One year I took my birthday money from my extended family and went out and got myself the most updated version of Quicken I could find. I think it cost arould $50 at the time. It has saved us such headaches trying to figure out where our money goes, and it would have saved us tons of money if I had been using it regularly the last year and a bit. We’re having a tough time financially, too, so I just reinstalled it and got it all set up again- already I am seeing a big change in our spending habits and such because it’s so obvious where our money is going (and how all those “little purchases” add up very quickly). If you have the money, invest in a copy of Quicken or a similar program. It only takes a minute or two every day or two to keep up with after the initial set-up.
Try to make sure that you aren’t making frequent trips into town for just a few things. Pick one day a week to do all your errands, if you can. Try to schedule your appointments the same day. It saves tons on gas, espeically if you live half an hour outside of town like we do.
Make sure you’re using those energy saving lightbulbs and conserving electricity. I was surprised how much our electric bill went down just by being aware of extra lights, computers, etc that were running. If you can, hang dry your laundry. Make sure you’re only washing full loads.
Make a list of the “staples” of food in your house. For us, it’s fruit, milk, bread, eggs, yogurt, and a few others. I know approximately how much of each we use in a week and a month, the approximate cost, etc. That is my base amount for the grocery budget. I add on an additional amount for those thigns that might vary from month to month. I also shop the fliers- if I see there is a great sale on spaghetti sauce that week, guess what we’ll be eating? I also stock up on sale items. I have only bought cheese twice in the 8 months because I have caught it on such good sales and I bought so much at one time.
Learn how to make things from scratch. As a previous poster pointed out, making stuff from scratch is sooo much cheaper. You can keep lots of inexpensive pasta, rice, potatoes, canned tomatoes, etc in the house. Invest in a deep freezer and you can get lots of sale meat and frozen veggies. THen just supplement with your fresh produce and you’ll save tons.
Stay organized and make lists. Plan meals and shopping lists ahead of time and stick to them as much as you can. You need to know how your house is running, what things you use, how much they cost, what your bills are, etc.
Good luck and I will be reading this thread for new tips, too!