Budgets are like diets: No single approach works for everyone; overly complicated plans rarely work for long; and sometimes it takes a few tries before you get it right.
One common stumbling block is thinking of budgets as punishment rather than a means to achieve your life’s goals. Say you dream of buying a house: A budget shouldn't serve as a constant reminder that you can't afford a down payment; but rather, as a tool to help identify where the money goes each month so you can adjust spending – and saving – accordingly.
If you’re new to budgeting or you haven't been successful in the past, start slowly. First, for a few months write down every cent you spend: mortgage/rent, utilities, food, gas, medical copayments, birthday presents, credit card interest, allowances – the works. Don’t forget annual expenses like insurance and income tax. It sounds tedious, but I guarantee you'll be amazed by the bottom line.