Whether you’re drawing up a new budget to accommodate a salary increase or you need to tighten your belt, if you want to ensure that you stick to it, you’ll need to make some physical and psychological changes.

Researchers and personal finance experts suggest that the most effective way to manage debt is to focus on paying off your smaller debts first.

According to Texas A&M University researchers, the idea is that when you’re able to celebrate the ‘small victories’, it gives you a psychological lift from debt fatigue, which often causes anxiety.

“Winning what are known as ‘small victories’ by paying off small debts first can give consumers a real boost in eventually paying off all their debts. The reason is that meeting a small goal provides the motivation to then meet a larger goal,” say researchers Alexander Brown and Joanna Lahey, whose study was published in the Journal of Marketing Research.

READ MORE: Baby steps to budgeting

Similarly, sticking to a new budget requires you to make small tweaks to your spending habits.

Here are four key areas you should focus on changing.

Switch to cash

 If you can get into the habit of paying for everything with cash, you’ll probably have a better chance of sticking to your budget.

You will become more aware of just how much you’re spending when you’re physically removing money from your wallet as opposed to swiping debit and credit cards.

Figure out how much money you need for the week and consider withdrawing that amount. You’ll not only save yourself from spending impulsively, but you’ll also save some cash on bank transaction fees.

Find cheaper ways to entertain yourself

While no one is saying you can’t have any down time, you may need to change aspects of how you have fun, and look for cheaper alternatives.

Consider hosting dinner parties rather than dining out or downscale on luxuries like DStv.

READ MORE: The art (and science) of budgeting

Adopt a frugal living mindset

Living frugally doesn’t necessarily mean you need to deprive yourself of everything, it just means that you have to make smarter purchases.

Take the time to scan the newspapers for weekly supermarket specials and do the price comparisons. You can even buy in bulk and share groceries, or switch to cheaper house brand labels.

Eliminate debt… one debt at a time

 Debt can be an overwhelming burden to carry, but the key to overcoming it is to tackle one debt at a time.

To give you a psychological edge, start by settling your smaller debts first

“While it would make sense to begin paying off debt with the highest interest rate, if you could maintain motivation to pay off your bills, psychological wisdom says you’ll struggle to stay on task. Behaviour depends on how you feel and how you think,” says psychotherapist Amy Morin.

“When you feel a sense of accomplishment after you pay off a small debt, you’ll think more positively about paying off other bills. That boost in your mood can help you stick to your budget.”