The Japanese Money Mindfulness Trick Of “Kakeibo” Could Save You Thousands

The term “kakeibo” roughly translates to “household money ledger” or “money journal” in English. While this money mindfulness method has only recently started to gain popularity in the Western world (thanks to the release of the book, Kakeibo: The Japanese Art Of Saving Money) the concept actually originated more than 100 years ago. Japan’s first female journalist, Motoko Hani, believed that financial stability was important, so she decided to publish an accounting book for households (called Kakeibo) in a women’s magazine in 1904.

Ever since, many money-savvy people have relied on the Kakeibo method to help them save their hard-earned cash. Over time, it’s morphed into a system that could be best described as a blend between bullet journalling and money mindfulness.

How Kakeibo money mindfulness works

Like the Japanese KonMari lifestyle trend, the beauty of Kakeibo is in the simplicity. You don’t need any fancy apps or programs – just a pen, paper and a list of your expenses. Essentially, what you’re going to be doing is giving yourself a bird’s-eye view of your financial situation.

At the beginning of each month, you jot down your fixed, non-negotiable expenses (like rent and internet) and your income. Then, you estimate the amount you want to save for the month, and put it aside (in a seperate account you can’t touch, ideally). Then, it’s time to get into your expenses. In Kakeibo, your expenses get separated into four pillars. These are:

#1 Survival:

Things you literally need to to survive or do your job, like groceries, transport and medical essentials.

#2 Optional:

Things you don’t absolutely need but make your life more enjoyable, like eating out, shopping, takeaway coffees, going out and your gym membership.

#3 Culture:

Things that broaden your perspective and make you smarter, like books, gigs, movie tickets and magazines.

#4 Extra:

Those random and sometimes unexpected expenses, like buying a friend a birthday present, accommodation for a wedding or fixing your broken laptop.Once you’ve determined your expenses in each category, figure out how much you can afford to dedicate each one. Many people in Japan combine Kakeibo with the envelope budget system, to ensure they don’t go over their allowance in each category.

Once you’ve got all this sorted, it’s time to ask yourself four questions. These are:

  1. How much money do you have?
  2. How much money would you like to save?
  3. How much are you actually spending? and
  4. How can you improve on that?

Throughout the month, you record how much you’re actually spending in each category. Then, at the end of each month, you sit down with your Kakeibo and work out how your actual spending stacked up against your estimated spending. Then, you ask yourself those four questions all over again!

Obviously, Kakeibo is similar to a traditional budgeting system in some ways. But what sets it apart is the fact that it forces you get really honest and accountable about your spending and saving habits. There’s no burying your head in the sand — not only do you see exactly where each dollar is going, but you’re evaluating whether or not you reached your finance goals each month. It’s kind of like keeping a food diary. You don’t want to have to write in there that you ate that a slice of chocolate cake, so you go for the apple instead!

How much can Kakeibo save you?

Supporters of Kakeibo say that by simply thinking about where your money is going, as well as where else it could go, you could save up to 35% more than you are now with the money mindfulness strategy. So, if you’re currently putting away $1000, you could be saving $1350 with the Kakeibo method. Not a bad payoff for something that takes less than an hour a month to do.

Emma Norris is a Sydney-based freelance writer and the owner of copywriting business, and lifestyle blog, When she’s not playing with words, she’s either doing pushups or stuffing her face with pizza. You can follow her on Instagram @emmajanenorris.

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