I thought putting myself on a budget would be painful. But I found quite the opposite to be true. When I put myself on a budget I found that I really liked being in control of my money. I felt less out of control. I felt less incompetent. I felt better about myself and about my ability to control myself. I also like knowing there was excess money in savings if I needed it. There was also the day at the grocery store when the card reader denied my debit card. "Uh, no", I thought. "That's just incorrect. There is plenty of money in that account." And I was right. It was a glitch in the system.
How did I do it? Well, I hate to admit it, but I have to outsmart myself when it comes to money. First, I have it automatically withdrawn every payday and sent to another bank. A bank where I have no debit card, no charge card and no checks. If I want to get that money out I have to drive over and make a withdrawal. Too much trouble. And since the money comes out automatically, I never miss it.
I also use my mother's technique of saying to myself (and others) "I don't have the money." If you can convince yourself you don't have the money you won't spend it. It then starts to accumulate.
I increased the payments on my VISA card (yes, just one) and my mortgage. Putting more money toward paying off the principal. Watching those amounts come down is very satisfying.
I started riding the bus to work and apply the money I would have spent on gas to paying off the VISA.
A friend of mine has problems abusing her credit card. But she needs to keep the credit in case of emergencies. Her solution? Put it in a glass of water and freeze it. You can't microwave it because of the magnetic strip. You have to let it thaw out at room temperature. By then, her urge to buy that new dress has thawed as well.
People find interesting and creative ways to save money. There are many ways to do it, you just have to find what works for you. Know what is important to you and what is not. Know the difference between what you "need" and what you simply "want". Cable TV is not important to me. Broadband internet is essential. Make choices and prioritize.
Once you've cut back on your spending, be wary of alternative addictions. When we restrict ourselves in one area we often start to splurge in another. If you restrict your spending you may start eating more, drinking more or smoking more. Just as people who go on strict diets may suddenly start shopping more or people who kick a drug habit may suddenly get heavily into AA meetings or religion, restricting your spending too severely too suddenly may provoke splurging in other areas. Be gentle and patient with yourself. This should not be severe or punitive, but comfortable and healthy. You're doing this to feel better, remember?