I realized long ago that it's a wee bit dangerous to allow myself to realize I have money. When I notice I have actually socked away a semi-substantial sum, I'm more inclined to spend. It doesn't usually lead to a flood of wild extravagances, but a trickle of repeated little treats that put me over budget is just as bad in the long run.
Developing strategies to combat this has been vital to maintaining my savings momentum. During my senior year of college when almost all of my income for a semester came in a lump sum, a very strict budget kept me on track, but I found myself obsessing about the numbers a bit more than was healthy. Now I'm striving for a bit more flexibility.
One thing that helped has been keeping multiple bank accounts. Longer term savings get locked away in accounts I can admire from time to time when I transfer funds in but wouldn't dream of spending on day-to-day life unless I faced a dire emergency. Money goes in, but it doesn't go out, period. Keeping a "life happens fund" in a different savings account linked to my checking account for quick access and overdraft protection enables me to keep just a couple hundred dollars more than I plan to need in a month in my checking account itself. Thus, looking at my checking account balance usually makes me feel pretty nearly broke.
Still, spending creep happens. To combat my tendency to go just a little over budget every month, I'm trying a strategy I'd heard about for years but probably would never have tried if I hadn't seen how well it works for the boy: I'm going on a (nearly) cash only budget. Daily expenses that aren't bills or rent are to be paid for in cash. Each Sunday afternoon I get my allowance for the week, go do my grocery shopping, gas up my car, and then figure out how to live on what's left. If I know I have other big expenses coming up that week, I'm forced to plan ahead. It's easy to see where I stand by simply opening my wallet. My budget is low enough that if I do go over, it won't be a huge setback, but the thought of caving and going to the ATM a second time in one week makes me cringe.
This Sunday was an expensive one. A weekend day trip used quite a bit of gasoline, and I found myself running out of a lot of boring staples like pens, pencils, toilet paper, and laundry detergent. It was my week to buy the supplies for the science club lab, and I also decided to go wild with the grocery shopping this week in the hopes of alleviating my proclivity toward getting bored with everything in the house and deciding to grab fast food.
So I'm down to eight bucks and change, and I'm planning to blow all of it tomorrow night. I can afford it; I have 7/8 of a tank of gas, enough groceries that I could get through all of next week without shopping (but I probably won't), no weekend plans beyond a TFA event that'll include a very nice free dinner. It feels wildly extravagant to go into a restaurant planning to leave absolutely broke. It feels good.