Wednesday’s Parent: Saving for College

 

college savingsNo matter where you are in the college prep process, saving for college and paying for college is on every parent’s mind. Depending on your situation and the amount of time you have to save, here are some excellent resources that will help you understand college savings plans.

SavingforCollege.com

SavingforCollege.com offers a free Family Guide to College Savings available in either Kindle, Nook, or PDF format. The guide advises parents on when to start saving, how to start saving, and college savings alternatives. It also gives a brief explanation of the tax savings you can expect and how to maximize savings. There are also numerous links on the site itself related to 529 savings plans, college expenses, and a tool to use to view the list of state specific plans. There is also a college cost calculator that helps you determine the cost of college based on your child’s age and the amount you wish to contribute along with a monthly savings estimate.

AffordableCollegesOnline.org

AffordableCollegesOnline.org has created a 529 Savings Plan Guidebook which can be easily printed from your browser. In the guidebook you will gain a better understanding of:

By using this guide, you will gain a better understanding of:

  • How 529 savings plans work and how to establish one
  • Who is eligible to establish and contribute to a 529 savings plan
  • The pros and cons of other types of college savings vehicles
  • How much may be contributed to a 529 plan
  • The tax advantages associated with 529 plans
  • The best time to set up a plan
  • How to take the next step in obtaining some – or all – of the funds that are needed to fulfill the dream of a higher education.

U.S. News Education

On U.S. News Education: Saving for College you can read articles like:

  • 4 Steps to Choosing Age-Based 529 Plans
  • 5 Steps for Utilizing 529 College Savings Plan Funds
  • 12 Questions to Ask Before Investing in a Prepaid College Savings Plan
  • 4 Costly Mistakes Parents Make When Saving Money for College

Fidelty.com

Fidelity offers information you will need to plan your child’s educational future. On this site you can compare your savings options, find a 529 savings plan that meets your needs, learn about financial aid, and how much you will need to save.

University Parent

University Parent, an online resource for parents of college students and college bound teens, recently published an article:  What is a 529 Savings Plan? How it Helps. The article gives an overview of the plans and what you need to know once you have one and how to use it.

If your college-bound teen is young, you have plenty of time to start saving. If you have a student in high school, you should read the information about aggressive portfolios and how to maximize your investment. The above resources should help you decide how much and where to invest your savings.

Read Wendy’s Post: Sense and Cents for College and Retirement Saving

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Wendy and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Wendy and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from parentscountdowntocollegecoach to pocsmom.com and vice versa.

Wednesday’s Parent: Deadlines and College Prep

 

college prepThe college admission process is all about deadlines. On May 1, students must respond to the colleges they applied to and were offered admission. This date is set in stone. If you don’t respond, your offer of admission will be passed along to a student on the wait list.

If you don’t stay organized, it’s easy to miss any number of critical deadlines. Missing those deadlines could cause dire consequences and change the course of your student’s future. The only solution to surviving the tremendous number of deadlines is to get organized early and stay organized all the way to the end. Here are a few tips to help with each phase of the process:

In the beginning of college prep

The first year of high school is the best time to begin the organization process. Start collecting every report card, every award, every volunteer certificate, and if you really want to be organized, every paper, especially tests. Get a file cabinet strictly designated for college prep and create folders for each category. For a great organization system, check out my Parents Countdown to College Crash Course.

In the middle of college prep

Sophomore and junior year begins test prep. Sophomores often take the PSAT (since that year it’s a true practice test) to prepare for the test that counts during their junior year. For these tests there are registration deadlines and test dates. You can use any number of calendar tools to keep track of deadlines: a wall calendar or an organization app. Using an app like Cozi helps the whole family stay in the loop and remind each other of the deadlines.

At the end of college prep

Senior year is when the most important deadlines kick in: the college applications, scholarship applications, the SAT/ACT tests, the FAFSA and May 1 deposit deadline. These dates are critical because missing even one of them can affect your student’s college admission. Use calendar apps, text messages, wall calendars and to-do lists to make sure you don’t miss them. Some test prep experts suggest you have a backup plan (register for a 2nd test) in case your student gets sick or something unforeseen happens. To avoid waiting until the last minute on any of these tasks, set your own deadline two weeks before the actual one.

We all dread deadlines. Some of us use them (me especially) to get motivated. But you simply can’t wait until the last minute during college prep. Trying to fill out the Common App at 11:59PM the night before it’s due will only lead to stress, mistakes, and sometimes failure to complete. There are no second chances with these deadlines.

Read Wendy’s post: 3 Step Plan to Make Deadlines an Asset 

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Wendy and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Wendy and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from parentscountdowntocollegecoach to pocsmom.com and vice versa.

Scholarship Friday: 10 Scholarship Boards to Follow on Pinterest

 

scholarship boardsPinterest is an excellent place to find scholarships. If you follow these boards, you could unearth some scholarships, get scholarship tips, and gather a wealth of scholarship information. If you aren’t on Pinterest, you should be. It’s easy to follow these scholarship boards—just click on the links and start gathering scholarships.

https://www.pinterest.com/suzannemshaffer/scholarships/

https://www.pinterest.com/unigo/scholarships/

https://www.pinterest.com/studentadvisor/scholarships/

https://www.pinterest.com/admissions411/scholarships/

https://www.pinterest.com/aidscholarship/college-scholarships/

https://www.pinterest.com/easyscholarship/easy-scholarships-rule/

https://www.pinterest.com/manchesteru/scholarship-opportunities/

https://www.pinterest.com/gyandevi/

https://www.pinterest.com/ficc/scholarships-and-awards/

https://www.pinterest.com/lotiha/scholarships/

The Top 3 Summer Jobs for Students

 

Summer is a time to relax and recuperate, but it’s also a great opportunity to gain work experience and make money. With a challenging job market facing them after graduation, it’s essential for students to buff up their resumes and make connections while they’re still enrolled in school. For college students wondering about their summer work prospects, here are the best summer jobs fields and positions to explore:

Internships

summer jobsIf you’re a student looking for part-time or full-time work during summer break, consider interning at a company you’re interested in working for after graduation. There are a variety of internship positions only open to college students, where you can earn course credits in addition to professional experience. Fastweb has a large list of nationwide internships in various different industries that you can apply to based on your interests or major.

While many internships are unpaid, they all offer the opportunity to make connections and gain new skills, which will pay off financially in the future when you’re searching for a job. After graduating, you’ll be able to list your intern work on your resume and use your former supervisors as references. Your experiences can also help you become more confident and focused during your post-college job search because you’ll have a better idea of your own professional abilities.

Volunteer Work

summer jobsSimilar to interning, volunteering can be useful in helping you decide what you’re passionate about and what field you should pursue after college. Sites like Idealist and Indeed can connect you with a volunteer program that correlates to your passions. So whether you’re interested in education, public policy, environmental issues, or humanitarian work, you can find a position that’s well matched and right for you.

In addition to being professionally valuable, volunteer work can also be personally satisfying. Volunteering allows you to serve others, gain fresh perspectives about the world around you, and gives you a chance to work in a field you’re passionate about outside of academic pursuits.

Freelance Writing or Designing

summer jobsIf you’re a good writer or designer looking for more flexible work this summer, you should consider doing freelance work. Freelancing gives you the freedom to create your own schedule and work from home, since most positions are open to telecommuters. If you like setting your own work pace and want the opportunity to improve your skills as a writer and designer in the digital realm, then a freelance job is right for you.

Since there are so many online businesses and companies that utilize the web for marketing, you can find writing and design jobs fairly easily. Available freelance jobs include web or graphic designer, website content writer, blogger, and social media developer. You can find a position that meets your skill set or knowledge, as well as create a freelancer profile, on sites like Guru.

Many freelance jobs don’t pay well at first but you’ll be able to set higher prices for your work once you have more experience. You can become a more desirable freelancer over time by adding work to your resume and increasing your online exposure. You’ll be able to send links of your work and show that you have an online presence to future hiring managers.

Freelancing, volunteering, and interning, all offer the important opportunity to gain professional experience in fields that you may want to pursue after college. If a position you want is unpaid or doesn’t pay well, you can always take on a part-time server or retail job in order to supplement your income. While food service and retail work can help you gain customer service experience and make extra cash, they don’t offer a career path that’s useful or interesting to most college students. This summer, try to invest your time and energy into a job that can improve your professional skills, add value to your resume, and help you land a job after graduation.

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Javaher Nooryani is a writer and editor based in Denver, CO. She has a BA in American Literature & Culture from UCLA and a Masters in English & American Literature from NYU. As a former tutor and advisor, Javaher is passionate about higher education and is glad to share her knowledge on CollegeFocus, a website that helps students deal with the challenges of college.

Wednesdays Parent: Test Prep-The Key to the College Kingdom

 

tutoring test prepThere are two standardized tests that are accepted by almost every university: the SAT and the ACT. Choosing which of these two tests is right for your skills and study habits can increase your likelihood of scoring high enough for the top universities as well as make the standardized testing process much less stressful.

Even though there are test optional colleges available (and the debate continues on whether or not they are truly test optional) the standardized tests are still the golden key that colleges use to measure academic capability in college.

Here are five reasons why your student should take test prep seriously:

  1. The majority of students do not prepare for standardized tests.
  2. Higher test scores mean more merit aid. A high score on the PSAT alone can mean a full ride scholarship.
  3. Preparing for the test reduces stress.
  4. Doing practice tests help you get used to time constraints and complete the actual test on time.
  5. Colleges use these test scores to compare you with other students.

Due to the differences between the two tests, it is beneficial to pick the test that will be the best fit for you. The ACT is a better pick for someone that has had a strong academic career in high school. If you have not taken a strong math and science course load, than the SAT will probably be a better option for you. To do well on the ACT, you need to have memorized math and science concepts and formulas, which is fairly easy if you have a strong background in math and science.

Whichever test you decide to take, there is no better way to prepare than taking practice tests. Take as many practice tests as you possibly can. This not only familiarizes you with the types of questions you will see on the test, but also prepares you for working under time limits. On both tests, the time constraints are difficult. Taking practice tests helps you to get faster at doing problems, so that you can finish more of the problems when you take the actual test. It may be wise to take practice tests of both the SAT and the ACT to see which one you do better on. Taking a real version of both of the tests is also not a bad idea.

Read Wendy’s Post: Ins and Outs of Standardized Tests

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Wendy and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is that this Wednesday Wendy and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. Our guest this week will be Claire Griffith of Directs Hits Education discussing the SAT vs ACT.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from parentscountdowntocollegecoach to pocsmom.com and vice versa.

What Path Should You Take For an Investment Career?

 

college applicationsInvestment careers, although challenging, can nevertheless be very rewarding and fulfilling. The investment industry is quite a dynamic industry which is ever changing. If you wish to make a career in the sector, you need to be willing to work hard and put in long hours, but the rewards are well worth it.

A wide variety of investment careers

There are various investment careers that one can embark on in the investment industry. They include:

  • Investment managers, who handle the clients’ money and invest it in equities and bonds. Their role also involves providing sound investment advice and options to their clients.
  • Research analysts, who undertake fundamental investment research as well as valuation. Their main role is to determine the growth potential as well as the future outlook of the investment in question.
  • Investment bankers, who assist in the sale of stock by businesses and governments to members of the public. They can also assist these entities in floating their shares in the stock market.
  • Client account managers, whose main role is to maintain good and fruitful relationships with clients by communicating regularly with them about ongoing investments.

A mathematics degree, while not essential, would help you get into an investment career since number crunching is an important skill to have. A finance degree or an MBA would be even better to have. You should also not expect to enter into investment management straight after graduating, but should aim to start off as an investment research analyst first then build up from there.

Wesley Edens: an investment management success story

Wesley Edens is a successful investment manager who serves as a good example of just how much you can achieve in the investment world if you work hard and diligently. Mr Edens is a principal as well as the Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors of Fortress Investment Group LLC. He is in charge of the company’s private equity business as well as a wide variety of publicly and privately traded portfolio companies. In the past Mr Edens has also worked for BlackRock Financial Management Inc. and Lehman Brothers as a managing director in both companies.

Investment careers require you to put in a lot of work and grueling long hours, the compensation can be extremely high. The nature of the work is also not only demanding but also unpredictable. All the same, it remains an exciting and very rewarding way to make a living.

Scholarship Friday: 10 $1000 Scholarships

 

This is a great way to start the weekend–10 $1000 scholarships for college. Encourage your student to apply to all of them. Some of them start at 13 years of age–start early!

$1000 scholarships1. CollegeWeekLive $1000 Monthly Scholarship

www.fastweb.com/college-scholarships/scholarships/162239

The CollegeWeekLive Monthly $1,000 Scholarship is open to both U.S. and non-U.S. students. Applicants must enroll no later than the fall of 2018 in an accredited post-secondary institution of higher learning (college, university or trade school). Applicants are eligible to win only if they register online at www.CollegeWeekLive.com, login to CollegeWeekLive between the 1st and last day of the month, and visit 5 colleges (go to their page) to be considered in the month’s scholarship drawing.

2. Scholarship Detective $1000 Scholarship

www.scholarshipdetective.com/scholarship/

To enter just complete this application including a 140 character or less statement on how you plan to use the scholarship money. We will be awarding one scholarship for the best reason. Deadline for entry is May 31, 2015.

3. Cappex $1000 Scholarship

https://www.cappex.com/page/…/quickApply.jsp?scholarshipID=

Apply today for a chance to win a $1000 scholarship from Cappex by filling out an easy form. Applicants must be a current high school student. This is a monthly scholarship and the next deadline to apply is April 30, 2015.

4. Gen and Kelly Tanabe $1000 Scholarship

www.genkellyscholarship.com/

This scholarship is for 9th-12th grade high school, college, or graduate student including adult students who are legal residents of the U.S. and currently in school or planning to start school within the next 12 months. The application deadline is July 31, 2015.

5. $1000 Design-a-Sign Scholarship

https://www.signazon.com/contest/grad2015/rules/

“Design-a-Sign” $1000 Scholarship Contest from Signazon Let your creativity help pay for college with the 5th Annual “Design-A-Sign” contest. Applicants must be between 13 and 18 years of age. The application deadline is May 29, 2015.

6. MoolahSPOT $1000 Scholarship

moolahspot.com/scholarship/

The $1,000 MoolahSPOT Scholarship is sponsored by MoolahSPOT.com and helps students of any age pay for higher education. The scholarship is a competition based on a short essay. Students who are 16 or older can apply. Application deadline is April 30, 2015.

7. Sallie Mae $1,000 Sweepstakes Official Rules

https://www.salliemae.com/student-loans/sweepstakes/college-answer-rules/

Sallie Mae’s $1,000 Sweepstakes is open only to legal residents. Entrants may enter the Sweepstakes by completing the online registration form. This is a monthly drawing.

8. Noodle $1,000 College Scholarship

https://www.noodle.com/scholarships/college

Enter for a chance to win a $1,000 scholarship. Applicants must be 18 or older. Register on Noodle for a chance to win.

9. Chegg $1000 Weekly Scholarship

www.chegg.com/scholarships/Weekly-Three-Sentence-Essay-Scholarship

Chegg awards a $1,000 scholarship every week to one super student and choose the winner based on their 2-3 sentence response to the week’s question.

10. Niche $1,000 College Survey scholarship

https://colleges.niche.com/survey/

College students review your school for a chance to win a $1000 monthly scholarship!

Wednesday’s Parent: Tax Filing Tips for Parents

 

A few months ago I wrote an article for University Parent to provide parents with tax filing tips. Here’s a repost of that article:

tax filing tipsThere’s no doubt — higher education is expensive. For the average family, like mine, paying for college can cause sleepless nights, especially if you haven’t planned and saved. With college costs rising every year, parents are searching for ways to offset some of the expenses.

Tax savings are one way to do this, and the federal government does offer some tax relief for parents. But understanding federal “tax speak” and applying it to your family can be confusing. Here are a few simple tax tips that should help when filing your federal return.

How are college savings plans such as 529s taxed?

If funds from the 529s or other college savings plans are withdrawn to pay for qualified education expenses, they are not taxed. Any money withdrawn beyond those qualified expenses will be subject to tax.

Are 529s in the student’s name provided by grandparents counted as untaxed income? Jodi Okun, of College Financial Aid Advisors, explains that any funds distributed from these plans are considered untaxed income and should be reported on the student’s income tax return if he is required to file.

Are financial aid grants and scholarships considered income? 

According to Ms. Okun, if the scholarship is made out to the student, it is considered the student’s income. Any money the student receives the student will have to report, but only when it exceeds education expenses. If your student receives scholarships and grants that exceed the costs of tuition, fees, books, and required course-related equipment and supplies, he is required to report the excess funds as taxable income. Funds used to pay room and board, travel, and non-required equipment and supplies are also taxable. Scholarship and grant recipients should retain fee statements, textbook receipts, and similar records to support their calculations of the non-taxable and taxable portions of their awards.

For instance, if your student gets several different scholarships that cover all of his qualifying expenses and has some money left over after paying qualified education expenses, that extra amount is taxable.

What other tax benefits are available to college parents?

The federal government offers additional tax breaks to families to help reduce the cost of college. You can read a detailed explanation of the benefits on the IRS website’s Tax Benefits for Education Information Center. Basically there are four options:

  • The American Opportunity Act — Up to $2,500 per student
  • The Lifetime Learning Credit — Credit of 20% of the first $10,000 of qualified tuition expenses or a maximum of $2,000 per taxpayer
  • Student Loan Interest Deduction — Taken as an adjustment to your income via a deduction
  • Tuition and Fees Deduction  Up to $4,000 based on your income

Ms. Okun points to a helpful Interactive Tax Assistant tool on the IRS website that parents and students can use to determine if you are eligible for higher education tax deductions or credit.

The tool walks you through a series of easy-to-answer questions, producing the information needed to file the credits you are eligible to receive. The exercise takes about 10 minutes. Time well spent!

What is the tuition and fees deduction?

Originally set to expire last year, this deduction has been extended again through 2014. You may be able to deduct qualified education expenses paid during the year and there is no limit on the number of years the deduction can be taken. The qualified expenses must be for higher education. The tuition and fees deduction can reduce the amount of your income subject to tax by up to $4,000.

According to the IRS, you can claim the tuition and fees deduction if all three of the following requirements are met:

1. You pay qualified higher education expenses.

2. You pay the education expenses for an eligible student.

3. The eligible student is yourself, your spouse, or a dependent for whom you claim an exemption on your tax return.

If you do not qualify for the Lifetime Learning Credit or the Opportunity Credit, you may be eligible for this deduction.

What is a 1098-T and where will it be mailed?

Colleges are required to provide students with a 1098-T tax information form. This form reports amounts billed to you for qualified tuition and educational expenses, as well as other related information. If your student is a dependent, you will need this form when you file your taxes and claim education credits or the tuition-and-fees tax deduction. Some colleges mail the 1098-T to the student’s home address, but many are now providing the information online through the student portal. Ask the college which method they use, and follow up with your student.

Read Wendy’s post: Beating the Double Whammy of Taxes and College Costs

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Wednesday’s child may be full of woe but Wednesday’s Parent can substitute action for anxiety. Each Wednesday Wendy and I will provide parent tips to get and keep your student on the college track. It’s never too late or too early to start!

The bonus is on the fourth Wednesday of each month when Wendy and I will host Twitter chat #CampusChat at 9pm ET/6pm PT. We will feature an expert on a topic of interest for parents of the college-bound.

Wednesday’s Parent will give twice the info and double the blog posts on critical parenting issues by clicking on the link at the end of the article from parentscountdowntocollegecoach to pocsmom.com and vice versa.

Mom-Approved Tips: How Will You Make the Final College Choice?

 

final college choiceThe May 1st decision deadline is approaching and families are anguishing over that final college choice. The college your student chooses will be her home for the next four years. It will be her extended family. Her choice should take into consideration those two facts. But how will you make the final college choice?

Make another college visit

It’s time to revisit the colleges. This is by far the most important element of making the final college choice. If the college hosts admitted student events, your student should attend. This visit could have a profound effect on their decision. Spend as much time on campus as needed—talk with students, attend a class, talk with professors, and take your own campus tour.

Compare financial aid awards

After the visit, compare the awards. Who offers the best financial aid package? Will the awards carry your student through all four years of college (are they renewable?). Did the college include loans as part of the package? Was your student “gapped”?

Even if the college is your student’s first choice, the award should factor in to your decision. The last thing you or your student want is to graduate with overwhelming student debt. Trust me—she will thank you in the future for being the voice of reason.

Compare colleges who offered admission

In an article I wrote for University Parent, How Will Your Senior Decide?, I make these suggestions:

Begin by reexamining all the factors your student considered when applying. For each college or university, take a second — and closer — look at location, academics, the size of the student body, and other elements that made your student feel it would be a good fit. Review statistics including the freshman retention and four-year graduation rates.

It’s been months since she submitted her applications. If she got in, is she still in love with her first-choice college? Has she learned anything about the school since she applied that changes the way she views it? Has anything changed for her? Does the school still fit with her long-term academic and personal goals?

This is a good time for your student to gather information from a few trusted sources. She doesn’t need to invite everyone she knows into the decision-making process, but it can really help to consult with older siblings and friends, or teachers, coaches, or counselors.

Based on this research and reflection, make a list of pros and cons for each college and compare them side-by-side. The top two or three should be evident.

Before your student accepts a college’s offer of admission, take all these factors into consideration. You want your student to be happy, but you also want her to graduate with minimal debt.

Practical Ways to Help Prepare Your Child for College

 

college majorAside from your son or daughter’s academic achievements, what else do they need in order to help prepare your child for college? If your child’s lived at home until the age of 18, they may well need your support in learning a life lesson or two- particularly if they’re moving away from home for the first time. So how can you help? Check out the tips below to find out how best to support your child as they venture into further education.

Look at living options

Deciding where to live in the first year of college can be a tricky decision to make, especially if there’s a choice of living on campus, in a student house, or alone. Take a look at the different living arrangements available and do some research online, as student accommodation websites such as Uniplaces and Urban Student Life offer a wealth of information. Encourage your child to contact anyone they know who studies at the college they’re attending, or college representatives, who are often more than happy to give advice about the different types of accommodation offered.

The money chat

Before your child begins life at college, it’s worth sitting down to have a chat about how they will manage their finances, as a student budget is likely to be stretched.Before the start of term, encourage your child to shop around for a student bank account with low interest rates and an adequate overdraft. Together you could draw up a list of items they can sell? Old electronics, cameras and school books can be sold to gain a little extra cash. Discuss whether it would make sense for your child to get a Saturday job to earn money while they study, to help ease any financial pressure.

Course reading material

Text books are a costly expense to take into account, but remember your child doesn’t necessarily need to buy brand new course material. Often text books can be bought second-hand, either via an online book store or at a college book fair. Many colleges also have a ‘buying and selling’ page on their website, so it’s worth checking this out to see if books can be purchased here.

Cooking skills

Does your child like cooking? And more importantly, can your child cook for themselves on a daily basis? It’s likely that your son or daughter has not had to cook for themselves and for extended periods of time, so to help avoid any kitchen disasters (or endless days of baked beans on toast), why not do some cooking together, so that your child can learn a few basic kitchen skills? If you have any cheap, easy recipes they really like, you could compile a small recipe book together. Cooking from scratch, rather than buying endless takeaways, will help your child to save money and stay healthy.