Watching anime is one pastime I enjoy. I even have a website where I’ve posted nearly 4,000 funny screenshots from anime TV shows and movies that I have watched over the years. But just because you do something for fun, doesn’t mean you can’t learn something from it. While I was re-watching Hataraku Maou-sama! (known in English as The Devil is a Part-Timer!) for an article on Hubpages titled Top 5 Comedy Anime for People New to Anime, I noticed that the show has a theme about frugal living that is often played for laughs. However, it also provides some useful lessons to those watching.
What is Hataraku Maou-sama! about?
Hataraku Maou-sama! is a 13-episode comedy anime about demons and heroes trapped in our world with minimal magic and little money. In brief, the Demon Lord Satan and his loyal general Alsiel flee through a portal to Earth when under attack by the hero Emilia. Finding themselves in a world with little magic, they have no way to get home. To get by, they realize they need money, so the Demon Lord, going by Sadao Maou, gets a job at the fast food restaurant MgRonald’s. Alsiel, going by Ashiya, becomes a homemaker and manages their finances while researching ways they might be able to acquire magic. Before long, they run into the hero Emilia, now going by Emi, and hilarity ensues as she tries to stop them from taking over the world one satisfied customer at a time.
Money lessons in Hataraku Maou-sama!
Since Maou and Ashiya end up on Earth with no money, they quickly realize that money is essential to survive. They use their limited magic to acquire starter funds from a police officer, with which they open up a bank account and rent a one room apartment. Maou then submits a number of job applications and ends up with a position at MgRonald’s. Since this is a low-paying job, he resolves to work hard and get promoted. In the meantime, they have to carefully manage their budget to get by.
As you can imagine, there are a number of financial lessons that can be learned by watching this show. Here I present six in chronological order.
Lesson #1: Weigh long-term costs and benefits before making big purchases
Soon after Maou and Ashiya begin renting their apartment, Maou decides to purchase a washing machine. Ashiya questions this purchase since they have little money to spend. However, Maou claims that in the long term, buying a washing machine is cheaper than going to a laundromat.
This is the first lesson from the show: weigh long-term costs and benefits before making a big purchase. Buying a washing machine is much more expensive than going to a laundromat over the short term. However, small weekly payments add up over time. Over a couple years, buying a washing machine is cheaper.
For example, assuming washing a load of laundry at a laundromat costs $3 and you do one load of laundry per week, this adds up to $156 per year. Washing clothes at home is not free, though (assuming you pay for electricity and water). These utility costs vary depending on where you live, but we’ll estimate $0.50 per load for an energy efficient washer. That adds up to $26 per year. The difference between using a laundromat and using your own washing machine is $130 per year. A used or low-end washing machine costs about $200-300, so you’d start saving money within 2-3 years.
This lesson is not only applicable to buying appliances. The long-term costs and benefits of any large purchase should be weighed carefully. The largest expenses the typically household has are housing and transportation. It is therefore particularly important to consider the long-term costs and benefits of buying vs. renting a house/apartment and buying a used vs. new car (or leasing one). Make sure to keep in mind that, just like how we also had to consider the cost of utilities in the clothes washing example above, these situations also include costs beyond just the purchase price.
Lesson #2: Avoid paying for things in installments
As part of the previously mentioned argument about buying a washing machine (and a refrigerator), Ashiya questions the wisdom of paying for these appliances up front rather than paying them off in installments. However, Maou insists that paying in full is the better deal because he would have been charged extra if he paid in installments.
This brings us to lesson 2: be careful when buying things on an installment plan. Although it may be tempting to break up large purchases into monthly installments if allowed, make sure you read all the terms and conditions before you do. As Maou noted in the show, many installment plans charge interest, meaning that you end up paying more than you would have if you paid all at once. While some plans are offered with 0% interest, many charge over 10% interest, and some even charge higher than 20% interest! That adds up to a lot of extra spending. You also have to watch out for late fees. And even if your plan doesn’t charge interest and you’re on top of your payments, you still have to be careful about not buying more than you can afford. Splitting purchases into smaller payments can make it easier to overspend. Make sure you still have enough money left over each month to save and invest for your future!
Lesson #3: Save up a cash buffer in an emergency fund
After working at MgRonald’s for some time, Maou catches the eye of a coworker named Chiho, who invites Maou on a date. When Maou mentions this to Ashiya, he whisks Maou to a clothing store to pick out new clothes for the date. Confused since Maou was under the impression that they had no money to spare, he asks Ashiya where he got the money for these clothes. In response, Ashiya reveals that he keeps money in reserve in case of emergencies.
This is lesson 3: put money aside in case of an emergency. Though I don’t personally believe that wanting new clothes for a date counts as an emergency, Ashiya did have the smart idea to save money for unexpected expenses. Building up an emergency fund of 3-6 months’ worth of expenses can save you from going into debt to cover unanticipated costs. Typical emergencies include medical issues, car repairs, relationship problems, or job loss. Having a cash buffer on hand allows you to deal with those sorts of situations without ruining your financial progress. You can read more about emergency funds here.
Lesson #4: You don’t always need to dress to impress
When Maou shows up for his date with Chiho wearing the new clothes that Ashiya picked out and paid for, Chiho is shocked. Maou typically only wears UNISLO (UNIQLO) brand clothing, which is known to be cheap, albeit good quality.
This brings us to lesson 4: it is okay to wear cheap, comfortable clothing for everyday use. Though there are certain situations in which it is advisable to wear nicer clothes, such as dates or interviews, most of the time there is no need to wear expensive clothing if cheaper clothes will work fine. Choosing to wear cheap, but durable, clothing will save you significant money over the long term. You can also buy secondhand clothing from stores like Goodwill, particularly for kids’ clothes since they grow out of them so quickly.
Lesson #5: Take advantage of discounts on things you already buy
Later in the show, Maou and Ashiya are attacked by Lucifer. Ashiya is grievously injured, but rather than worrying about himself, he worries about Maou’s financial wellbeing. Before passing out, he tells Maou to make sure he takes advantage of discounts (primarily on groceries) that typically happen on the first day of each month.
This is lesson 5: take advantage of discounts. Many stores offer discounts on various products from time to time. By keeping these in mind while shopping, you can save quite a bit of money. Just make sure not to be swayed by discounts to purchase items you otherwise would not have bought. That’s an easy way to accidentally end up spending more money while trying to discount shop. You can read about how to maximize discounts and cashback here, and this article provides more information about how to save money on groceries.
Lesson #6: Be careful buying things online
After some time, another one of Maou’s demon generals moves in with Maou and Ashiya. Going by Urushihara, he is essentially a mischievous and lazy kid who likes to play games and surf the internet. Though Maou and Ashiya are clueless about the internet, Urushihara realizes that he can use it to buy things online without having to leave the apartment. He thus proceeds to buy a variety of unnecessary things and fall for online scams. Thankfully, Ashiya is generally able to send back items that Urushihara shouldn’t have ordered or their finances would have been ruined.
This is the final lesson, number 6: be careful when buying things online. In today’s world, it is easy for anyone to buy things from the comfort of their home. However, without the inconvenience of having to actually go to a store to buy something, it is easier than ever to buy things you don’t really need and overspend. In addition, paying for convenience can be expensive. For example, though it is simple to order food or groceries online, the added cost of delivery should make you second guess the decision. This is not to say that you shouldn’t buy anything online. Just be careful to make sure you stay within your budget, pay attention to delivery costs, and familiarize yourself with return policies.