How to give your wallet a Marie Kondo makeover  

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Whether or not you mastered the art of decluttering, you might be interested in learning how to save money more easily, says Viv Groskop

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By Viv Groskop on

If, like me, you are still trying to decide whether your collection of moderately laddered Marks & Spencer opaque tights “spark joy” or belong in the bin, then maybe you are ready to let go of Marie Kondo and her decluttering, and embrace the joy of money-making instead. With “kakeibo” – the Japanese art of saving money – at least your house can be a total tip, but you can buy loads of storage baskets – and new tights – because you will have lots of cash.

Hot on the heels of Marie Kondo’s success with making chucking your stuff out into an art form (with her books, Spark Joy and The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying, which have sold in their millions worldwide) comes Kakeibo: The Japanese Art Of Saving Money by Fumiko Chiba, out this month. This book combines Kondo’s self-discipline (aka giving yourself a good talking-to) with the other trend of the moment: journalling. In a nutshell, if you want to save money, the first thing you have to do is to confront yourself with what you’re already spending by writing it down.

What you need first (and I suppose you will have to spend some money on this, which is against the book’s ethos, but let’s get over that) is a kakeibo: a budgeting journal. Kakeibo literally means “household finance ledger”. “You will use this notebook to set saving goals and spend wisely,” says Fumiko Chiba (a sentence that already makes me want to go and look at my Watching list on eBay and buy something that is a copy of something that I already own, an art form I have truly mastered). “The premise is simple,” writes Fumiko Chiba. “At the beginning of each month, you sit down with your kakeibo and think mindfully about how much you would like to save and what you will need to do in order to reach your goal.”

In my case, I did not need to think mindfully. I just needed to think about it at all

In my case, I did not need to think mindfully. I just needed to think about it at all. I’m terrible about pretending that if you use a card (and especially if you tap and don’t even put your pin in), then it’s free money coming out of some invisible oligarch’s account. “The simple act of completing your kakeibo ensures that saving is part of your everyday life, while also giving you the opportunity to reflect and improve every month.”

I’ve been trying this for a few weeks now, carrying a little pencil and a notebook in my bag, and it really does make a huge difference, if you can cope with the accompanying feelings of shame about how much you have spent at Starbucks. According to the Japanese who swear by it, it’s a better system than importing information online – the physical act of writing things down gives you a more visceral sense of the (in my case, often foolish) purchases you are making.

I’m steeling myself to graduate to the next stage of kakeibo: cash-envelope budget management. Pretty easy to guess what this is: giving yourself an allowance in an envelope and making sure you only spend that and no more. I just have to gear myself up to buy some envelopes first. I imagine I’ve got some already hiding under the mountain of clutter Marie Kondo never did quite fix for me...


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