Kakeibo: The 20th century budgeting journal we're using to manage our money

Kakeibo: The 20th century budgeting journal we're using to manage our money

Not everything is going digital.

You might have heard of something called the “bullet journal”, the “analog system for the digital age” – a kind of crossover between a to do list and a goal-setting diary, planner or habit-tracker.

It’s whatever people want it to be really, because you create it yourself in whichever notepad you choose. Bullet points are the core structure and you create an index and however many logs you like – daily, monthly, year-at-a-glance…

And we’re constantly reminded of the resurgence of vinyl.

But back to planning our financial lives. There’s an analog budgeting technique that’s become popular with organisation nerds too. It’s called Kakeibo.

What is Kakeibo?

Kakeibo is an early 20th-century budgeting technique pronounced “kah-keh-boh”. It is a practice of financial mindfulness where you journal your incomings and outgoings in a book.

This household account book was dreamed up by Japan’s first female journalist, Motoko Hani, in 1904.

1904?! Why is it popular now?

Some of us just can’t get enough of journaling. Some of us can’t get enough of mindfulness. But also the world’s first English-language book about Kakeibo has helped promote “the Japanese art of saving money”. 

SavvyWoman.co.uk’s Sarah Pennells reckons Kakeibo is helping motivate people to stay on track, and The Times’ Ruth Emery has said it is “about being financially mindful rather than letting a gadget do the thinking for you”.

How does it work?

You declutter your finances by splitting your spending into “survival”, “optional”, “culture”, and “extra” and note the spending every day, as Evening Standard journo Alice Howarth explains in this handy summary. Then you answer: How much money do you have? How much money would you like to save? How much are you actually spending? How can you improve on that? At the end of each week and month you check in to see how you are doing.

Writer Fumiko Chiba, the author of Kakeibo: The Japanese Art of Saving Money, said in this Refinery29 piece from Jacqui Agate: “Our world is now so fast that everything can be bought and paid for very quickly. A kakeibo helps us slow down and really consider what we buy in a calm, measured way.” 

Who is using the technique?

Money journo Lauren O’Callaghan says it is “sweeping Europe” and there’s no shortage of #kakeibo inspiration on Instagram. 

It’s not the first time we’ve turned to Japan to sort our lives out, is it?

Nope. Kakeibo’s popularity on social media follows the craze for “KonMari”, Japanese cleaning guru Marie Kondo’s method for simplifying your home. You hold on to objects that “spark joy” and remove those that don’t.

Her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has sold millions of copies and she has been described as “the Beyonce of tidying up”.

Maybe Kakeibo can spark joy for you too.

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