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Find Your Budget Style

February 9, 2024

Writing in a journal

Budget planning is one of the most important things you can do for your financial well-being. There are many budgeting techniques to help you manage bills and save money—from using an envelope to paying yourself first. But what’s best for you? If you’re still looking for a budgeting method that suits your lifestyle, you might try the Japanese art of kakeibo. Pronounced “kah-KEH-boh.”

Created more than a century ago (fun fact!) by Japan’s first female journalist, kakeibo translates as “household financial ledger” and was designed as a simple budget tool for beginners. But it’s also a philosophy centered on mindful spending and intentional saving.

With kakeibo, you keep a journal and write down your monthly income and expenses, as you do with other budgeting techniques, so you can track where your money is going. Kakeibo uses four spending categories that are slightly different from other budget methods:

  • Needs – essentials like housing, food, or transportation.
  • Wants – enjoyable but not necessary items, such as clothes or travel.
  • Culture – things like books, museums, concerts, or sporting events.
  • Unexpected – like medical expenses or home repairs.

Thinking about your budget in this way encourages you to consider how you’ll invest in quality of life as part of your overall spending mix.

Plus, you can doodle in your budget journal! You might draw connections between purchasing trends, use color to highlight end-of-month issues, or add gold stars to show progress against savings goals. You might note behavioral patterns that need fixing or opportunities for additional savings that you’d otherwise miss just plugging numbers into a spreadsheet. It’s like keeping a diary for the dollars you earn and spend.

Kakeibo also suggests you write down your answers to four questions intended to spur reflection each month:

  • How much money do you have to spend?
  • How much would you like to save?
  • How much are you spending (per the four categories above)?
  • How can you improve next month? This question, in particular, is designed to help you reflect on your priorities and be intentional in your spending and saving.

Research shows the act of handwriting can help you slow down, focus, and de-stress. It can help boost memory. Journaling can help you take control of your finances by reflecting on why you’re making each purchase. Ultimately, you may be able to save more money while spending less on things you don’t need and more on things you enjoy.

Could kakeibo be the right budget method for you? Grab a pen and notebook and get started!

Visit RCU’s Financial Education Center to find more useful resources for financial self-care.