This Japanese Budgeting System Is Helping Me Define What Matters in My Life

I’m in my mid-40s and have always hated thinking about money. Enter the Kakeibo system.

Yi Shun Lai
Forge

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Photo: We Are/Getty Images

About a year ago, I discovered a worksheet-based budget that allowed me to shed my severe allergy to thinking about money.

Here’s what you need to know about me: I’m in my mid-40s; I’ve been a freelancer for most of my life, and I’ve never, ever had a good relationship with money, even when I had plenty of it to spend.

And here’s what you need to know about the Kakeibo system: It was invented by Hani Motoko, Japan’s first female journalist, for housewives to keep track of their household expenses. (The word itself means “household account book.”) You start by adding up your income and its sources. Then you detract the monthly expenses first and what you want to save second. After that, you break down each month by the week, delineating what you’ve spent into buckets: Needs, Wants, Culture, and Unplanned. And along the way, the Kakeibo template posits gentle, mindful questions: What do you want to save for? What are your spending goals, and how will you reach those goals?

You can download your own copies of the Kakeibo worksheet here.

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Yi Shun Lai
Forge

Author: A SUFFRAGISTS’S GUIDE TO THE ANTARCTIC (2024), Pin Ups (2020). Former columnist, The Writer. theGooddirt.org Psst: Say “yeeshun.” You can do it!