Tracking expenses is the first step to managing them better.

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An annual survey by the Federal Reserve last year found 74 percent of adults say they are either living comfortably or doing OK, a substantial improvement since the Great Recession.

On the other hand, one in five adults said they didn’t have enough money to pay their monthly bills, and four in 10 didn’t have enough cash to cover a surprise expense of $400.

Those are signs of households living paycheck to paycheck. Luckily, consumers can take some simple steps to ease their monthly cash-flow dramas, said Dana Twight, a Seattle financial planner. She recommends:

• Tracking your expenses. Be on the lookout for extra fees and ways to cut spending.

• Writing a financial plan. It can be simple. The value comes later, from looking at where reality departed from your plan, and adjusting accordingly. Need help? Check out the personal-finance website

• Getting your credit-history report. Consumers can get three free credit-history reports a year from

Related: Modest income is stressful for Seattleite | Money Makeover