Another contrast robber is a dirty/foggy enlarger lens. Take the lens out and clean the front and back with a lens tissue (or Kimwipe or Q-Tip) and Windex. Shine a light through the back with a penlight while looking askance through the lens to check the inside surfaces for fogging.
If your enlarger uses condensers these should also get a good cleaning.
Making a test-strip before each print can be a good idea when you are just starting out. You can also look at the contact sheet - shots that look the same on the contact sheet will have the same exposure in the enlarger. Get a fine-point sharpie marker and before putting the paper in the easel write the exposure you are using on the back of each print.
First figure out how to get good prints the old fashioned way. Then worry about enlarging meters. The problem with meters and such is that they will give you what you ask for - and until you know just what to ask for they won't do you much good.
Enlarging meters aren't like camera exposure meters where you can just aim it in the general direction and it mostly-kinda works. Enlarging meters measure tiny spots of the image and you need to know the print tone you want for that tiny spot.
There is a sticky thread at the start of the enlarging forum on figuring out how much to change print exposure as you move the enlarger head up and down. There is a ruler on the Darkroom Automation web site that helps figure out the exposure change: http://www.darkroomautomation.com/su...stopsruler.pdf and http://www.darkroomautomation.com/su...leforruler.pdf.
The ruler method assumes some familiarity with 'f-stop printing'. A primer can be found at http://www.waybeyondmonochrome.com/W...xposureEd2.pdf