Americans are natural-born consumers. Every year consumption accounts for about 70% US GDP. Unfortunately, with our spend, spend, spend attitude comes one nasty side effect: a poor personal savings rate. According to the St. Louis Federal Reserve, Americans personal savings rate of 5.4% sits well below that of other developed countries around the world.

Why are we such poor savers? The answer might be found in our inability to properly understand our cash flow. On the surface youd probably think it silly not to understand where your income is being spent, but the vast majority of Americans simply dont know. Based on a Gallup survey conducted in June 2013, 68% of survey-takers dont prepare a written or computerized budget each month that tracks their income and expenses. Truth be told, if consumers arent keeping track of their income and spending with a budget, it makes optimizing saving incredibly difficult.

So whats the secret to creating a successful budget thatll put you on the fast track to understanding your cash flow and help you optimize your savings? Id suggest that implementing these nine budgeting tips would go a long way to taking your budget to the next level.

1. Use budgeting software