The notebook that can make you RICHER

The notebook that can make you RICHER: But, as these women found, the bad news is you have to write down details of every penny you spend – and no lying!

  • Research suggests we spend on average £2,700 a year on non-essential items 
  • Four UK women shared their experience of using Japanese ‘Kakeibo’ diaries
  • Caroline Stanley, 26, doubled her savings using the journal to track spending
  • Lisa Bradshaw, 51, says the journal made her more considerate of her purchases
  • Candice Sher, 46, believes the method could help to secure a financial cushion

Living in these days of easy credit, one-click online shopping, and contactless payments, it’s harder than ever to keep on top of all your outgoings. According to research, we could each be wasting as much as £2,700 a year on non-essential items.

But now, growing numbers of women are turning to a traditional method of bringing things back under control — keeping a log of every single penny they spend, to identify where they could cut back. 

The idea has come to the UK from Japan, where so-called ‘Kakeibo’ diaries — specially printed budgeting journals — have become popular. The idea is that you become more conscious of what you’re buying and why.

So, could keeping a diary really help you to get a financial grip? We challenged four women to log every expense for a month . . .

Four UK women kept a note of their spending using ‘Kakeibo’ diaries for a month.  Lisa Bradshaw, 51, (pictured) claims the experience made her more careful of her spending


Lisa Bradshaw, 51, is a part-time specialist nurse and research scientist. She lives in Sheffield with husband David, 55, a hospital consultant, and their children Beth, 16, Sam, 15, and Finn, 12. She also owns a cake design business, Urban Cakehouse.

INCOME: Around £1,800 per month (£1,176 NHS salary and £600-£1,000 from cake-making per month).

OUTGOINGS: £175 in expenses for my cake business. My husband pays our bills, and we are mortgage-free with money in savings.


SAVINGS: Sometimes nothing!

Lisa says:

My weaknesses are holidays, concerts and nights out — none of which I want to cut back on as that’s our family time.

But this diary reveals I’ve been frittering away a small fortune at our local Tesco Express on top-up shops when we run out of fresh food.

My kids are also a huge drain, particularly during the holidays when they’re constantly asking for a fiver here and there. Over the month, they spent £120 on school lunches altogether, which shocked me.

Part of the diary fell over the Easter holidays, when we spent a lot and ended up dipping into our savings to the tune of around £1,500. Week four is more typical of our home spending — I always take a packed lunch to work, so it’s much more frugal.

CONCLUSION: I’m not sure the Kakeibo will make me save more. But it will certainly make me more careful about what I spend on. Instead of wasting so much on food, I’d like to have more money to enjoy doing things with David and the kids, and think I can save about £50 a month by planning shops more carefully. I’ve also had a chat with the kids about their spending, encouraging them to take snacks from home to supplement their school lunch.

Kate Holdsworth, 57, (pictured) believes the diary will help her to save enough money to go on trips with friends


  • My birthday — dinner at Zizzi’s with my daughter: £48
  • Takeaway curry: £21
  • Cocktails and food with David: £22
  • Dinner before Macklemore concert in Manchester: £72
  • Big shop at Tesco: £172
  • Kids’ school lunches: £60
  • Squash club fees for boys: £228
  • Duke of Edinburgh award fee for Sam: £60

TOTAL: £683


  • Paint and new tiles: £234
  • Tesco Express for milk, bread, fruit and veg: £94
  • Pocket money: Beth gets £80 a month, Sam £30 and Finn £20

TOTAL: £458


  • Tesco shop: £129
  • Tesco Express top-ups: £30
  • Costco, where I bulk buy washing powder, toilet rolls and tins: £221
  • Meals and drinks over two days in Stratford with my daughter: £278
  • Arctic Monkeys tickets for David, Beth and me: £203

TOTAL: £861


  • Kids’ school lunch top-up: £60
  • Tesco shop: £110
  • Curry and taxi with David: £80
  • Petrol: £42
  • Haircuts for all five of us: £89

TOTAL: £381



Kate Holdsworth, 57, is a baker and preserve-maker who lives in Leeds with husband David, 58, a financial adviser. They have two sons aged 33 and 31, and a grandson, five months.

INCOME: £1,200 a month (£1,000 housekeeping from David, £200 from selling preserves). David also pays £1,200 a month to cover the mortgage and bills from his salary.

OUTGOINGS: £185 on personal trainer, pilates and yoga.

Caroline Stanley, 26, (pictured) claims she will be able to double her savings by being reducing her spend on food 


SAVINGS: £100, but that could go on extras like birthday gifts or dinner with friends.

Kate says:

I had a stroke five years ago, and lost the use of my left side, so had to leave my job. That’s why I feel keeping fit is worth every penny.

Fortunately, we only have a small mortgage, and spend less since our boys left home. David pays the main bills, and covers our three holidays a year to Italy, Greece or France.

I pay for the supermarket shopping and anything I do with my friends, such as a planned trip to Israel next year. I need to save £100 a month, and so far have £160 in savings.

But I’m a devil for spending £20 here and there on food, posh baking tins and treats for our grandson.

Keeping a budget reminds me of when David and I were first married, 35 years ago. With a big mortgage and two young children, I kept tins in the kitchen into which I put money for the kids’ violin lessons, petrol and school lunches.

CONCLUSION: I’ve been saving £40 a month — but now plan to increase this to £100-£150 so I can go on more trips with friends. Already, when I find myself thinking, ‘Ooh, I really want that new cookery book!’ I manage to stop myself buying it.


  • Lunch out: £20
  • Coffee and cakes: £12
  • Supermarket shop: £80
  • Top-up shop: £18

TOTAL: £130


  • Six months’ worth of Temple Spa beauty products: £100
  • Pedicure: £39
  • Petrol: £20
  • Supermarket shop: £77
  • Spices: £40
  • Hair appointment: £75

TOTAL: £351

Candice Sher, 46, (pictured) hopes to be able to save a financial cushion using the journal 


  • Supermarket shop: £80
  • Tea and cake with friends: £5
  • Bits for dinner party: £35

TOTAL: £120


  • Majestic Wine: £81.90
  • Shop for dinner party: £45
  • Supermarket shop: £32.61
  • Lunch with girlfriends: £20
  • Birthday present for friend: £20
  • Petrol: £20
  • Cash withdrawal: £10

TOTAL: £229.51


Kate Holdsworth (pictured) revealed the diary has helped her to make less impulse purchases


Caroline Stanley, 26, is in charge of marketing and admissions at a school near Bath. She lives in a house she owns with her ex boyfriend.

INCOME: £2,250 a month.

OUTGOINGS: £1,065 on bills. mortgage and car finance.


SAVINGS: About £100

Caroline says:

I’m desperately trying to save, and thought I was being careful. My boyfriend and I split up last year, but are still living in the house we bought because we haven’t built up enough equity to sell it yet. My only way out is to save a deposit — at least £5,000.

If you’d asked me before what I spend money on, I’d have said clothes and beauty products. But I had no idea how much I was spending on food and, oh my God, do I need to sort it out.

My nightly trips to Waitrose cost up to £40, including fancy snacks such as posh popcorn. And I was horrified to see I’d blown £75 on Easter eggs. I also paid £17 for lunches one week, because I didn’t make my usual packed lunches.

I don’t eat out during the week, but at weekends spend around £70. A friend’s wedding in Yeovil meant I spent a big chunk in one go.

CONCLUSION: No more trips to Waitrose! I’ve worked out I can order a week’s food online for under £50, by carefully planning my meals. As a result, I’m confident I can double my savings to £200 a month — or even a little more. Then I can see friends at weekends without feeling guilty.

Caroline’s diary:


  • Curtains for spare room: £200
  • Summer clothes: £60
  • Supermarket: £140
  • Petrol for my commute: £50

TOTAL: £450


  • Supermarket (small trips): £140
  • Cleaning products: £35
  • Friend’s hen do in Bath: £42
  • Easter eggs in Waitrose: £75
  • New mascara: £30

TOTAL: £322


  • Eating out while in Yeovil: £50
  • Supermarket: £65
  • Wedding gift: £75
  • Car MOT: £54

TOTAL £244

Lisa Bradshaw (pictured) was inspired to encourage her children to be careful of their spending after using the diary


  • Lunches: £17
  • Supermarket: £60
  • Petrol: £48
  • Weekend lunch with friends: £78
  • Pilates class: £8

Gym kit in sale: £52

TOTAL: £263



Candice Sher, 46, lives in Cambridgeshire with her sons, six and five, and daughter, two. She works three days in a pre-school and from home for a high-end travel consultancy.

INCOME: £2,358 a month including tax credits.

OUTGOINGS: £900 on rent, car, insurance and bills.


SAVINGS: £20, if that.

Candice says:

Since my marital home was sold three years ago I’ve been renting, but without contributions from my ex-husband it’s a struggle.

The £5,000 savings I’d put away pre-children — when I had a great job at a luxury travel company — have gone on divorce legal costs, so I live hand-to-mouth. I put all my change in a jar to try to save, but I’m constantly juggling bills.

Keeping a journal has forced me to forensically examine my bank statements, such as a couple of payments of around £3 a month for phone apps I no longer need.

A lot goes on groceries from Aldi, mostly fresh fruit and veg, pasta, cheese, yogurt and a little meat. Otherwise it’s the kids’ activities, clothes and my daughter’s nursery fees — and my car is essential for our commute.

The Easter holiday was tricky because the weather was miserable and I had to keep the children entertained. I ended up dipping into my £200 overdraft. I rarely do anything for myself — although I did spend £18 on a secondhand dress from eBay for a wedding, as I had nothing suitable.

CONCLUSION: To my amazement, I’ve started to spend less the last four weeks. It’s taught me to question every purchase, such as £3 on a nice coffee every now and then. It’s a want, not a need, so I won’t be doing it anymore — saving is the priority. It’s going to take a couple of years, but I’m determined to save up two months of living expenses — £3,000 — as a financial cushion.


  • Petrol: £65
  • Groceries: £88.85
  • Kids’ cinema trip: £14
  • Nursery fees: £92

TOTAL £259.85


  • Groceries: £59
  • Day at the Space Museum: £28
  • Nursery uniform: £20.99
  • Swimming lessons: £120
  • Nursery fees: £150

TOTAL: £377.99


  • Petrol: £63
  • Groceries: £61.56
  • Second-hand dress: £18
  • Gifts for birthday parties: £15.42
  • Nursery fees: £100

TOTAL: £257.98


  • Groceries: £75.82
  • Day at a local farm: £15.05
  • Daughter’s birthday party: £40.58
  • Sweet treats for the kids: £10
  • Son’s outing with Beavers: £5
  • McDonald’s for kids: £12.34
  • Nursery fees: £50
  • French lessons and football for eldest son: £34 & £25

TOTAL: £262.79

MONTHLY TOTAL: £1,158.61

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