Kakeibo: The Japanese art of saving money

Kakeibo, pronounced “kah-keh-boh” and translates as “household financial ledger,” is a method used in Japan for managing personal finances. For over 100 years, this system has helped people make smarter money decisions.

Similar to other budgeting systems, kakeibo is designed to help you understand your relationship with money by recording all financial inflows and outflows. As proven by research, this recordkeeping method emphasizes physically writing your financial activities making you more aware of bad money habits. Kakeibo can help you become completely honest about your spending with the use of four categories: (1) needs, (2) wants, (3) culture, such as books and museum visits, and (4) unexpected – medical expenses or car repairs.

Kakeibo encourages you to ask yourself these questions before buying any non-essential items, or things you buy on impulse:

  • Can I live without this item?
  • Based on my financial situation, can I afford it?
  • Will I actually use it? Do I have the space for it?
  • How did I come across it in the first place? (Did I see it in a magazine? Did I come across it after wandering into a gift shop out of boredom?)
  • What is my emotional state in general today? (Calm? Stressed? Celebratory? Feeling bad?)
  • How do I feel about buying it? (Happy? Excited? Indifferent? And how long will this feeling last?)

In addition, to spend more mindfully, Kakeibo recommends that you:

  1. Leave the item for 24 hours.
  2. Don’t let major “sales” tempt you.
  3. Check your bank balance regularly.
  4. Spend in cash.
  5. Put reminders in your wallet – use a sticker: “Do you REALLY need this?!”
  6. Change the environments that cause you to spend.

For additional information on kakeibo, go to:

Link #1

Link #2

Link #3

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students conduct a survey to determine reactions to this budgeting system among people in different age categories and life situations.
  • Have students prepare a visual summary of some of the characteristics of the budgeting system.

 Discussion Questions 

  1. What elements of this budgeting system might people find beneficial? What are possible drawbacks?
  2. If you were to implement this system for your life, which actions would you select to do first?

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