I've learned what works for me through trial and error. I hope that some of this helps you too.
A little background: Sweet Hubby gets paid twice a month so everything we do is based on that schedule. We use online banking. All of my accounts are at the same bank and I can easily transfer my money around and pay my bills. I highly recommend this as it makes life so much easier.
Have a goal and stay focused on it
The background on my computer screen is of a house in the Village. I see it several times a day and it serves as a great reminder. When I'm shopping and find something I want to buy, I ask myself if it's a need or a want. If it's a want, could I just as easily get it a year from now? Do I want it bad enough to delay my goal? I also love to talk about our goals with Sweet Hubby. It's exciting to dream together and good for our marriage. Also, I love to watch Suze Orman and Til Debt Do Us Part on MSNBC. Those shows help keep me focused and excited about what I'm doing.
Make a budget
Be realistic, make adjustments as needed but make a budget. See where you can cut back. Can you consolidate your cable, computer and phone into one and save money? Can you do a better job of menu planning and save money on groceries? Can you combine errands in to one trip so you aren't running around all the time and using more gas?
Look at your budget and decide how much cash you need for that pay period. I then sort that money within my wallet. I hide my personal money, the grocery money goes in the main area and if I have money I need to set aside for clothing or entertainment I keep that somewhere separate too. I am much more aware of what I am spending when I use cash. I only use my debit card for gas or unexpected expenses.
Pay yourself first
This is the most important tip I have for you. Pay your bills, take cash out of the ATM for food, clothing and entertainment and decide how much you need to leave in the checking account (for us that is enough for gas plus a little extra just in case money) and then send the rest off to savings or to pay off debt. I used to take whatever money was left at the end of the month and put it towards debt or savings. I never had even close to the amount of money left over that I should have had. Then I started treating saving/paying off debt as a bill. Now, on payday, I figure out how much money I should have left over at the end of the payday and send it right to savings/debt before I can spend it. Since I started doing this, I save a lot more money. It's so simple and effective. It was a little scary the first time I did. I only left about $150 in my checking account that first payday but I knew I could always access my savings in an emergency. I also knew there was no way I was pulling money out of savings to fund new shoes or whatever must have item I might find. This method forces me to behave and guess what? At the end of the pay period I still had money left.
Track cash expenditures I have a simple spreadsheet that I use to track where my cash has gone but you can just as easily use a notebook. It can really be an eye opener to see where your money goes.
Put everyone in your house on an allowance
For the most part, we buy things our kids want for holidays. We get them what they need when they need it. We don't tie allowance to chores. Maddie doesn't get allowance because she has a part time job but she still does chores. Emma is 8 and gets $9 twice a month. When she wants something she knows that if she doesn't have the money for it she must save up. She is very good with money and thoughtful about her purchases. Even Sweet Hubby and I get an allowance. How much is a personal decision but everyone needs a little fun money (flea markets and magazines, right?).
Send away extra money immediately
When you get extra money like a tax refund, send it out of your checking account as quickly as it gets there. If you leave it in your account you will talk yourself into spending it. This week we got an unexpected refund from our property taxes and immediately transferred it to savings. In the next 2 months we will get a tax refund and Sweet Hubby's bonus and both will be sent away immediately.
Stay away from temptation
For me this means crafts stores, Homegoods, Target and antique stores. If you can't behave at SuperTarget, don't get groceries there. If you can't resist online shopping, delete the emails from those stores without opening them. Can't resist a catalog? Recycle it without looking at it. The point is to take away the temptation until you are strong enough and focused enough to resist.
Don't use credit cards
If you don't have self control, don't carry them.
Balance your checkbook often
I balance mine on Monday and Fridays. I know at any given time exactly how much money I have.
Let yourself have some fun
We love to eat out and still occasionally do but there usually isn't a waitress involved in this interaction. We love to go out for ice cream so we go to McDonalds for $1 cones. We check out movies from the library for free or the Redbox for $1 a night. We go to the bookstore and browse. We go to the Village and have coffee and walk around. We play games. We read books from the library. We have play dates.
Pay yourself again
At the end of the pay period I send whatever money is left in the checking account off to savings/debt and start over with a zero balance for the new pay period. Then the fun begins all over again.