When I first started trying to get out of debt (which, was a good year before I started talking about it online), I was faced with the very sobering reality that my out-go was higher than my income. So, I had to start figuring out how to cut that down. Reducing the grocery bill through coupons and sales was a no-brainer and has helped immensely. Combining errands so that I'm not using huge amounts of gas was an easy way to trim some costs. Cutting back on meals out was another very helpful strategy.
At times it seems that "the world" has conspired against me to make this as hard as possible. Corruption among Public Officials and several seasons of drought conditions combined to create horrendously high sewer and water bills. Record setting 100 degree days in a row made for outrageous electricity bills in the summer. And extreme cold (for Alabama) made for budget busting natural gas bills this winter. And now, gas prices are skyrocketing due to instability in the Middle East. There's not a whole lot I can do personally about those situations.
However, I can do smaller things to take some of the sting out of those -
1. Recycling - Our city provides a large tub for recyclables. You just put it out at the curb once a week and truck comes by and picks up the contents, leaves the tub. Since I have started recycling we have reduced our household garbage output by at least two bags a week. The last time I bought garbage bags, they were on "sale" for $5.49 for a box of 40, I had a coupon for .75 off which made them average out to almost 12 cents a bag. ..12 x 2 x52 = $12.48. That's not a massive amount of savings over the course of the year, but it is SOME savings, for no additional work, and it is earth friendly too.
2. Water - We've had drought conditions on and off for the last five years. Come summer, I'm begging for rain for my gardens. I do try to capture some of the rain in buckets when we actually get it for later use in the garden. This year, I think I am going to finally get a rain barrel. My landlord (my Dad) also took pity on me and installed water saver toilets in both bathrooms. Since then, our water/sewer bill dropped by 1/3. I also make absolutely sure that laundry and dishwasher loads are full before running.
3. Power and Natural Gas - Extreme temps make the central air and heat work HARD during the winter and summer months. We've gotten in the habit of keeping the heat set a bit lower than normal in winter and the air a bit higher in the summer. The only way to pull this off is to dress appropriately during those times. Layers in the winter and shorts and tank tops in the summer. We also make good use of our ceiling fans. I have also switched the light bulbs in our house to CFLs, but I still make sure lights are turned out in rooms that aren't being used!
4. Leftovers - Princess Penelope isn't very fond of leftovers. She's a picky eater as it is, and there are really only a few meals that she will eat "leftover". This isn't a huge deal because I tend to divide most large recipes in half during assembly and freeze one half. But there is often a serving or two left of what I serve. This is no big deal because I tend to just eat it for lunch the next day. I don't mind eating the same thing a meal or two in a row. Much better than throwing that stuff in the garbage!
5. Draft dodgers - The house we live in was built in 1957 and has single paned windows with aluminum frames. Can you say air leaks everywhere? I have combated part of the problem by putting thermal curtains on the windows, and using "draft dodgers" along the sills (since they are hidden by the curtains, it doesn't look as weird as it sounds). I can definitely tell a difference.
These are some of the things we are doing to cut costs in small ways without putting forth a ton of additional effort. What are some of the things that you do?