Sticking to a budget can be a difficult task. It takes work, dedication, and discipline. But once you get the hang of it, budgeting becomes second nature. Here are some tips that will help you stick to your budget.

1. Take Your Budget With You

You should always have your budget with you; keep a copy in your wallet or purse. By doing this, you can record your spending as you shop, instead of filling it out later. This way there is no second guessing about how much you spent or how much you have left in your budget to spend.

2. Pay Yourself First

Start each month by setting a small amount of money aside for yourself before paying off your other expenses. At the end of the month you can put this money into a savings account or use it to take care of any overages in your budget. Try setting up automatic deductions from your paycheck to make paying yourself easier. Also, set up direct deposit from your employer so that you aren’t tempted to spend the cash in your pocket.

3. Make It Fun

You can make budgeting fun by being creative. Challenge yourself each month to reach or even go under your budget; make it a game. Set small goals to meet, like if you spend $200 on groceries on month, try to cut that cost by $10 the next month.

4. Use a Prepaid Card

Prepaid debit cards offer an easy way to keep track of your spending since you can access your transactions online. Since prepaid debit cards don’t use credit, it’s just like using cash so you won’t need to worry about spending money you don’t have.

5. Limit the Cash you Carry

It may be a good idea to use cash instead of paying by plastic so you are not tempted to spend more than your budget. Just make sure you don’t carry around too much cash. Only carry what you intend on spending.

6. Use One Credit Card

Instead of carrying around all your credit cards, just keep one with you in case of an emergency. You can avoid the temptation of putting things on credit by limiting the number of credit cards you carry around to only one.

7. Adopt Cost Cutting Habits

Look for ways to reduce your expenses. You can even make this into a game by trying new methods and finding out which ones work best for you. This will make your budget more interactive, while challenging you to save more money.

8. Treat Yourself

If you have been following your budget correctly, allow yourself to a little treat. Treating yourself every now and again will ensure that you are not being overwhelmed by your budget. Think of it as a reward for a job well done.

9. Review with Friends or Family

Just like you would go to your family or friends for advice on your personal life, you can do the same for your budget. Since your family and friends know you better than most, they can offer suggestions to help improve your budget.

10. Shop with a Strong Saver

You can learn good habits by shopping with someone with better saving skills than you. Ask questions and pay attention to their shopping habits to learn new ways of improving your spending and budgeting skills. Think of them as a mentor for improving how you spend money.

11. Focus on Different Categories

Designate certain days to tackle different categories of your budget. This will help to create a routine as well as save money. For example, if you go grocery shopping on Tuesdays only, you can eliminate trips to the store. Less trips means less chances to overspend and less gas being used in your car.

12. Become Value Conscious

Cheaper is not always better. When shopping, pay attention to the value of the item, not just the cost. Most of the time cheaper alternatives are produced from cheaper materials, resulting in you having to replace it more often. It is fine to be price conscious, just make sure you are not compromising value for cost.

13. Round to the Dollar

One of the problems with budgeting is keeping track of your spending. For example, you may have forgotten if the shampoo you just bought cost $3.55 or $3.68. If you didn’t keep the receipt, just round up the cost to the nearest dollar.

14. Set an Overall Goal

The best way to motivate yourself into sticking to your budget is setting a goal for yourself. Setting a goal for your budget will give you something to work for and measure you progress against.

15. Forgive Yourself

Just remember, “Nobody’s Perfect!” There may be months when you go over your budget or an unexpected expense comes up. Don’t let these kinds of dilemmas get you off focus. You can’t go forward if you are stuck dwelling on shortcomings.