For many years we have attempted to make budgets, write down our income and write down what we spend, etc. This method just does not seem to work for us. For one thing, we have not been disciplined enough and we don't seem to have the time to put into counting up all our receipts and keeping track of every penny spent and every item we have purchased. We now realize one glaring reason for this - there have just been too many items on the receipts to begin with. Once we made the decision to cut out non-depletables our receipts have gotten smaller and basically consists of food and toilet paper! For us, it is easier to give ourselves two categories in which to shop for - depletables and edibles.
Before when we would budget we actually put aside the cash for certain items like car maintenance, haircuts, etc. into envelopes and put the envelopes into a file folder. When it was time for these expenses we pulled out the correct envelope and used it for that expense. However, just knowing the cash was in the file folder was an attraction we could not avoid. We might "borrow" from the haircut envelope for something else we wanted with every intention of replacing it but never would. With the method we are using now, it feels as though we are removing the "money" from the equation; instead, we are focusing on the stuff, which is the source of our problem. In this way, we are not constantly worrying over every penny spent but focusing on the things we are buying. We are challenging ourselves to come up with creative substitutes and not pointing fingers at each other over how much money we spent on this or that because we know what we are allowed to purchase plain and simple. In the end, extra money will, hopefully, be the result without us constantly having to focus on it directly. We are also able to use this journey to teach our children the value of recognizing needs versus wants and that in itself has more value than any extra dollars we may end up with.