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Kakeibo: saving money the Japanese way


Let's take a look at what Kakeibo is and how to make it work for you.

What is Kakeibo?

Kakeibo roughly translates as ‘book of accounts for household economy’ and is a concept that was created in the early 20th century by Japanese journalist, Motoko Hani. In Tokyo at this time, women were not permitted to work outside of the family home. This meant that women could only save any money that was left over from their husband’s income once all the domestic expenses had been paid. This meant that proper household management was very important.

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Born in 1873, Motoko was the only girl to go to school in her year and one of the first to attend Japan Women’s University in Tokyo. She was the first officially recognised female journalist in the country and created the world’s oldest magazine for women in circulation. With an ambition to improve women’s education and independence, Motoko founded a school for girls in the local area.

Whilst doing all of this, Motoko managed to find time to print her Kakeibo, a tangible means of accounting combined with a financial journal which includes encouraging proverbs and questions about the way you spend.

Filling in a Kakeibo is a practical exercise, a way to write down your finances to help get them in order but also a way to enhance your wellbeing. The Japanese believe that mindfully saving, spending and monitoring will lead to balance and calm in all areas of life.

A Kakeibo encourages you to look forward to your future saving goals while focusing on your present finances and reflecting on past spending.

How does Kakeibo work?

Using a notebook or Kakeibo journal, which can be purchased from many retailers on the internet, you chart your funds on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. After 12 months you conduct an annual overview to see how happy you are with your saving and spending habits. A Kakeibo can be started at any point throughout the year but with New Year just gone, January could be the perfect time to get started:

  • Write down your monthly income and regular expenses such as household bills and regular outgoings. Once you have established your income and expenses, the difference can then be divided into spending money and savings.
  • Set a target for how much you want to save. The rest of your spending is then split into four different categories: general (food shopping, transport, minor expenses), leisure (eating out, cinema tickets, clothes shopping), culture (exhibitions, reading materials, theatre) and unexpected extras for emergency spending.
  • At the end of the month review your spending to see if you’ve stuck to your original targets. Is your saving target realistic? Which categories are costing you the most? Can you identify any spending weaknesses? Stopping, reflecting and remembering objectives can help to achieve your saving goals.
  • At the end of the year or 12 months, conduct an annual overview to see if you are still happy with your saving and spending habits. This is a good time to compare some of your best saving months with some of your worst, what were the differences?

The aim of using a Kakeibo is to think about the reasons why you spend and what you specifically spend your money on. Through this you can work out what is worth spending on and what isn’t. Constantly reviewing your progress and setting increasingly ambitious targets will mean you’ll soon be well on your way to achieving your savings goals.

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