Make these quick fixes to your finances to help save for your child’s college fund, and more.

By Real Simple
Updated February 14, 2013
Liz Banfield

A version of this article originally appeared on

It’s a time to conquer any traces of “put-off-ability” because the longer you put things off, the more you’ll let them snowball. Admittedly, some of the tasks that get pushed off the longest are the ones that can help your financial life. Here are 10 easy tweaks that can help families save money.

1. Increase Your 401(k) Contribution

Even if retirement feels like a long way off, it’s crucial to start saving as early as possible because time is your biggest ally. And don’t feel guilty about saving for yourself—one of the biggest gifts that you can give your kids down the road is the ability to take care of yourself in those golden years. In less than 10 minutes, you can log into your 401(k) website and up your monthly contribution.

2. Schedule 10-Minute Quiet Time

Kids are basically the epitome of noise, but taking time out is critical for your own mental health, personal wellbeing and general effectiveness as a parent. Plus, clearing your head can help you refocus on everything from your work to your finances. Take 10 minutes—with the door closed–to spend in total silence. Ask your partner to take care of the kids or, if they’re slightly older, tell them it’s a “quiet game” and offer something if they “win.”

3. Do a Quick Project to Teach Money Skills

Art projects don’t need to be overly involved or messy to be fun and educational. If you have younger children, talk about how money works and the value of currency by having them draw and color their own dollar bills. You can even cut out a small headshot of your child and paste it in the middle, like the presidents on dollar bills.

4. Open a 529

Saving for college can be daunting, but it’s also important because expenses are rising. Rather than get intimidated by the whole process, start with the first step: Open a 529 college savings account. You should be able to open the account online, and it should be a quick process—as long as you have all of your family’s personal info at your disposal, like Social Security Numbers and dates of birth.

5. Settle on a Money Goal for the Entire Family

This is a great opportunity to talk to kids about your finances—without causing any worry. Explain that, as a family, you have a budget and it’s important to stay within that budget. And if you succeed with sticking to that budget at the end of each month, it’s a cause worth celebrating. Decide together what the motivation prize will be, like a pizza night. A good side effect: It gives kids a reason to stop begging for random things because they’re also responsible for helping to stay on budget.

6. Make Sure That You’re Doing Allowance Right

Each family’s allowance structure is unique, but it’s important to reassess every so often and make sure that your system grows with your child—and your family as a whole. And never lose sight of the point of allowance, which is to teach your kid good financial habits. A good rule of thumb: One dollar per year of age, so an 8-year-old might get $8.

7. Hold a Dance-Off

10 minutes. Your kids’ favorite song. Maybe an old Halloween wig. Dance your pants off. Not only is this a fun, quick way to bond with the kids, but it’s also a sneaky way to work a little exercise—which, for your sake, happens to release endorphins. And that, of course, can help you focus on everything from your finances to getting that promotion at work.

8. Review Your Credit Score

Your credit rating is key to future goals, including taking out a mortgage or getting a loan to start your own business. Make sure you’re on track, and that there are no reporting errors, by checking your credit score online.

9. Create a Charity Box

Get kids interested in saving and giving by creating a “donation box.” It can be anything from an old shoebox to a glass jar, which kids can decorate with markers and glitter glue. From there, make it a tradition to drop all loose change in the charity box, and let your kids help you choose where to donate the funds.

10. Call Someone Back

Whether it’s the bank calling to confirm something about your account or you need to check the status of an invoice that you sent to an employer, phone calls are really, really easy to procrastinate on. Get your personal and financial life in order by calling back just one person today.