinking about going into business somewhere, remember some good business fundamentals (frugality and “customer-first”) and take a lesson from the Bonsai Rider!
1 Another man I admire similarly.
2 Sadly, a lot of regular people suffer as a result of reckless and bad business strategies, to say nothing of actual crooks.