Change Your Money Mindset with the Kakebo Budget

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What is Kakebo?

Kakebo is the Japanese art of saving money.  The Japanese are masters of minimal living, and the method of the Kakebo budget is no exception.

It was invented in 1904 by a woman named Hani Motoko, a Japanese journalist and woman who was way ahead of her time.  In later years she published a women's monthly magazine, and became a pioneer in promoting education for women.  Based on her teachings, women were elevated as managers of the home in all areas, including finances.

During the early 1900s, women in war-torn Japan became the de facto leaders of the savings associations and neighborhood associations.  Using ideas taught by Hani Motoko, the women of Japan honed the household ledger into not only a record of income and expense, but a mindful process that enabled them to save significant sums of money for their families. In post-war Japan, to be a good housewife was to be a good saver and dutiful keeper of household finances.

Kakebo (pronounced “kah-keh-boh”) is a Japanese word meaning (literally) “book of accounts for household economy”.  It is sometimes spelled “Kakeibo” on the web, and I'm not sure which is the correct spelling!

Kakebo is a simple but effective method to reduce to mindless spending so rampant in our culture.  There are many versions of the Kakebo, from super simple to slightly complicated.  You could easily create your own spread in a bullet journal, if that's your style.

Kakebo - Bullet Journal Style
Kakebo Bullet Journal Spread


The Art of Kakebo

The art of the Kakebo budget is based on these four factors:

  1. The amount of money available.
  2. How much you would like to save.
  3. The amount of money you are spending.
  4. How you can improve.

Kakeibo Budgeting Technique
Kakebo: The Japanese Art of Mindful Spending by Natalie Danford

Kakebo helps you identify waste, and find significant areas to make adjustments. This means spending consistent time planning your finances and following up on results.  In fact, the Japanese super-housewives tally up every single receipt and enter it into the Kakebo.

Expenses are typically broken out into four categories:

  • Survival: food, rent, transport, kids
  • Optional: eating out, shopping
  • Culture: books, music, shows, movies, magazines
  • Extra: irregular events such as gifts, repairs, furniture

3 Simple Steps in the Kakebo Budget Process

1. Start of Each Month – Record what your expected income and known expenses will be.  Decide how much you want to save for the month, based on how much money is left over after paying for necessary household expenses.

Use my free worksheet to try it out.  In a modern fashion, my worksheet includes more than the four categories traditionally used in Kakebo.

Free Kakebo Worksheet Screenshot
Free Kakebo Worksheet – For Beginning of the Month


2. Daily/Weekly – In ledger form, write down every expense you incurred each day.  Every.single.expense.  Add up the total for each day, and then add up the total for each week.  Each week, check if you are on track for the month.

Use my free Kakebo Monthly Ledger worksheet.

Kakebo Monthly Ledger Screenshot
Free Worksheet – Kakebo Monthly Ledger

3. End of Each Month – Take your actual income and expenses and compare it with your goals.  This is a time for reflection about you accomplished for the month, and what needs can be improved upon.

The point is not to beat yourself up about mistakes or missed targets.  Reflection is a mindful way to begin to train yourself by being more aware of how your money is spent.  First, record your thoughts, and then go back to the first worksheet and start planning for next month.

Kakebo Monthly Reflection Screenshot
Free Download – Kakebo Monthly Reflection Worksheet

Kakebo in Modern Times

To address the obvious question: Wouldn't a spreadsheet or phone app work better?  Perhaps, but using technology takes away from the mindfulness of the task.

With Kakebo, its not just about numbers. Its also about gentle affirmations and thoughtful questions regarding your finances.  In this manner, both quantitative and qualitative aspects of budgeting are addressed.

The traditional Kakebo also contains space to save receipts, write up monthly and yearly savings goal,s and budget for unforeseen expenses in an emergency fund.

This method would work great in conjunction with the envelope system, using one envelope for each of the four categories of expenses.  Each week you withdraw the cash needed to cover the expenses for that week, based on your monthly budget for each category.

Better yet, try this Digital Envelope System to maximize your savings.

If you're interested in learning more, there are several books available on Kakebo.  Here are two popular titles:

Have you tried Kakebo? Share in the comments below!

Change Your Money Mindset with the Kakebo Budget

16 thoughts on “Change Your Money Mindset with the Kakebo Budget”

  1. I love Japanese minimalism, and this was fascinating for me to read! Thanks for the history lesson! I am definitely going to incorporate some of these budgeting principles. Thanks!

  2. This is really interesting and it reminded me of how my grandparents used to budget their spending. They had big notebooks in which they would handwrite everything and plan their budget. They were saving a fortune.

    • While I agree that we should focus more on growing income or building additional income streams, if you don’t save any of it, you haven’t built any wealth. Wealth affords you freedom, and I’m a big fan of that. Best of luck to you!


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