One of the most sought-after dreams is financial freedom. Ask just about anyone, and they will tell you they want to be out from under crushing debt or have the funds available to do what they want. 

To get control of finances, it’s imperative that we take control of our spending and you can only achieve that by self-discipline.  

Often, so-called “necessities” are not necessary at all. They are rationalizations, excuses to find instant gratification at an artificially exaggerated price. Buying now, instead of waiting and saving, especially on large ticket items is how people end up under the smothering debts that crush them and, paradoxically, prevent them from getting on a level footing again.

So how do you learn how to say “no” to the toughest person there is to refuse: yourself? There are a few steps that will help you learn this valuable trick.

1. Face yourself honestly. No one knows you better than you do. Ask yourself why you “need it now” and what is it that the purchase will do for you. Is buying whatever a case of instant gratification? What are you doing now without it? Can you continue doing that for a while? For example, taking the bus to work might not be as convenient as a car, but it’s less expensive. 

2. Set a plan. Instead of making car payments and paying half-again the value of the car, is it possible to make those car payments to a bank account, gather interest and wait another year for that car and buy it outright? Write out the plan and post it where you’ll see it when you want to spend money.

3. Build in a reward system. If every penny goes to your new car fund, you’re going to break into that eventually. We all need a break or a reward for the hard work we do. If you have a family, that’s even truer. Every once in a while, the family needs a special treat, or you need a reward. Put that in the budget. Reward yourself for saving by using that treat money. If you dip into the car fund, replace it with the reward money. That’s how your brain learns that there are consequences for undesirable action.

4. Make yourself accountable. Have someone you answer to, an advisor, a friend, a colleague, someone that you have to tell when you stray and when you succeed.  That someone is there to prevent you from lying to yourself, so listen when they speak.

Financial freedom is more than just being careful of your spending, but it’s impossible to achieve without some self-discipline in your spending. Manage that first, and the rest will slowly begin to fall into place. Learning the self-discipline tools now will help you later in other aspects of your life too.