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One thing that I've noticed a great deal of savings websites have in common is the aspect of lists and tracking. Every site wants you to do more writing than you have since gradeschool when it comes to your finances. From setting up your budget, to tracking your expenses, analyzing your savings plan, writing in a savings journal, creating lists before you enter the store, etc. A serious case of writer’s cramp and a few paper cuts later you have everything you need on paper, but how do you prioritize everything? Here is some advice that may help you as it has helped me.

First: Ask your bank for a transaction registry. About the size of a checkbook, this helpful tool can be stashed away in your glovebox, purse, or in your jack pocket. Its best to carry this registry around with you because you want to make sure you document every expense as it is happening. This takes a good deal of discipline, but like anything else, doing this often enough can help make it a very good habit to have. This is the best thing you can do to save money. Primarily if you know how much you have in your account at any given time you won’t go over budget, overdraw or bounce a check. It is also good to invest in a pocket calculator so you can be sure your registry is 100% correct.

Second: Your budget. This is something you should update month to month on a worst case scenario basis. By that I mean plan for the worst and budget accordingly. If some months your cell phone bill is $110 but occasionally it gets up to $130, budget for $130. It will save you some headaches down the road if your projected budget includes these larger figures. Always better to be under budget vs. over budget.

Third: Lists. These are imperative for going into a store and successfully coming out with everything you need and nothing you don’t. When it comes to groceries make sure you take a comprehensive list and only buy the items you absolutely need. Print a Grocery List here. It also wouldn’t hurt to do a price comparison of the grocery stores in your neighborhood to make sure that you truly are getting the best deal. And look in your Sunday newspaper for coupons that can save you some coins.

Fourth: I’m going to continue swearing by the savings journal. Writing and documenting the money you spend and the temptations you give in to will help you to save money. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to spending is the first step in spending wisely.