Kakebo- The Japanese Art of Saving Money

By Ed Reynolds | Thursday 18th January, 2018

There is only a small percentage of the entire world’s population who can truly appreciate the beauty of an Excel spreadsheet. Inputting numbers, making those calculations, sum of this, sum of that- what a time to be alive eh? No?

Definitely not. I am not in that small percentage. The idea of managing my finances on a spreadsheet is painful. They don’t make any sense, they take up way too much time and equations are for year 10 maths so leave it out, yeah? So I decided to have a look at my other options because this year, I will reach New Year’s Eve without the aid of my overdraft.

I searched high and low (well… Google did) and I came across Kakebo. This is the Japanese art of being mindful about your money which can, supposedly, make you rich. If this is possible, I thought, then it definitely has my attention. Translated into ‘book of accounts for household economy,’ the philosophy was coined at the turn of the century by Hani Motoko who is considered to be Japan’s first officially recognised female journalist.

The idea is that you look to the future, focus on the present and reflect on the past. And you do this in a specifically designed notebook that’s also filled with proverbs and affirmations for further motivation (because you’re really going to need it). But if you don’t want to invest in the notebook because it feels counterintuitive as you are actually trying to save money not spend it, then here are the key steps in a Kabeko:

  1. Start by writing down your monthly projected income and expenses. At this point expenses is anything you need to spend such as rent, bills and direct debits (like memberships, subscriptions). Then you work out the difference between the two and divide the remaining cash into ‘saving’ and ‘spending’. Move the ‘saving’ cash into a place or account you can’t see and are less likely to dip into.

  2. Next you need to work out your weekly cost so you can divvy up the ‘spending’ cash. You do this by dividing it into four categories. The general stuff (travel, food, essentials), leisure (clothes, nights out, fried chicken on said nights out), culture (exhibitions, beer tasting…) and the surprises (getting another key cut because you lost it, your mates birthday that you forgot).

Now you live out the month....


  1. At the end of the month, you review it. Ask yourself if you were a bit ambitious. What categories proved a challenge to stick to the budget? Where are your weak spots? Then you plan the next month, amending it based on your pattern of spending the previous month.

By the end of the year you should have worked out your individual spending habits and have made changes to your spending so that not only are you saving more, but you’re spending more money on the things that matter to you.

If you’re not a notepad-and-pen kind of person then download Loot here. The app lets you set weekly and monthly budgets and track your spending with real-time transaction notifications.