コスパ is short for コストパフォーマンス (“cost performance”). However, its meanings and nuances have fairly shifted from the original one, and it is used in much broader senses and contexts. In particular, the abbreviated word “コスパ” contains an informal tone, and is often used in a casual text/conversation.
To provide a brief overview of how differently コスパ is used in Japanese compared to English, here is a list of common keywords that are often combined with “コスパの良い” (“good cost performance”) on Google search engine:
- 車 (kuruma, “car”)
- パソコン (pasokon, “PC”)
- 居酒屋 (“Izakaya: Japanese-style bar”)
- 資格 (shikaku, “qualification”)
- 趣味 (syumi, “hobby”)
- 食べ物 (tabemono, “food/ingredients”)
- 年収 (nensyuu, “salary”)
As you can see, a variety of things can have “good cost performance” in Japanese. First of all, 車 (cars) and パソコン (PCs) with good cost performance indicate that they are “cheap but of high quality”, i.e. “good value for money”. Similarly, Izakaya is considered as having “good cost performance” if it serves cheap and delicious meals/drinks.
As shown by the list above, according to Google, lots of Japanese people are also looking for “good-cost-performance 資格 (qualifications)”; that is, the ones that are “time and cost effective/efficient“. For instance, if you find an ideal qualification that requires little time and money to gain but brings you a fortune, you can say that its cost performance is pretty good. Similarly, if a hobby has a good cost performance, that means you can enjoy and immerse yourself in it without spending lots of money. Food/ingredients with good cost performance are very cheap but tasty and nutritious.
The last one “年収” (“salary”) is a bit tricky one: if a salary has “good cost performance”, that means it’s “tax-efficient”, i.e. a salary that offers the best trade-off between the amount of the salary and that of tax.
By the way, if you Google “コスパが悪い” (“bad cost performance”) instead, it suggests “自炊 (じすい)” (“cook by oneself”) as a keyword candidate. This means a lot of Japanese people (especially singles) are more tempted to eat out and can’t be bothered to cook by themselves, and that is quite understandable given that there are many restaurants in Japan with “good cost performance”, compared to western countries.
This (tasty) wine is only for 1000 yen; its cost performance is too good.
This university has “awesome cost performance” because it’s easy to enter but the graduates are often hired by good companies.
We should contemplate the cost performance of the plan before we put it into practice.
費用対効果 (ひよう たい こうか) cost-effectiveness