Okay, so I've mentioned some cost cutting tips using home-made items before, but I've also found that some things must be bought and in order to actually keep costs down, sometimes you need to buy the more expensive items. Sometimes, you just need to use common sense to keep the costs down. Below, I've provided some very realistic ways to keep the costs down or to allow more "wiggle room" within budgets.
In the bathroom:
Toilet Paper: why oh why do some people think you have to use 15.75 squares (a.k.a. a fist full) of TP to wipe?!?!?! I am baffled by this. Sure, if you buy the one-ply kind, you might need a small fist full, but seriously... spend $3 on a pack that you go through in a week? This is wasteful.
Cost cutting tip: buy quality TP. We get the charmin strong in the jumbo rolls. There are something like 2,000 squares of TP in a 6 pack. You will probably pay around $7.50 for this. Now, you're probably thinking, "Why would you spend almost $8 on TP that you'll go through in no time?!" Ahh, here is the key... use 2 squares each time you go to the bathroom... you may need a square or two more if you poo, but after careful experimentation, we have determined 2 squares is more than adequate. That may not sound like much, but seriously, if you have quality, thick TP, why in the world do you need more?!? If you don't do this already, humor me and try it. Your bank account will probably thank you.
In the laundry room:
Laundry detergent: I've already written a post about making your own laundry detergent. As far as I'm concerned, this is the most inexpensive way to go.
Cost cutting tip: If you're not into making your own laundry detergent, you can buy an inexpensive laundry soap like purex (this is what I use as a back-up to my homemaid detergent) and use 1/2 the amount it calls for per load. This allows your store-bought detergent to last twice as long!
Wash cycle: Why do we run our washers on the full wash/rinse cycle?! ALWAYS choose the shortest cycle unless you cloth diaper or have seriously soiled clothes!
Cost cutting tip: Run your washer on the "light" or "delicate" cycle. It generally takes less time and less water.
In the Kitchen:
Dirty Dishes: I could go on about the ways we typically do dishes, but there's really no point. :-p
Cost cutting tip: If you do not have a dishwasher, soak your dishes first. Scrub them with a sponge or wash cloth in the same water you soaked them in (soaking generally doesn't take too long) and then rinse them. If you do have a dishwasher, set your dishwasher on the water saver option and then latch it so it will start. I usually click the washer until the first rince cycle has passed and then let it run. Even eliminating one rinse saves water!
Water saving tips:
Showers: Do you really need to shower daily? For some people the answer is "yes", but for most of us, the answer is "no". Sure, you might prefer to shower daily (is it just because you "feel dirty" or is it because you are dirty?), but again, this can be wasteful. If you don't need to, don't do it. Just remember this... in third world countries, daily showers are not a regular occurrence and they can maintain acceptable hygiene. Daily showers, in my mind, are mostly a waste of time and water.
In this same vein, when you do shower, you don't need full water pressure. Turn the hot water on first about 50% on and then turn on the cold water on about 20% or less. This should do the trick. When you need to adjust the temperature, try turning more of one temperature off rather than turning more of the other temperature on. Generally this works.
"But, I have thick hair," you might say, "I can't get the shampoo out if I don't turn it on all the way." I have thick hair, I've experimented and I can get all the shampoo out with about 50-60% water pressure. Honestly, once you've turned it on about 1/2 way, the pressure doesn't change much. Try it.
Edit: Just so you don't think I never shower, every other day or once every 3 days should suffice. :)
Brushing teeth: the tendency can be to leave the water running full force the entire time you're working on your teeth.
Cost cutting tip: turn the water on about 25% to wet your tooth brush, then turn it off. When you're ready to rinse, turn it on at the same pressure and then turn it off again. Repeat as necessary.
Using these water-saving tricks, I have actually managed to cut my water bill in 1/2.
I can't claim originality for most of these tips, but they have been helpful to me and I suspect if you're willing to try, they will benefit you as well.