Need Help To Budget Better? Try Kakeibo

Need Help To Budget Better? Try Kakeibo

Do you struggle each month to keep on track of your money and stay out your overdraft? If so, kakeibo – the Japanese art of saving – could help. Here’s the low-down on exactly what it involves and how to use this technique to manage your cash…

In recent years we’ve been looking to the Japanese to help in all areas of our lives. Marie Kondo showed us how to declutter our house, J-beauty brought us refined, minimalistic skincare that marries rituals and tradition with innovation, and wabi-sabi encouraged us to embrace a little bit of imperfection in our lives. And now there’s kakeibo, another Japanese trend that’s taking our money into account. 

Chart Your Spending Habits 

Literally translated as ‘household finance ledger’, kakeibo relies on you writing down information about your finances and thinking mindfully about your spending habits. The idea is that by using a pen and paper to chart your incomings and outgoings you’ll have more of a handle on where your money is going each month and be able to save better.

But before you scoff that it’s just another trend that people are swarming to, you should know that research backs up the benefits – a 2015 study found that when we write down our goals we’re 33% more likely to achieve them, and some experts believe kakeibo could even cut our spending by 35%.

Money coach Claire Sweet, who helps women understand more about their finances at  Peace Together Money Coaching, says it’s a really useful budgeting method. “Tracking spending and forecasting expenses is the first essential step in any money management plan and a system like kakeibo can be a useful way to accomplish this,” she explains. 

“The first step to becoming money confident is knowing where your money goes each month, and by writing it down on paper– rather than plugging it in to a spreadsheet or app – it is much easier for the task to feel real and it will really hit home how much you spend on coffees, meals out or other discretionary expenses. Electronic transactions are fine, but rather like using contactless card payments it can be easy to lose track of how much you spend and where.”

Do The Math

At the beginning of each month, you ask yourself four questions: How much money do you have? How much would you like to put away? How much are you actually spending? And, how can you improve that? You’re meant to reflect on each of these and think mindfully about the answers.

“Once you have allocated money for bills, making a conscious choice to how you allocate the rest of your money will help you prioritise your spending – do you have a holiday of a lifetime to save for, a child’s university fees, or buying your dream home? Would you like a fund to spend as you wish on ‘fun stuff’ or personal development?” Claire asks. “I would suggest you then make the active choice to move this money into a separate account at the start of the month, so that you can allocate the cash before it gets spent on other things.”

Keep A Journal 

During each month, record all of your expenses in your journal under one of four different categories: survival (necessary costs such as food and transport), culture (things you spend on activities such as reading, going to the theatre and so on), optional (expenses that occur from things you don’t need to do, but choose to, such as going out with friends and shopping) and extra (unanticipated expenditure such as birthday presents or car repairs). At the end of the month, you can then review these, and consider ways to improve.

The special kakeibo journals that are available to buy encourage you to list your fixed income and known expenses at the start of each month, and set a saving goal for that time period. They also include motivational messages to inspire you and keep you on your path.

Allow For Change 

So, could kakeibo help you? It’s best to use the idea in a non-prescriptive way and in a manner that suits your needs. Like all financial plans, it should be flexible and you should adapt it as your needs and priorities change, but by becoming more money conscious you will move closer to building your dream.

You can buy Kakeibo: The Japanese Art of Budgeting and Saving Money here but any nice notebook will help you do the job just as well.

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