Kakeibo: The Japanese Art of Saving Money


In Japan, there is a system of budgeting that has been in popular practice for over 100 years. Known as Kakeibo/ Kakebo (“kah-keh-boh”, meaning “household financial ledger”), it is a system that uses simple technology – pen and paper – to track expenses and income for any given month. While not vastly different from other budgeting techniques and ideologies, the crucial focus is on mindfulness. The habit of writing down each expense in a ledger instead of using a calculator or automated system actually causes you to remember the information more clearly, and gives you more room to reflect on each purchase you have made and will make. This is a system that works especially well in a country where using cash is more prevalent than swiping cards to make purchases.

The Four Categories of Kakeibo

In order to practice Kakeibo effectively, there are four categories that we must place all of our purchases and expenses into. The first category would be our Needs, the essential products and services that we need for daily living. This is followed by our Wants, things that we can buy but that we could do without; like fast food. The third category, interestingly, would be Culture – this would include concerts, books, art pieces, and anything else that involves the cultural experience of your local region(s). The final category would be the Unexpected, such as medical bills or any kind of emergency that would require spending money.

The Reflection Process

The practice of Kakeibo is centered on four main questions:

1. How much money do I have, or earn?

2. How much do I want to save?

3. How much am I spending?

4. Where can I improve?

Your answers to these questions will shed light on your spending habits, which are tied to your lifestyle choices, emotional experiences and habitual routines. Before setting a budget, it is advised that you write and track your expenses for at least one month – in this way, you can set a realistic plan that can work for you.

A History Lesson

Kakeibo was invented in 1904 by Hani Motoko, Japan’s first female journalist. She had created the method as a way for housewives to take charge of the financial health of their homes. In 2018, writer Fumiko Chiba published “Kakeibo: The Japanese Art of Saving Money”, and this guide made the practice of kakeibo popular in the West. In Japan, money is considered to be very important and ceremonial; children are given money during holidays and advised to spend only when necessary, and this culture is further developed into adulthood.


The discipline of this Japanese method of budgeting is designed to make you aware of what you are doing with your money, while revealing the truth about how you spend and what you consider to be important. Sticking to a budget will seem hard if we spend impulsively, and calculating our expenses by electronic means can inhibit the personal relationship we can have with our money. By focusing on wellness, self-honesty and the raw numbers of our financial health, we can gradually make the necessary steps to feeling better about how we earn, spend and save.

If you want to be mindful with your money while you earn, spend and save, purchase our Budget Leaf daily expense tracker as the first tool to help you budget.

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