Japanese Kakeibo Budget: Melding Savings with Mindfulness

Created by Hani Motoko, the first female journalist in Japan, the Kakeibo budget relies on manual budget tracking and journaling to help you achieve your savings goals

With the introduction of cardless cash, payWave, Apple Pay and Google Pay allowing us to tap and go with our phones, it can be easy to spend, spend, spend effortlessly without thinking about just how much you have just put down. This lack of attention to spending can leave you with little money and a lot of month to get through.

Enter the Kakeibo budget. Created by Hani Motoko, the first female journalist in Japan, the Kakeibo budget relies on manual budget tracking and journaling to help you achieve your savings goals and stick to your proposed budget.

What is the Kakeibo Method?

Originating in Japan, the Kakeibo method is a Japanese budgeting system that involves you manually tracking your spending to give you control of your money. Kakeibo uses the reflective practice of journaling to make you more aware of your spending habits and help you to uncover areas where you can save. Kakeibo revolves around four key questions:

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

These questions are then applied across four categories:

  • Needs - Necessities you need to live such as groceries, rent and utilities.
  • Wants - Things you enjoy and like to do but don’t necessarily need, such as dining out, new clothes or entertainment.
  • Culture - Things you do to feed your mind and immerse yourself in culture, such as museum visits, music events and books.
  • Unexpected - Any unexpected expenses you weren’t anticipating, such as medical expenses, car repairs or seasonal holidays.

What are the Benefits?

Dividing your income into these four categories in a Kakeibo journal will help you to be more mindful of your spending and make it clear what kind of spending does not align with your goals. Some of the benefits of Kakeibo budgeting include:

  • Simplicity - This budgeting format simplifies your spending into four set categories that are easy to manage.
  • Realistic - It gives you a realistic view of your spending and encourages monthly savings goals.
  • Reflective - By looking at the past, present and future, this budget gives you a holistic view of your finances, and allows you the chance to reflect on your spending habits.
  • Encouraging - It encourages saving small amounts daily rather than occasional large sums.
  • Celebratory - It celebrates small successes, motivating you to save more.

What are the Drawbacks?

Some of the drawbacks of Kakeibo budgeting include:

  • Manual work - This budgeting method relies on you writing down all of your expenses for the month (even the little things!) so if you don’t enjoy writing or want to carry a journal around, this may not be for you.
  • Keeping yourself accountable - Writing down all of your expenses can be hard to stay on top of. If you don’t think you can be responsible enough to record everything, this might not work for you.

How to use the Kakeibo Method

  1. Figure out your budget
    At the beginning of the month, write down your monthly income after-tax and monthly expenses. Take your fixed expenses from your income to determine how much you have leftover for spending.
  2. Set your savings goals
    Set achievable monthly goals. Kakeibo budgeting encourages setting realistic monthly savings goals. Once you’ve set yourself a monthly goal, set aside your savings by subtracting your goal amount from your spending money.
  3. Stay on track of your spending
    Jot down all of the purchases you make in your journal. In order to fully assess your spending, Kakeibo requires you to write down what you spend with pen and paper. This helps you to slow down, be in the present and think about how your spending will affect your future.
  4. Determine spend between categories
    At the end of the month, work out how much was spent on your wants, needs, unexpected expenses and cultural expenses.
  5. Work out what you spent and what you saved
    Then take a look at what you spent and where you saved money. Add up all of the money spent and deduct that from your total budget to see how much you saved.
  6. Reflect on the previous month’s spend
    Assess your monthly spending. A huge part of Kakeibo is its mindful approach and taking the time to reflect. Think about your goals, whether you met them and write down the reasons for your success or failure. Reflect on steps you can take to take your success forward into next month, or improve on what you have started.

Tips for Mastering Kakeibo

What is the best way to reflect on my spending using Kakeibo?
First off, wait until the end of the month so you can see the full picture. Don’t get ahead of yourself halfway through the month and find a way to justify spending, or treat yourself for budgeting so well. Take some time in a quiet space to look over your spending over the month and really think about where your money would be best spent. This reflection will give you a better understanding of your spending for the next month, and help you to achieve your savings goals.

How can I make sure I keep myself accountable for my spending when using the Kakeibo budget?
Keep yourself accountable by carrying your journal around with you so you don’t forget to jot down your expenses. You can also set reminders for yourself to make sure you stay on track or make a note on your phone so you don’t forget to write it down later.

Where can I get a Kakeibo journal?
You can create a Kakeibo journal yourself with a notebook, journal or planner.

How can I work out my needs and wants for the Kakeibo budget?
Sorting your needs from your wants can be hard, as lots of things may feel like necessities. Take a step back and think about what you really need in a normal month; for example, things like rent, food and bills will be in your needs, while dining out with friends or buying new shoes will fall under the wants category.


Kakeibo budgeting encourages mindful thinking about your budget, where you are spending and how you can improve. This can make a massive difference to your day to day life, and give you the control over the money you need. If you have found saving money and budgeting difficult in the past, Kakeibo could be a great fit for you. Writing things down and making your budget personal to you will help you to visualise your future goals more clearly.

If you find that you are stressed about money and struggling to keep up with repayments to multiple debtors, you may want to think about combining these debts into a single debt consolidation loan. Turning your debts into one easy monthly repayment can feel more manageable, and keep you on the right track.

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