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Kakeibo: The Japanese Art of Mindful Spending

4 Mins read
Kakeibo: the Japanese Art of Spending Well

You’ve probably waited for this day all your life. The day has come. The day you’re being advised to shift your focus from saving to spending. You didn’t see that coming, did you? I know.

100 years ago, back in 1904, Japan’s first female journalist Hani Motoko, designed a method to help busy women take control of their finances and make better financial decisions.

Irrespective of their busy schedules or their inability to hire finance professionals, she believed that women could stay on top of their money game. This belief birthed Kakeibo – the “money journal”.

What is the Kakeibo?

Kakeibo (pronounced ka-kay-bo) is a Japanese money concept of journaling for effective budgeting. Simply put, it’s a concept that gets you in a healthy cycle of spending well, saving well, and budgeting well. 

I find it interesting because its focus is on spending, and not saving. Don’t get excited yet though. Kakeibo ensures you journal your expenses so you can save more comfortably. 

So, Hani Motoko created a whole concept to help you get rid of that tingly burn in your chest when your automated savings gets deducted. Wow. Indeed, not all heroes wear capes. Moving on…

How does the Kakeibo work?

You’re probably still wondering why I’m making a fuss about it. It seems like the good old spend-save-budget routine we’ve all known and used, right? Well, no. This one is special. It has a reflective piece to it – one that makes you more conscious of your spending. 

It doesn’t condemn you for not saving enough, but makes you see it as a sign that you’re not being realistic with your budgets so you can improve. That’s such a relief, right? I think so too. 

For the Kakeibo to be effective, you’d need to honestly answer these four questions:

  • What is your monthly income?
  • How much would you like to save?
  • How much are you spending?
  • Can you improve? How?

How can you use the Kakeibo?

Keeping a Kakeibo (a money journal) is almost like a mindfulness exercise. That’s the beauty of it. It takes you back to pen and paper, as opposed to the fast mindless way technology allows us to spend money.

Consequently, you build a more intimate relationship with your money and understand your money habits even more. So here’s what you need to do to get the most out of Kakeibo:

1. A mindset shift

The most exciting thing about Kakeibo is how it shifts your focus from saving to spending. A lot of time is spent painting the idea of savings as what you can’t do or can’t have. It becomes such a drag, and nobody likes that. Kakeibo is built on the concept that you need to “spend well” in order to “save well”, and vice versa. 

So it helps you become more aware of your expenses, so you can make realistic budgets. This way, saving becomes less of a chore, and more like a “Yayy! My automated savings just went through for the month” situation. Maybe I’m exaggerating, but you get the point, right? Let’s continue.

2. Keep a dedicated money journal

Depending on the length of time you want to try this out for, you’d need to journal all your income and expenses during that period. From your monthly salary, allowance, freelance income, to the 5,000 NGN your rich auntie sent to you for airtime. You’d need to sum it up.

After you’ve done this, set a savings target. Based on how much you earn, how much would you like to save?

3. Break down your expenses into categories

There are four main categories: essential expenses, optional expenses, entertainment and leisure, unforseen events. Log your expenses into these categories, and don’t leave anything out.

Nothing is too insignificant – not even the butter mint you bought because the vendor didn’t have change. Write it all down.

4. Analyse and Strategise

At the end of the period, analyse the categories and see which has the highest impact on your income.

For example: if 50% of your income goes to unforeseen expenses, then you need to build up your emergency fund. If 70% of your income goes to optional expenses, then you may want to fix some bad money habits you might have. 

5. Reflect

Were you able to meet your savings target comfortably? Why or why not? How can you improve? Was your spending budget unrealistic? How can you adjust? What can you cut down on? What new habits can you take on? You’d need to be honest about your needs and wants. 

With this, you’re more aware of your financial status, and now you can make more realistic budgets. It wouldn’t shock you one day when your money gets deducted for that trial version you forgot to cancel.

You’d always be a step ahead. In full control of your finances. Goals!

In Conclusion

Here’s 3 good reasons you should keep a Kakeibo:

  • Financial Control: It gives you full control over your personal finances. For instance: You may not be in control of what life throws at you, but you’d be a step ahead and have an emergency fund already. You would not be shocked when you one day randomly realize how much you spend on airtime in a month. You’d have already planned. That’s the energy!
  • Healthy Savings Culture: If you’re always calling me to break your plan 🌚 this one is for you. Kakeibo would help you become more intentional about your savings, so automated savings would be a joy, as we intended it. 
  • Self-Awareness and Discipline: It helps you become more aware of your money habits, and identify areas for possible improvement. You also become more disciplined knowing that you’d have to log in your expenses. 

I’m sold! Are you?

Would you be trying the Kakeibo? Let me know in the comments. 

If you would, get to it, but remember to cut yourself some slack. Financial stability doesn’t come only from depriving yourself of certain things or only by changing your lifestyle choices. Wealth-building takes time. It’s a sum of little efforts and small habits combined. But one thing is for sure, you’d be smiling in the end.


I started a series where I’d be exploring money through the lens of different cultures around the world, drawing lessons, and making connections to our own context. Catch up on the last one from Germany here, and stay tuned for the next one. 

In the meantime, guess what country is next? 👀
Hint: The money concept is about Christmas.

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