The single most important thing to do before becoming frugal is change your mindset about your life and your money, and then plan ahead. If you feel deprived, it just won't work. Accept where you are financially and then be prepared to make changes. Don't have a "poor me" attitude. Don't say things like, "We can't eat out or buy this or that because we can't afford it." Pat yourself on the back and tell yourself you are making changes to better you and your family's lives. The goal is to be able to afford what you need by looking forward and planning ahead. Because everyone's situation is different, I can only tell you what has worked for us. My hope is that others will find useful information that will work for them. I'm going to start with very broad and general suggestions and then get more specific in future posts.
Where to begin? First stop all unnecessary spending. Stop eating out, buying coffee, buying lunch, window shopping (too much temptation!), going to the movies, renting games and movies, buying expensive gifts, buying any and all unnecessary anything. You need all your extra cash to pay down debt (if you have debt) and plan ahead. Here is list one of what works for us. If you need to ease into it and just cut out a few things each month, that's fine. It will get easier!!
(very) well stocked pantry
plan dinner the day before and take anything out of the freezer that I need
make lunches the night before
make salads to last 3 days
only shop to restock pantry
only buy when price is the lowest and use coupons when possible
raised my kids to eat just about anything
use leftovers for lunches and other meals
eat vegetarian meals a few times a week
garden - can and freeze food
volunteer for and receive food from a reclaimed food organization
make laundry soap
hang clothes to dry as often as possible
tear fabric softener sheets in half - if I need to use them
wear clothes more than once when possible
use towels and wash clothes for 4-7 days before washing
I only buy about 1-2 rolls of paper towels a year, instead we use white washcloths that can be tossed in with just about any load of clothes.
use vinegar and water for the majority of cleaning
replaced almost all light bulbs with CFLs
reuse, reduce, recycle
stopped garbage pick up - we take our trash and recycles to the waste management station (it's much cheaper)
live in a small house
Clothing and Gifts
I do the majority of my clothes and gift buying for the year in February and March when the stores are running their 75%-90% off sales. Storing items has been a bit of a chore because we are a family of 6 in an 1100 sq ft home.
Shop at thrift stores and accept "gently worn" clothing from friends and family.
I keep a notebook with a list of everyone I buy for, the items I have purchased for them, and the price.
I'm sure this initial list is a bit confusing and incomplete, but I had to start somewhere!