On Empty Wallets And Free Coffee

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Photo By Mike Kenneally

Craig note- I often write content while riding the train. It saves time.

My wallet is empty.

A coworker comes to my desk every month for “friendship” money. She came today with a familiar envelope in her hand. The young woman took my last sen yen ($10).

The company uses the “friendship” money to pay for our annual team-building trip and to buy some snacks for the staff on occasion. The owner kicks in money, too. We have done some fun trips over the years.

(Fast forward to the end of the day.)

I am standing on this crowded train with only four bucks worth of change in my back pants’ pocket and a faded train pass.

If my heart stopped at this second, the police would find a gaijin card, a health insurance card, and a crumpled coupon for a free cup of coffee on my person.

(Buy ten cups. Get one free.)

Life is not without a sense of humor.

I am reminded of a time long ago when my wallet was literally empty. My, my, my how times have changed!

It’s a funny feeling to know while my present wallet is empty, my life is full. To be sure, I am most grateful for that.

It beats the alternative every time.


I read an article a few months ago about money and happiness. Research shows in America it takes only $75,000 (give or take) a year to make most folks happy. Of course, other factors like health and relationships play a role in life contentment, too.

The idea is any money above that figure does not significantly increase life happiness.

On the flip side, I read another article. It says if you have no debt and ten dollars in your wallet, your net worth is greater than 25% of Americans combined.

I stand on this train with zero money in my wallet; yet, I am more fortunate than many people in America.

Sad, isn’t it?

Moreover, two-thirds of the world’s population lives on less than two US Dollars a day, most of those people on less than a dollar. The four bucks in change jingling in my back pants’ pocket makes me upper class in any number of places around the world.

Plus, I have that free coffee coupon.

Sad, isn’t it?

(Back to my original thought.)

I remember in America a time when money (lack thereof) permeated my every thought. There was never anything I did in my life that was not connected to money. It was a depressing feeling.

Now, my wife handles the family finances.

That is common in Japan. I gave my ATM card to my wife years ago. I get some pocket-money every week.

And, that’s it.

It was a difficult transition to not deal with money matters. I remember pestering my wife about where the family’s money was going. My inquisitions were annoying her something fierce.

So, I stopped asking.

I find/found a great measure of freedom in working hard, living life, and never talking about money. Of course, that is easier to do when one has enough money. Thankfully, I don’t worry too much about keeping the lights on every month.

Still, I never take that for granted.

Trust me, I am not loaded. I will be flipping flashcards for a living until I am like a 125.

I realized no amount of worrying about money changes my bank account balance. My energy and time is focused on working as hard as I can.

That is the part I control.

The rest is up to my company, my health, fate, and the universe. Although; I should ask my wife for a raise in case I want more than:

“Free coffee.”

Grey, Grizzled, and Gaijin

“Work like you don’t need the money. Love like you’ve never been hurt. Dance like nobody’s watching.”- Satchel Paige

Written by

Craig is a #writer, #editor, #betareader & #blogger. 2000+ #blog posts & seven #ebooks including #shortstories “The Tempo of Tempura” and “Carl Crapper.”

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