Creating a budget is the first step toward financial freedom. But you have to actually follow it if you want to be successful. It's always tempting to spend money, so you need to learn how to resist the urge. Like losing weight, tightening your financial belt can be a challenge. But you can use little tricks to keep yourself within your budget. Set your eyes on the goal and you can remain focused.
Remind yourself of your goals. Think about the reasons why you're sticking to a budget -- to get out of debt or save up for a down payment, for example -- and constantly think of this reason whenever you feel tempted to go off of your budget. It can help to create a vision board -- a bulletin board with pictures of your goals -- and hang it in a prominent place at your home or work.
Leave your cash and credit cards at home. Take only the money that you need. You cannot spend what you don't have.
Make all purchases with cash. Credit cards -- even if you pay them off in full every month -- can cause you to overspend because they make it easy to purchase something that you weren't planning on buying. Instead, opt to pay cash for everything from groceries to new clothes.
Track your expenses every day. Whether you do this through a computer program or just on paper, keeping a spending diary can make you stay accountable. That magazine doesn't look as attractive when you know that you'll have to write down that you spent money on it.
Challenge yourself to do better. If you make a game out of sticking to your budget, it becomes more fun. For example, you might challenge yourself to save more money than you did last month or spend less money on food. You could also challenge yourself to not go to the grocery store for two weeks instead of one, forcing yourself to use all of the food in your pantry.
Treat yourself every once in awhile. You deserve treats for sticking to your budget. Plan to give yourself a reward once a month or once every two months, as your budget allows. This might be a trip to the movies or a restaurant or it could be buying a new pair of shoes. Choose something that will motivate you.
Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.