Kakeibo: The Incredible Japanese Spending Control Method

Kakeibo, a century-old Japanese budgeting strategy, helps you spend more thoughtfully and save more – no technology necessary. Kakeibo is more than just a budgeting system; it’s a financial philosophy based on careful, thoughtful spending and saving. This may seem high, yet kakeibo is a breeze to learn and adapt to your lifestyle.

Devotees and promoters claim that kakeibo users may save up to 35% on monthly costs, and although I didn’t save that much money, I was shocked at how much money it helped me save. I certainly have a better understanding of my financial priorities now.

Aside from the expense of a pen and paper, kakeibo is completely free.

What is kakeibo?

Kakeibo is derived from a Japanese phrase that means “home finance ledger.” A kakeibo is essentially a physical budgeting notebook. Users are asked a series of financial questions and are asked to create savings objectives. Then they log their spending, categorise their purchases, and assess their expenses at the end of each month.

The procedure is similar to that of many budgeting applications, such as PocketSmith and Digit. With kakeibo, however, there are no downloads, bank account linkages, or frequent alerts – just plain old-fashioned record keeping.

More significantly, kakeibo is intended to help you consider your relationship with money and why you make each purchase. I appreciate your lesson to calm down when I can buy hundreds of dollars by clicking a few clicks on Amazon.

PocketSmith and Digit both employ technology to track your spending patterns and give recommendations, so they might be useful as well. Once you’ve gone through the initial setup, they operate on autopilot.

Where did kakeibo come from?

While kakeibo is still relatively new in the United States, it is a Japanese custom. Hani Motoko, a Japanese journalist, published about the procedure in a women’s magazine in 1904. Her readers, Japanese women in control of their family expenditures, were drawn to the kakeibo accounting system.

When writer Fumiko Chiba released the book “Kakeibo: The Japanese Art of Saving Money” in 2018, the concept caught on in the West.

Chiba and other scholars believe that kakeibo represents Japanese cultural views about the significance of saving money. Cash is only used for ceremonial purposes. Children are given money as a Christmas present, and they are urged to save it for worthwhile purchases.

Adults, too, do not take money lightly. In comparison to other nations, Japan has a cash-heavy economy; credit cards, which allow frequent, large-ticket purchases, aren’t used nearly as often as they are elsewhere.

How does kakeibo work?

Get a ledger

Remember when you used to write with a pen and paper? Kakeibo remains loyal to its early-twentieth-century Japanese origins in that it involves actual handwriting. Bullet diaries are effective, but any notebook (or handwritten method that you can keep track of) will do.

Subtract your fixed costs from your monthly income.

Set a savings goal for the month

This desired amount should ideally come from the money you have left over after paying your fixed bills like rent or mortgage and utilities.

Make a list of your expenses.

Kakeibo identifies four “pillars” or expenditure categories:

  • Needs: Housing, food, auto payments, and school loans are examples of necessities.
  • Wants: Purchases that are entertaining but not absolutely required are classified as wants (takeout food, hobbies, entertainment).
  • Culture: any expenditure on cultural activities such as books, museum admission fees, concert tickets, TV streaming services, and so forth.
  • Unexpected: Other costs can arise unexpectedly, such as medical bills or house repairs.

Categorize everything you buy

Record all of your purchases under their respective “pillars,” including the purchase amount.

The sorting procedure was the most beneficial aspect of kakeibo for me. When you have to categorise anything, you give it more attention than you would otherwise. Separating necessities from desires proved to be more difficult than I had anticipated!

I’m a major spender in the “culture” area (I like to support the arts), and it was fascinating to see those findings on paper as well — not only how much I spent, but also the artists and organisations I chose to support.

Answer four reflection questions at the end of the month (or week)

Every so often — monthly or weekly — write down your answers to these questions:

  • How much money do you have?
  • How much money would you like to save?
  • How much money are you spending?
  • How can you improve?

The last question, “How can you improve?” is intentionally left open-ended. You are urged to think about and customise your response. Improvement may include opting to spend more on things you really appreciate (or saving more for something you’re looking forward to) and spend less on items you didn’t place as much importance on. Alternatively, you may discover how to avoid an expensive unforeseen occurrence in the future.

Your ultimate objective should be to grow your savings. Throughout the month, original Japanese kakeibo books featured pictures of a “savings pig” battling a hazardous “expenses wolf.” You may copy these drawings into your kakeibo ledger, or you could be creative and come up with your own metaphor.

Repeat as needed

Every time, the categories and questions are the same. This steadiness was appreciated by me. My budget planning does not have to alter if my circumstances or objectives change.

Read more: Why Buying a New Car Is the Worst Decision You Can Make

How is kakeibo different from other budgeting systems?

I discovered that kakeibo is amazing — much better than other systems I’ve tested — at taking into account the motives behind my purchase.

For one thing, kakeibo users handwrite budget items in real time. According to several research, handwriting enhances memory and is a peaceful, introspective practise. It takes longer to write down the specifics of a transaction than it does to enter numbers into a computer or phone. On some level, I’m more conscious of what I’m writing and why I’m writing it. (If actual handwriting is difficult for you, Kakeibo might be converted for a screen or software application.) The most significant aspect is the mental process.)

Kakeibo’s categorization system forces you to reconsider every purchase. I couldn’t automate any element of the process, like how I could input recurrent spending into an electronic budgeting programme and then forget about them. Instead, I had the opportunity to consider how all of my expenditures mirrored my beliefs and objectives.

When I did decide to buy anything in the “wants” or “culture” section, I felt more certain that I was making a wise decision rather than an impulsive purchase.

How can kakeibo help you save money?

Kakeibo maintains your financial objectives at the forefront of your mind. The kakeibo strategy, like “spare change” programmes like Stash and Acorns, lets you save money little by little in a long-term sustainable fashion. Setting a financial goal that I knew I could meet felt powerful.

And, since kakeibo is intended for long-term financial planning, the four questions prompted me to consider my future objectives. kakeibo, like any smart budgeting method, assists you in planning for the future without feeling deprived or worried in the present.

Who is kakeibo best for?

Inconsistent budgeters

If you’ve had difficulties keeping to a budget in the past, kakeibo’s simplicity and flexibility may be just what you’re looking for.

Fearful or reluctant budgeters

Kakeibo is skilled at dispelling the notion that someone is “terrible with money.” The strategy puts you in control of your spending, giving you greater power and confidence.

First-time savers

The “start anywhere” strategy recognises even the smallest savings objectives and encourages you to save more along the way.

“Envelope” budgeters

Kakeibo’s categories are similar to the “envelope budgeting” system, in which you plan out your monthly costs and divide predetermined amounts into actual or virtual envelopes. If you appreciate envelope-style planning, you’ll probably like kakeibo.


Many kakeibo users indicate that they have begun to appreciate saving money. If this strategy appeals to you, now is a terrific moment to grab a notepad and pen (and maybe your favourite low-cost beverage) and get started!

Leave a comment