Kakeibo – How to Save and Spend The Japanese Way


In many things, the Japanese people are a wonder to behold. Masters of minimal living, the way they pay consistent attention to micro-mini aspects of their lives is mindblowing. Reading about them and meeting many of them has given me insights as to how their thought processes could be so simplistic. The Kakeibo, Japanese art of saving and spending basically oozes simplicity.

Their mindfulness to reflect inwards, and thoughtfulness to the smallest details are fascinating. The immense improvement this makes in their everyday lives is even more enchanting. As Haruki would say “The greatest form of sophistication is to be simple”. This has always worked for them.

haruki kakeibo

“The greatest form of sophistication is to be simple” – My friend, Haruki

I was encouraged by this experience to change a lot of things about my lifestyle, especially as a Nigerian who hadn’t had much financial discipline and shrewd day-to-day spending. Particularly that time when I had to promise myself (for the 1 millionth time) that I will improve my savings culture then I magically found myself queueing at Shoprite, Ikeja at the next payday. It was horrible. Kakeibo: the Japanese art of saving had to save me.

What is the Kakeibo?

Pronounced “kah-keh-boh”, the term Kakeibo roughly translates to “household account book”. This art was invented in the early 1900s by a woman named Hani Motoko, a journalist and astute feminist. The Kakeibo is a basic bullet-style journal used in tracking one’s daily, weekly, monthly spending, savings goals, and personal budgeting. 

Over time, the Japanese have used this personal de-cluttering tool to remove items and lifestyles that no longer ‘sparked excitement’ from their lives. Even if going almost bare, be sure that everything and everyone in a Japanese’ individual life are all actually needed for the purposes they serve.


How does the Kakeibo work?

Simple. For proper self-audit, the main exercise should hold at the beginning of each month. There is no need for savings apps, graphs, or excel sheets. You sit with your Kakeibo journal,  think deeply, and WRITE down your answers to these critical questions.

kakeibo questions

Critical questions to ask yourself:

How much would I earn this month?

The response to this question should not only be your ‘salary or ‘wages’. Do you have a side hustle? Push it in. Expected gifts? Push it in. Extra bonuses? Yes. Everything. This should be your gross available funds throughout the month.

How much would I like to save?

Calculate your gross monthly available income and remove your fixed expense e.g, expected bus fares, rent, levies, etc. Only fixed expense. Then set a savings target and use this to calculate a weekly spending limit that will help you meet your set savings target.

How much would I Be spending?

This is the most important part because your expenditure must be modest. Create categories of expenditure e.g food, clothing, shoes, dates, gadgets, toiletries, haircuts, and so on. These categories should be handled by your set weekly spending limit. As you spend on a daily basis, keep a record of your daily total expense against your categories in your journal.

How can I improve?

Fervidly stick to your Kakeibo plan. Re-visit and reflect on your personal progress at the end of each week and each month to make sure you are on track. Look at each category, ascertain how much you have spent on each category and note for improvements.

For people (most of us) who are already used to the ‘freeway’ life, Kakeibo might prove to be very very difficult but it’s usually beneficial in the long run. To always check this ‘difficulty’ to keep on track, it is necessary to always ask yourself these questions (especially when you’re on the verge of making THOSE impulsive purchases):

  • Can I live without this item?
  • Considering my financial status right now, can I afford it?
  • Will it actually be useful for me?
  • Do I have space for it at home?
  • How did I find it? (Did I find it online? Did I stumble upon it while walking around aimlessly in the mall?)
  • What is my current emotional state? (Hungry? Sad? Happy? Stressed? Angry?)
  • What do I feel buying this item? ( Excitement? Indifference? Sad? Temporary happiness?)
kakeibo happy man

Important things to note

  • It is important to WRITE your Kakeibo notes down as this helps you keep a mental awareness that you’re being self-audited
  • It is important to keep a small handy note, to easy carrying. It has to move with you everywhere you go.
  • Prepare to be uncomfortable
  • Oblige your weekly review exercise, do not miss it. This makes the Kakeibo process effective.
  1. Abdul-qudus Ajuwon says

    An art worth emulating

    1. Emerald says

      True that!

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