The current economy has been an eye-opener for many families. In the last two years, thousands of families have experienced the consequences of poor financial planning. Others have seen first-hand how difficult it is to keep afloat when the breadwinner has been laid off, and is unable to find employment for an extended period of time.

Start when your family is new, and don't wait until it's too late to take advantage of what your money can do for you.

1. Save for the proverbial rainy day.

Regardless of the state of the economy, this advice is timeless. Many families have lost significant income, and have realized the importance having several months' worth of living expenses on hand.

2. Live beneath your means.

This is hard, and it takes starting — and sticking to — good habits, but it is the best way to make the habit of putting money aside. And if you have children, suddenly living right up to — or above — your means immediately sets you behind.

Don't buy the most expensive house and car you can afford (the big things), and wait for sales, discounts, or coupons on things like clothing and electronics (the little things).

3. Put aside money each month for retirement.

According to an article by Stacey L. Bradford of SmartMoney.com, The Six Mistakes Young Families Make, budgeting for retirement early is a wise financial decision:

"Couples need to understand that the longer they wait to start saving for retirement, the more they'll need to stash away later on."

4. Start saving now — even if just a little — for your child's college tuition.

The projected college tuition in the next two decades is expected to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Check the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's An Introduction to 529 Plans for an explanation of how college savings plans work. One of the great things about these plans is that parents can use the money for education-related expenses such as college fees and books, as well as tuition.

5. Find the financial system that works best for your family.

Sticking to a strict budget works well for some, while others operate better on a more flexible system. Some couples survive financially by using separate checking accounts, while others put all the money together. Do what works best for you and your spouse.

6. Teach the children about money.

The team at Schwab Moneywise (a website partnership with investment company Charles Schwab) gives practical tips for raising "money-smart" kids. They advise parents to talk about money in various everyday situations to make children aware of finances. They also encourage parents to help their children make saving a habit:

"Teaching them that saving should be as automatic as brushing their teeth. Consider providing them an incentive by matching the money they put into savings themselves with some amount."

7. Don't forget to let your health insurance provider know when you've had a baby.

Many insurance companies, despite the fact they've been paying for nine months' worth of prenatal care, have to be officially notified of the birth of a child. Denial of claims for medical care of a non-covered member of the family can ruin the finances of young parents.

8. Review your health insurance coverage when expecting children.

Babies and young children are guaranteed to cost more, especially when it comes to medical expenses. Most insurance plans have different options to choose from that will determine deductibles and covered expenses. Be sure you look over all the information to determine what your family needs.

Though it may not seem like the thing you want to do most in your "honeymoon" period shortly after coming together, or in the overwhelming days and weeks after the birth of a child, getting finances on track will pay off — literally — in the long run.