There are a number of strategies families can take to improve their financial situation. Whether you want to increase your income, reduce your expenses, or start planning for the future — the following tips will help you get started with your family's long-term financial needs:

Tax Considerations

If you file your taxes for 2011 and discover you have to pay income taxes, you can make adjustments to your W-9 to reduce what you have to pay in 2012. Generally, you can change the number of dependents you claim to have more money taken out of your check each pay period, or you can request a specific dollar amount get taken from each pay period toward your taxes. Making this change will give you a few dollars less in each paycheck, but if you struggle to come up with the difference at tax time, this is a good strategy for easing that burden.

If you end up with a large refund for 2011, you may want to make adjustments in the other direction to reduce your refund. The ideal tax situation is to break even — have just enough taken out of each check to pay your taxes, and use any extra money for interest-bearing investments or savings. When you overpay your taxes during the year, you're basically giving the government an interest-free loan.

Retirement and College Savings Considerations

Many parents struggle to choose between retirement savings and college savings for their children. If it has to be a choice because you're unable to save for both college and retirement at the same time, you should save for retirement. If you choose college savings over retirement, you might run out of money in your golden years and become a burden to your children or be forced to live in poverty if you're unable to return to work. If you haven't started saving for retirement yet, there is no time like the present. You'll need approximately $700,000 in the bank to live out your retirement years on just $40,000 a year.

Saving for retirement in a tax-deductible retirement plan might be an option for families unable to save money for college and retirement separately. Earnings from tax deductible retirement plan contributions are tax-deferred. Money can be withdrawn without penalty for your children's college education, which means you can dip into the account to help your children pay for college. Additionally, when financial aid is calculated, they do not take retirement plan assets into consideration, which means your children have a better chance for receiving financial aid if your money is saved in retirement plans rather than college funds or a regular bank account.

Goal-Specific Savings

In theory, everyone knows that saving a few dollars a week all year round toward your holiday shopping is easier than trying to come up with it all in December — yet many families wait until it's time to start their holiday shopping to even begin thinking about where the money is going to come from. You can make spending events like the holidays, vacations, or a large purchase easier to manage by planning for them in advance. Use goal-specific savings accounts, like, to figure out how much to save and at what frequency you need to save it in order to reach your goal by the date you need the money.

Increase Income or Decrease Expenses

If your salary isn't stretching far enough to cover your current living expenses and also start saving for the future needs of your family, you may need to consider ways to increase your income or decrease your expenses. When you don't make enough money to do everything you want to do, the first thought is often to make more money — but you might be surprised to learn you can get the same result by decreasing unnecessary expenses.

Keep lists of every dollar coming into your household and every dollar spent for a period of three to six months. Once you have an accurate list of where your money is going, you can start finding wasted expenses that can be eliminated to free up additional money each month. For example, you might discover your morning stop at the coffee shop is using $100 a month, the ultimate cable package is generating an extra $140 a month for channels you never watch, or the gym membership costs $50 a month and you haven't gone in a year. Eliminate any unnecessary expenses, and use that money to pay off credit cards or loans — and put all of the money you free up each month toward your family's long-term financial goals.