The next thing I did was determine a manageable amount to throw at these two cards each month. If your bank account can handle it, I would suggest setting up an automatic monthly bill pay, so that you don't even have to worry about forgetting your bills and incurring late fees. Extra bonus: Knowing how much I was paying each month also did me the favor of allowing me to see the end of the debt tunnel. The knowledge that, if I stuck to my plan, I could be debt-free within a year was a very powerful thing.
After that, I signed up for a free online money management system. The one I use is Mint but there are others to choose from, such as Yodlee, Wesabe, and Quicken Online. With my Mint account, I can categorize all of my financial transactions into categories, such as transportation, health, shopping, and entertainment. Then I have the pleasure of gazing upon pie charts that show me where my money is going each month. Let me tell you, nothing drives home your shopping issues quicker than the realization that most of your hard-earned moolah is going toward a-line skirts, newsboy caps, and candles.
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Of course, the biggest challenge for me was giving up my credit cards.
I locked all of them away in an incredibly attractive business card case and left them in my husband's care.
And then I just stopped shopping.
Knowing that I had been unable to learn my lesson in the past, I knew that there was no other way. Drastic measures were required, and drastic measures were taken. Without the plastic, I've been forced to pay for the necessities with cash, or with my debit card. This makes it necessary for me to balance my checkbook regularly, in order to ensure that I have enough to pay my bills every month without bouncing any checks. The upside to this bit of tedium? I'm always incredibly aware of what is in my bank account at any given time.
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And while the money I've been spending lately has been mostly on groceries, gas for the car, and a number of other humdrum life requirements, I do indulge every once in awhile.