(Before I continue, let me say that I did budget religiously for about 2 months. While I did save tons of money, all I did was obsess about it. It did put in perspective where money is going for me, but I still couldn't stick with it.)
1. Figure out Priorities
I will be the first to admit, I am the absolute worst about impulse buys. I cannot begin to count the amount of times I have walked out of Target with an armload of clearance items I swore I would use (my 3 dry erase boards will lay testament to this). I know a lot of women have this habit, and you are not alone. But I've learned if you put things in perspective, it is a lot easier to combat this impulse spending. First, I think about how many hours of work I would have to do just to pay for that item. If it isn't worth 3 hours of scanning groceries to me, I do not buy it. Second, I keep inventory of items I have at home, think if I do legitimately need it, and how often I would use it if I did buy it. This helps keep myself in check.
2. Save Things You Won't Miss
If you do not have a piggy bank, invest in one. I religiously empty my change, and when my piggy gets full I usually have between sixty and ninety dollars. This is change that I wasn't missing. Yes, I do keep a few pennies for emergencies, but how often do we really take the time to count out exact change anyways? Also, this one is harder, but I have made myself an envelope for one dollar bills. I am not as rigorous about this one, but I started in December and already have about seventy dollars. Guess what? I haven't even missed having them.
3. Free Bonus Rewards
Lots of places have a rewards program now, and I know that it is annoying to keep up with all of them. But if it's free to sign up for, and it's for a place you go frequently, then you might as well do it. I have a gas card to Mapco, which saves me three cents a gallon and builds points for free items such as snacks and drinks. It adds up. I have one for Orange Leaf, so for every ten dollars I spend there, I get a dollar off. It adds up. And I have one for Starbucks, so for every 12 drinks I buy I get a free one (and they have an iPhone app, so you don't even have to keep up with that one!). These are a way to save money without even having to think about it.
4. Discount Stores
Lastly, TJMaxx, Ross, and Goodwill. These can be very dangerous if you are not self-disciplined, but if you feel like you can control yourself and are going for a specific item, these stores are wonderful. Especially for house ware, decorative items, and bedding. And if you're going to splurge on yourself, these are the best places to do it. Name brand prices for a discount is right up my alley!
Even if you only use one of these things, or use all of them, remember the old saying: "Pennies make dollars." Three cents a gallon or a 10% discount may not seem like much, but if you really put it into perspective they add up very quickly!