The internet (and your most annoying relatives) has plenty of free budgeting advice to offer.
But I find the hardest part of saving money comes after you save on all the obvious stuff.
But the real savings come from spending less on things you absolutely need month after month.
If you want to slim down your grocery bill and tighten your belt, start with these 15 household essentials.
People will go to great lengths to save money on a car, or another big ticket purchase, but waste money on staples like milk every month.
You don't need to be miserly about how much is in your cereal either. Just ask the workers at your local store when they mark down the milk that's close to expiring.
Odds are your family will drink it before the expiry date - which isn't really the expiry date anyways.
To stretch the milk even further, buy extra and freeze it. It tastes just as good after you thaw it.
Here's a truly thrifty trick: you can mix whole fat milk with the powdered stuff for a drink that tastes just like 2%.
Powdered milk is also a great substitute in baking - it costs less but packs all the flavor.
2. Cleaning products
By now you probably know how easy it is to make your own homemade cleaners.
You can really save by making your own reusable paper towels, mop heads, and Swiffer pads. A microfiber cloth works well for all three.
In fact, you never have to buy Magic Erasers again. Melamine foam, the stuff they're made from, is much cheaper in bulk.
3. Light bulbs
If you haven't made the switch from incandescent light bulbs to energy-saving CFLs, you're probably tired of hearing this spiel.
But the fact is these new light bulbs last 10 times longer while using just 2/3 of the energy on average.
That's a big chunk out of your monthly bill.
To make the switch totally painless, plenty of states and government bureaus are offering cash incentives for making energy-smart switches.
Trust us - now is the time to change your bulbs and make it pay for you.
Shopping at discount stores is just the beginning.
You can stretch your dollars even further by buying marked down gift cards on sites like GiftCardGranny.
If you spend the extra value on essentials, like socks and underwear, you'll never run out.
It pays to take a lesson from the days of the Great Depression too: a few minutes of mending can give a piece of clothing a few extra years.
And remember, no one is above shopping at stores like Goodwill. Those deals are too good to pass up.
5. Laundry Detergent
For one thing, buying the powdered version of your favorite laundry detergent brand will usually get you a 10% discount - and it works just as well.
But when it comes to detergent, the real savings come from outsmarting the measuring cap.
Plenty of brands try and trick you with misleading lines inside the measuring caps.
For example, a bottle may say "20 loads," but based on the lines a capful would clean 1.5 loads, so you use it up more quickly.
As a rule, filling halfway up to the line will do the trick, but it doesn't hurt to break out a set of measuring cups (that you won't use for cooking after).
You can also use less detergent by pre-treating stains using products out of your pantry. You can even make your own fabric softener at home.
6. Dog food
One way to save a bundle on dog food every month is to take it off your grocery list.
Sign up for Amazon's "subscribe and save" plans to get kibble delivered to your doorstep based on your schedule (monthly, bi-monthly, whatever you need).
You'll save about 15% on every purchase, and won't get charged for delivery.
If you're not much for online shopping, it's worth checking if your local pet shop has a loyalty program.
If it's in the same parking lot as a big box store, it won't even take an extra trip.
7. Dish soap and dishwashing detergent
Experienced penny-pinchers know that you can stretch dish soap by diluting it with equal parts water. The seriously stingy will even use 3/4 water.
When it comes to the dishwasher, of course wait until the machine is full before starting a load, and only use the water saver cycle (it's strong enough).
Many frugal people have found you can "double" detergent tabs by splitting them in half - they're still strong enough to clean a whole load.
But don't try this with Tide pods! They should never be split or opened.
8. Trash bags
Don't worry, I'm not going to tell you to stop buying these. That would be gross.
Instead, limit the amount of bags you have to replace each week by only using one wet bag.
Take wet or food waste to your kitchen garbage bag, and empty your smaller bins into it when they're full.
That way the bin liners in your bed and living rooms stay fresh for longer.
You can double up by using a dog food bag as a wet garbage bag.
And don't forget to crush up any large waste to save space in your bag.
If you're allowed in your city, putting large, loose items directly in your outdoor bin is a real space saver.
I've been wearing glasses since I was in grade school, so I know the dread that comes with a new prescription.
Even though you need your glasses to see, a new pair can be really expensive.
When I bought my most recent pair, I took a chance and went shopping online.
It felt risky, but I was able to get an affordable and stylish pair from Zenni Optical.
All you need to order a pair online is your prescription and some facial measurements, and they ship right to your door.
If you've ever wondered about a cheaper way to buy eyeglasses, now is the time to try.
Your baby has got to have them, but that doesn't mean you need to break the bank buying them.
You've probably heard all the arguments about disposable diapers versus reusable ones, but they're worth considering.
If you're focused on convenience, make the switch to generics instead of name brand diapers.
Then again, plenty of the big brands offer coupons on their websites to make their diapers more competitive. Most of the deals involve bundling diapers and wipes from the same brand.
Now, if you're willing to take a chance with online shopping, Amazon's Warehouse Deals sells damaged boxes full of intact diapers for big discounts.
Plus, the online retailer price matches to Walmart through Amazon Family, and there are e-coupons to sweeten the deal.
But you probably still have one or two things in your home that gobble up batteries (video game controllers, a portable radio) that you're not ready to part with.
You can get the best of both worlds with USB Cell batteries.
These batteries work just like the real thing, but the tops flip off so they can recharge in your computer.
The technology is still new, so only AA batteries are available so far, but keep checking the company's website.
12. Coffee or tea
I'm definitely guilty of spending too much money on my daily caffeine fix, but I know how to save on coffee when I need to.
An easy trick - for any regular expense - is to start paying in cash instead of credit or debit.
Watching real money leave your hand will break your habit pretty quickly.
If you go to Starbucks for a specific, sugary drink, odds are you can learn to make it at home for much cheaper.
Real coffee addicts never quit, so learn to make your habit as thrifty as possible.
13. Toilet paper and Kleenex
These are two paper products your family can't go without, but the big brands love to confuse and mislead you.
First things first: never make your purchase based on anything but price and number of sheets.
These qualities outrank everything else (thickness, "roll size," etc) when it comes to actual value.
But you can stretch your money further if you know the rules at chains like Walmart.
Remember to keep your eyes peeled for big sales at the start and middle of each month, then stock up.
14. Prescription medicines
Now here's something you don't want to leave off the grocery list. Thankfully, it's easy to save money on medicine if you know how.
Let's assume you already asked your doctor if the generic brand is just as good (but check carefully, because they're not always cheaper).
If you can't get a deal at a big store, checking if your pharmacy has a savings club is also a good bet.
Some pharmacies will also offer a lower price if you pay with cash instead of your insurance card.
Finally, don't forget to check the drug's website for coupons - yes, it's that simple.
It's cheap, but when you're buying multiple loaves for your family, then throwing out stale and moldy pieces, even the cost of bread can add up.
The tried and true advice is to make your own bread, but actually the savings aren't that great compared to the time it takes.
Instead, make the switch to sourdough bread, which lasts longer on the counter.
You can also freeze (but not refrigerate) extra bread to make it last longer.
While you're in the mood to save money, here are 9 things you get get for free!
And slash your weekly grocery bill using these tips from a former Walmart manager!