The hard thing about being more responsible with finances, is that it really is hard. A lot of times I said, "I want to be better with my money," but I didn't want to actually WORK at it. I wanted to be better with my money, without changing a thing in my behaviour. Some of the changes that were hardest were the really little things too, the little habits that needed to be broken. But, those little habits, added up over time, ended up being pretty big changes in the end.
The painful/helpful ones were:
Leaving the plastic at home.
If I make a budget that means $5 a day for lunch, (or now that I work from home a snack or coffee date) I leave the debit/credit at home and take a five dollar bill. It's really hard to spend more than what it budgeted if you physically don't have it on you. This goes for mall trips too, if you take what you're going to spend, and just what you're going to spend, you always come home on budget.
Checking my balances daily.
I don't really do this anymore, but when I was first struggling to change my behaviour I went on to my internet banking everyday, and tracked exactly where my money went. I needed to make my spending about real numbers. It was so painful at first, looking at my Visa everyday, seeing exactly where the money was going to, seeing time after time that I spent more than I should've in black and white. Knowing that I would have to face the music when I got home was a good deterrent from spending spontaneously.
Making a schedule.
On the same day, around the same time every week, I get out our cash and spending money for the week. Making it part of the routine means that I am going to fill up my jars, and making sure that it's on the same day means I'm not tempted to withdraw our cash a few days early, and then struggle the next week to make it to the end of the week without getting to the end of the money. There are times I made exceptions of course, next week we're away, so I'm taking out our budget a day early so I have time to buy supplies to take on the road.
This was particularly painful. Telling my spouse about times that I spent. Many times. Times I didn't want to admit it even to myself. This is another facing the music kind of change. If it's hard to justify to another person, do I really need it? And if I don't really need it, why am I buying it?
Making it fun
When we first got our jars I was a complete dork. I decorated them. I made the labels all pretty, and put them on display. It made me want to fill them up. It made me not want to empty them. I loved the sound of change being put into them after a weekly grocery shop. By celebrating the jars, I stuck to the jars.
Are there any hard/small changes you made, that benefitted the way your family budgeted?