In these tough economic times, many people are looking for easy money saving tips. The words recession & depression sound discouraging & tough. You might even envision standing in a line for food. However, a few small changes can make a big difference in your monthly budget. Here are 18 ways to cut costs & save money without drastically changing your lifestyle.

1. Know what you are spending. This is the first step to how to cut costs at home. Get out your bank statements & go through every line. Try to remember what you spent your cash withdrawals on. Yes, it can be scary to write down every penny that's gone out the window. However, you'll be motivated to cut costs once you see how the little things add up.

2. Eat in. Think about how much you spend on a morning cup of coffee. This could save you hundreds of dollars a month if you start making it at home. You can even save money by learning how to cook instead of going out to eat.

3. Practice portion control. Sure, you shouldn't skimp on food or go hungry. You might be eating 3 or 4 times a regular portion size without ever realizing it. Learn to stop eating when you are full. If you're at a restaurant ask the waiter to box up half of your food so you can eat it for lunch tomorrow. This will really help you cut down on your budget & you may lose weight too.

4. Give yourself some leeway. This is essential when you are looking for ways to cut costs. Sticking to a budget can be an arduous experience. It may even seem like you don't have fun anymore. Set aside a small amount of money every month for play. This way you can still go to a concert or out to lunch with your friends but you'll just be more selective in the activities that you choose to do. This will keep you from feeling hopeless.

5. Find free stuff. You can get free samples sent to your house. This can be everything from shampoo to granola bars. Granted, it won't take a significant portion out of your expenses but it really helps. You can also participate in freecycle as a way to clean out your garage, or furnish an apartment.

6. Cancel your movie rentals. You can probably get free movies from the library. Granted they won't have the most current releases, but you might be surprised at the selection. Count the number of movies you've watched in the last month & consider if a movie subscription is really worth it to you.

7. Use free dating sites. This can save you up to $60 a month. Plus, you'll have a wider range of people using the service. Some free dating sites even have features that will match you based on personality, just like the paid dating sites.

8. Make your own presents. All of those birthday, Christmas, & wedding gifts can really add up. Learn how to do simple craft projects like making bubble magnets. If you aren't crafty, watch for sales. When you see a generic item on sale, like candlesticks, buy in bulk. This way you won't have the expense of last minute shopping.

9. Hit the dollar store. You might be surprised at all of the items available for just $1. You can pick up ipod cases, laundry detergent & even socks. Some 99 cent only stores even carry cheese. Check the expiration dates on all of the food. Just make sure that you don't get too carried away.

10. Save gas. You might not be in a position or area where you can bike or ride public transit everywhere. However, you can save a lot of money just by combining your trips. Plot out everywhere you need to go & how to do it most efficiently to get all of your errands done at once.

11. Learn the transformative power of paint. This is another way to cut costs. You might think that you need an entire remodel. Go to the hardware store instead & pick up a few gallons of paint. You can spruce up your kitchen cabinets, walls & even your furniture for just a few dollars.

12. DIY. If you have your own tools this can save you thousands of dollars on home remodels. Plus, you'll be able to work in your own time frame.

13. Develop your own taste in music. It can cost a few hundred bucks to go to some concerts. Instead, broaden your horizons. Find lesser known bands where the ticket price might be just $15. Then you'll be able to say that you knew about the band before they were cool.

14. Ditch cable. You can save a lot of time & money this way. You can always just watch your local channels. Plus, so many shows are available for free online that it will just take a little adjustment from your normal routine.

15. Examine your cell phone bill. If you have free nights & weekends you might be able to cut down on your minutes & pay a lot less money.

16. Use wardrobe staples. These include a great pair of jeans, a little black dress & a crisp white shirt. These clothes never go out of style so you'll just have to replace them when they have worn out. Plus, you'll be able to put together an outfit for any event without having to go shopping.

17. Discover who you really are. Stop defining yourself by what you own or what you want to own. Inner peace is priceless, free, & something many millionaires don't even have.

18. If you are having trouble staying away from your credit cards try this old trick. Freeze it in ice. This way by the time you can reach your card, you'll have avoided any impulse buys.

Just because you need to cut costs doesn't mean that your life has to stop. You can still have an enjoyable lifestyle even though you are on a budget. It might even be better than it was before because you won't have all of the worry of credit card debt hanging over you.