I feel very privileged to count myself amongst the people who have discovered the art of being thrifty or canny as an enjoyable lifestyle option. Thriftiness does not indicate meanness, canniness does not mean bland, it can mean a way to a much higher standard of living and personal satisfaction with life.
I have always been fascinated with "Mending and making do". I am not sure if it is stories from the Depression from my Grandmother or an even more romanticised version through novels, movies and TV shows but the idea of making the best of what's available has always appealed to me. I derive a lot of satisfaction from a thrift drive and a good session of belt tightening and creativity (rather perversely some might say!). When you trade a mindless consumption habit for a mindful one you are exploring beyond the realms of the norm, thinking outside the box, it is a subversive subculture of practical domestic creativity which not only holds it's own with the end result but is great for your bank balance and in a lot of cases it is better for the planet and your health too.
There are the obvious things you can do like have a budget or a meal plan or no credit cards or pay off your mortgage early with large repayments but let's be frank, these things can be so boring if you don't spice it up a bit! I am one of those strange and wondrous creatures, a (semi) reformed compulsive shopper (I used to smoke like a chimney and could drink a football team under the table too but that's another story) who has channeled the energy previously used for soulless consumerism into a more productive outlet. Don't get me wrong I still shop but I make sure it is mindful and wise shopping, not just for the hell of it. I still make extravagant purchases on occasion but they are well researched purchases at the best possible price. I still have play money but I get it from surveys, mystery shops, I receive samples and sell scrap metal and goods I have finished with to get it. We eat out but have coupons or special offers when we can and enjoy a lot of free activities like walking, the beach, have a museum membership so we can see all the exhibits that come to town and ten percent discount at the gift shop (which is a great place for gifts).
I think that increasing your standard of living without increasing your budget is about getting to know the area around you, where the best places for cheap fresh local produce are, what the best charity shops are, where you can go for free entertainment, even where the cheap petrol is.
There are other thrifty tricks which are more universal, using an snipe program on eBay and learning which misspelled keywords might find you a treasure, going "Worldwide search" from another country's eBay site is a good one- it can pickup lots of items you would never see even if you tried Worldwide from your local eBay.
I never buy new for most things, I find that quality goods are so much better and cheaper second hand than cheap new products ever were. There is no saving if you have to keep buying cheap t-shirts which go all shapeless and pilly after one wear, second hand products have been put through their paces and if they are still looking and performing well they will out last cheap rubbish every time. There is obviously no saving if you aren't going to where it or use it either and no-one's standard of living is increased by having too much "stuff" no matter how cheap!
Blogs and forums are a wonderful resource of thrifty ideas and a sort of unofficial support group for those of us who prefer to be ourselves and not buy the latest tat because it is "in" or because we saw it, those of us who have home haircuts and wonderful homemade bread, who are sick of weird tasting convenience foods that don't seem to have any convenience or food contained therein, those of us who would rather take the children for a ramble around than a noisy expensive playcentre, or give them blocks than computer games, who encourage our children to grow naturally rather than scheduling them (expensively) within an inch of their lives.I enjoy my way of living, it promotes being aware of my surroundings and my actions, is better for the planet, is healthier and I enjoy talking to like minded folk about such things, my children are growing up with skills and we are all learning new skills as a family, I hope you enjoy it too.