When the book Confessions of a Shopaholic came out, I was the first one in Canada to buy it. You see, I have a bit of a spending problem -- I love to shop. For books, for clothes, for shoes, for accessories, for beauty products and now, as the mom of two sweet boys, for everything and anything you can image a child would need or want.

Recently, I’ve begun to look closely at my spending habits, and I’m starting a painful (and insightful) journey into living a more frugal life, and learning how to say no when I can’t afford things, as hard as that is. Listening to the charismatic David Chilton (bestselling author of The Wealthy Barber and The Wealthy Barber Returns) speak at an event in Ottawa made me look at my spending habits a little differently.

Diving into his book opened my eyes even more. The idea of paying down your debt first was not something I’d given much thought to, but it makes sense. I’m someone who hates the words budget, money, saving, and fiscal responsibility, but I loved reading Chilton’s book on personal finance. The Wealthy Barber Returns also made me look at the lessons I’m teaching my children about the value of a dollar. I am being more mindful about how I treat money around them, because I’m scared they’ll think money really does grow on trees!

Here are some tips I’ve learned on how to become more fiscally responsible:

Teach your children about money

I had a conversation with Gail Vaz-Oxlade, financial author and television personality, about how I could teach my children to be more responsible with money. Her advice? Give them a weekly allowance. When you go shopping, if they want to buy something, they’ll have to use their own money. I have to work harder at just saying “no,” too. It is so important to be consistent with the messages you’re giving your children.

Plan other activities

Many people say that shopping is a substitute for something that’s missing in their lives. I actually get a natural high when I’m shopping because I like nice things. However, the more time I spend in the mall, the more money I spend. So I have found that by doing other, more worthwhile things -- writing, reading, playing soccer with my boys outside -- I can have just as much fun. And the best part is these activities are free. Look for deeper meaning in your life, and stop measuring yourself and your success by the “stuff” you have.

Spend less time at the mall

The most important thing is to be strategic when you shop, otherwise you can end up spending more money than you should. If you shop with a goal in mind, you won’t overspend! I have found that giving myself a time limit when I go shopping, and sticking to looking for only what I need, helps a lot.

Create a budget and stick to it

“Budget” is a word I hate to use, but I’m actually using it. Setting a budget for yourself and for your family can be painful. If it means you have to leave your credit cards at home, leave the credit cards at home. I’ve learned the hard way that a credit card is not free money and can get you in more trouble than you bargained for.

Becoming a more fiscally responsible person is not something that can happen overnight; I know there will be many challenges (and sales!) along the way, but I am determined to become smarter with my spending habits, save money and help my children understand the meaning of a dollar.

Loukia Mertikas-Zigoumis is the journalist and mother of two boys behind the award-winning Loulou’s Views. She lives in Ottawa and also writes about shopping for the Yummy Mummy Club.