Self-discipline isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone. You might find it hard to stick to a diet and exercise regime, struggle with behavioural issues or even addiction. However, if you lack financial discipline, you could be depriving yourself of a better lifestyle for the long term – and all because you don’t have the right skills to handle your money.

The good news is that you can change all that, and now is always the best time. Instead of sticking your head in the sand, hoping that your debts and money troubles will magically go away, take inspiration from the title of the classic self-help book called Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway and tackle your lack of financial discipline head-on.

Financial discipline can be developed. It can be flexed and toned like a muscle until you’re firmly in control of your money management. Sound good? Then let’s go.

1. Take stock and consolidate any debts

Your first step towards acquiring financial discipline is to be brutally honest with where you are moneywise right now. Do you owe any money? Credit cards, personal loans, car finance, phone contract, mortgage, more? Go through all your financial liabilities with a fine tooth comb and make a list of what you owe and how much you’re paying off each month.

If your debts are accumulating because you’re spending more than you’re earning, or there’s never enough money to pay off what you owe, you need a new strategy to get back onto an even keel. There’s really no point lurching from one month to the next just to service the interest on your loan!

Contact a debt specialist and get a grip on your debt levels by consolidating everything into one monthly payment to help you improve your financial health. If a poor credit rating is holding you back, a guarantor loan could be an option – you can borrow money while improving your credit score.

2. Set realistic budgets and stick to them

Once you’ve regained control of your debts, it is time to draw up your personal and/or household budget for each month. To keep things simple, make two columns: money coming in, money going out. Obviously, the aim of the game is to spend less than your income – if that’s not the case, you need to make some cuts.

This can be the hardest thing to do if you’re not used to scrutinising where every penny is going. Drawing up a limited budget for the week/month can be a painful process, but look at it as a long-term lifesaving skill that will help you develop a much healthier relationship with money and what (not) to do with it.

Here are 3 easy money healthy habits to get you started:

  • Instead of grabbing a morning coffee on the go, make your own at home and easily save £50 per month. Taking a packed lunch can save you £25-£50 a week!
  • Menu planning is the answer to savvy food shopping, while online grocery shopping puts an end to impulse buys. And how about inviting friends for dinner rather than eating out?
  • Gym memberships can eat into your household budget – could you start jogging or cycling instead and cancel the gym DD? Any other direct debits you don’t use that could be culled?

3. Always think twice – you can only spend it once

Once you have your financial scaffolding in place, the trick is to live within its means. Did you know that it takes 30 days to embed a new habit, or to break a bad one? Why not set yourself a 30-day challenge to see how little you can spend?

There are many helpful strategies you can use to encourage your mindset to turn from being a spender to being a saver including these genius tricks:

  • Ration the days when you go shopping. Leave your plastic at home and only take as much cash as you’re prepared to spend.
  • If you’re tempted to impulse buy, sleep on it instead and see if the urge to make a purchase will go away. If not, try this handy demotivator tool to discourage you from spending.
  • Be discerning and disciplined with every purchase you make. Ask yourself if you really need it right now. For every new thing you buy, one old thing has to go.
  • Always shop around for the best deals, biggest discounts and ‘cashback’ offers and, of course, buy second hand where you can.
  • Repair, re-use, recycle. Thinking sustainably isn’t only good for the planet, it can save you a stack of cash.

Annie Button is a Portsmouth based writer and recent graduate. Annie has written for various online and print publications and specialises in business and career development.