Kakeibo
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Do you struggle to save money? Tend to buy things when you’re feeling bored, stressed, or just because you want to feel a (very short-lasting) rush of dopamine? If you answered yes to at least one of these questions or want to be more mindful with your spending, then Kakeibo may be a good fit for you.  

Unlike other budgeting tools, Kakeibo is not a software or an app. It’s a simple yet powerful personal finance philosophy that teaches you to save money and spend mindfully. All you need is a pen and a notebook. 

If you’re curious about this budgeting method and whether it might be right for you, let’s take a closer look at what it is and how it works.

What is Kakeibo?

Kakeibo (pronounced Kah-Keh-Boh) is a century-old personal finance method developed by Japan’s first female journalist, Hani Motoko. Literally translated as a household financial ledger, Motoko first created it as a tool for Japanese housewives to organize their household finances. 


Since then, Motoko’s readers have found this to be an effective way to manage their finances and quickly adopted it as a tradition in Japanese households. Fast forward 114 years later, and Fumiko Chiba’s popular book Kakeibo: The Japanese Art of Saving Money introduced it in the States as the newest trend to come out of Japan since Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

The Kakeibo Philosophy

Kakeibo takes a different approach to saving money than other budgeting methods. Instead of focusing on saving money by spending less, it makes mindful spending a primary goal. 

Mindful spending

Mindful spending means putting your money towards things that align with your goals and values. It also means cutting out unnecessary expenses that only bring you a short-lasting boost of happiness, like going to Starbucks because you’re bored or going on a shopping spree because you’ve had a rough day. The more intentional you become with your spending, the easier it will be to achieve your savings goals, and the happier you will become. 

Before buying something ask yourself questions like: 

  • Is this going to bring me lasting joy? (fans of Marie Kondo can relate.) 
  • Do I really need this, or do I just want it? 
  • Why am I buying this? 

Reflecting on these questions can help you make more intentional, mindful buying decisions and gain control over your spending. 

🇯🇵 In Japan, many people prioritize saving money to buy high-quality, long-lasting items over emotional spending on things that don’t really need. 

Writing Things Down

Using pen and paper is another important aspect of Kakeibo. Writing things down makes you more present and more aware of your financial habits. It also makes you more likely to achieve your savings goals, according to neuroscience[1]. Journaling can also help you figure out the purpose behind your spending habits and get to the root of why your relationship with money is the way it is. 

Once you understand this, you can learn how to use money as a tool that can help you, rather than an obstacle or a source of stress. 

How to Use Kakeibo

Using Kakeibo centers around answering 4 key questions:

  1. How much money do you have available?
  2. What’s the amount you want to save?
  3. How much money are you spending?
  4. How can you improve?

 To get started, all you need is a journal (or a notebook) and a pen.

👉 Step 1

How much money do you have available & how much do you want to save?

At the beginning of each month, write down the following:

  • INCOME: this includes any money coming in from your job, part-time work, and even irregular income like your tax return or birthday money. 
  • FIXED EXPENSES: these are all the expenses you have to pay every month like rent, mortgage, utilities, insurance, etc. 
  • BUDGET: This is the amount of money you have left to spend after you subtract your expenses from your income. 
  • MONTHLY SAVINGS GOAL: Write down how much money you’d like to save this month and what you’re saving for. Once you figure it out, deduct it from your budget and set it aside. For fans of envelope budgeting, you can put this cash in an envelope. 

👉 Step 2

How much money are you spending?

Every time you spend from your budget (even if it’s a dollar), you have to manually record it in your notebook under one of these 4 Kakeibo Pillars: 

  • NEEDS: Things you need to survive like food, hygiene products, etc.
  • WANTS: These are things you desire but can live without. This includes ordering food on UberEats or buying extra clothes.
  • UNEXPECTED EXPENSES: Things that arise unexpectedly like a car repair, or a medical bill. 
  • CULTURE: Money spent on cultural activities such as books, music, theatre, movies, or even your Netflix subscription. 

💡 You can color-code your 4 spending pillars to help you easily differentiate your spending. 

👉 Step 3

How can you improve?

Finally, at the end of each month, you will review your progress. Ask yourself questions that will help you reflect on your spending habits and make better decisions next month. 

  • Have you reached your savings goal?
  • What are your successes for the month? 
  • Do you spend more in one category than you thought? 
  • How can you improve? 

Don’t worry if you only save small amounts at first. Kakeibo is about making gradual changes to improve your finances and create mindful spending habits. 

The Advantages of Using Kakeibo 

The Kakeibo philosophy can be especially useful in Western societies, where almost everything (including payments, bills, subscriptions, etc) is becoming automated. In a culture where mindless spending is encouraged and everything is fast-paced, the mindful art of Kakeibo can be a game-changer for some. 

According to users, there are many ways in which this budgeting method can help you:

  • Make wiser spending decisions on things you need vs. things you want
  • Accumulate monthly savings (no matter how small) that add up over time.
  • Uncover spending habits that are preventing you from reaching your savings goals. 
  • It’s doesn’t feel restrictive. While budgeting can sometimes feel like a chore, Kakeibo focuses on “spending well to save well’ and enjoying things. 

Generally, users rave about the way mindful budgeting has improved their relationship with money and helped them reach their savings goals. If you practice mindfulness or are a fan of the minimalist lifestyle, you will most likely resonate with this Japanese practice. 

It’s Not for Everyone 

While Kakeibo may be a breath of fresh air in the West, it may not always work for everyone. The main reasons why Kakeibo may not be a right fit for you are:

Lifestyle 

One of the biggest obstacles to using it is the type of job you have. If you are a freelancer and have a constantly fluctuating income, it’s hard to predict what your monthly earnings will be. This will make it difficult to create your savings goals at the beginning of each month and figure out your budget. 

Use of Cash 

Another drawback of Kakeibo is that it encourages the use of cash. Fumiko Chiba recommends using cash as much as possible because it makes you more mindful of your spending. While this can be true, we are becoming an increasingly cashless society and always having hard cash on hand is not always realistic. 

It Takes Effort 

You will not always have your journal handy when you make a purchase, and it’s easy to forget to write it down when you get home. Also, writing down everything you buy can seem tedious to some.  

📘 If Kakeibo is not a good fit for you and you prefer a digital budgeting tool instead, check our recommendations for the best 2021 personal finance software that helps you budget, save, invest, and more. 

Conclusion  

Since it was introduced in the U.S, Kakeibo has helped many people save money and see their finances in a whole new light.

But adapting it to your lifestyle may take some adjusting, and you may find it’s not the best fit for you. That’s completely okay. You have to ultimately do whatever makes sense for you. There are tons of other budgeting methods out there!

That being said, speaking from experience, I do still highly encourage you to incorporate mindful spending into your life, as it can help you overcome emotional spending on things that don’t bring you true happiness. There’s nothing wrong with taking pieces from different budgeting methods, and that’s a piece that fits almost anywhere!

Have you tried Kakeibo? Let us know below if this method has worked for you!