Being frugal can be a temporary state to get through a financially hard time, or a chosen way of life. Either way a frugal person has to be creative in figuring out how to do more with less - you can look at this as a loathsome chore, or an adventure! As with most things in life, it is best to have a goal, and a plan to get there. Why do you want to be frugal? To save money for a new home, be a stay at home mom, retire, pay off debt, start a business, send a child to college, be free to volunteer, have more to donate to church or charities, and/or to be a good steward of all that God has blessed you with, the reasons are different for each family.
Deciding to live frugally can be a hard adjustment for families, perhaps one spouse is not on board with the plan, children have been used to getting what they want when they want, extended family and friends think you are crazy! It is best to start with small changes and slowly add more as time goes by and before you know it frugal living has become the norm for your family. As Dave Ramsey says, "Live like no one else, so that you can live like no one else!".
Getting started, get a grip on how much money is coming into your househould each month, how much is going out, and how it being spent. Once you have done this you can begin to look at ways to cut expenditures - how much are you spending on food, entertainment, clothing, eating out, services, gas, loan repayments - what can you cut back on or elimate? Perhaps you purchase a latte twice a week at $4/cup, eliminating this adds up to a savings of $208/year, reducing your grocery bill by $25/week adds up to a savings of $1300/year, dropping the land line because you have cell phones, saves approximately $45/month or $540/year, just making three small changes saves over $2000/year - imagine how much more you can save by making small adjustments here and there. An excellent resource for the frugal soul is, The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn - it is, in my opinion, a must read for anyone wanting to live frugally. (check it out at your local library :D).
Food is a large expenditure for any family and reducing costs in this area will make an impact on cash available each week, so how do you reduce costs? Cook from scratch and avoid convenience foods. Potato chips cost about $3 for a large bag, weighing no more than a pound, if you were to purchase potatoes at this price a ten pound sack would cost you $30!! Do you need gourmet coffee or will the $5 - $6/can of coffee suffice? Can you incorporate store brand foods in place of name brand? Make a decision about how much you will spend for an item and then stick to your guns. For example, we like to spend no more than $2.00/pound for hamburger, and $1/pound for chicken, we watch for sales and when the price is right we buy a LOT and load up the freezer. A good cook book to use in a frugal kitchen is More-with-Less by Doris Janzen Longacre. Cook books from the 1950's and 1960's generally have recipes that use basic ingredients, look for them at used book stores, flea markets, and garage sales, and of course the library has tons of cook books for your enjoyment.
Clothing - look at garage sales and thrift stores first, you may not always find what you want, but you can certainly find some items. Garage sales are a great place to find clothes and toys for little ones, and at a fraction of the cost of new, and if you take care of them you can resell them in oyour own garage sale for about the same price you purchased them for. Only purchase what you really need, avoid the "latest fashions" as they tend to go out of style as quickly as they came into style.
Other frugal ideas, use the library rather than purchasing books, change your own oil, grow your own food, learn how to can and preserve, repair items rather than replacing them, cut your own grass, ditch the gym membership and walk or jog in your neighborhood, when pratical walk or ride a bicycle to run errands, depending upon what you are purchasing it may be better to buy used rather than new, stay out of the grocery store, use a wash line, eliminate newspaper and magazine subscriptions, and most of all save your money so that you can avoid going into debt to purchase needed items or repairs.
Being frugal not only stretches your dollar, it stretches you. Out of necessity you become creative as you figure out how to accomplish a task spending the least amount of money and using items that you already have around the house. As you incorporate more and more frugal ideas into your daily living you will be able to manage better on the income that you have, and hopefully move ever closer to accomplishing your goals in life.