Child care is expensive. The cost of child care depends on where you live, your child’s age, as well as several other factors. According to Care.com, the national average suggests that full-time day care for one toddler is about $600 per month, but in metro areas that figure can rise to more than $1,000 per month (and care for babies is often more expensive). Still, for many parents, child care is a necessary expensive in order to work. According to Child Care Aware of America, each week nearly 15 million children of working parents are in child care.
Clearly, child care is important, but unfortunately it can often be very expensive. In addition to day care costs, many families also face charges for after-school care and hefty babysitting charges. Thankfully, there are ways to cut the cost while still getting quality care for your child. Here are a few ideas to try.
1. Consider alternatives to traditional care
Some parents fear that if they choose a less expensive care center, their kids may not be in the best environment. This isn’t always the case, which is why reading day care ratings, and also asking for tips from family and friends, can help.
Consider a not-for-profit day care center, enlist the help of a family member, or choose an in-home daycare. Often not-for-profit centers are a great way to cut costs. If you have a family member nearby who can care for your children, they may be willing to accept significantly less money than a day care center would charge you, and you may find that you feel more comfortable with someone you know watching your children. In-home day cares also cost less much of the time, but not all of them are licensed so you need to determine if that is an important requirement to you or not.
2. Skip the extras
As wonderful as it would be to have a nanny to take care of your children, in most cases you will certainly pay top dollar to have one (and your children may miss out on social time with other kids). Instead, choose a more cost-effective child care option. There are also many wonderful child care centers that offer classes or have their own chefs and have very small teacher-to-child ratios, but you will most likely pay more for these extras. Determine how many kids you are comfortable with your children being around. States have their own requirements, so you will only be paying more if you want fewer kids with each teacher. Also, you can send in your own food for your child if you find a day care center that you like, but you are unhappy with the food.
3. Think outside the box
Traditional hourly babysitters are not your only option for date nights or last-minute plans. Consider forming or joining a child care co-op, in which you can make arrangements to take turns watching kids for dates or after school. Just make sure you set clear ground rules so each parent knows the expectations.
Instead of hiring a nanny or traditional babysitter, consider hiring a friend’s college or high school student whom you trust if you need care after school or during the summer. To add to the safety element, you can request they take a first aid and CPR class. Also, instead of signing your kids up for expensive summer camps, check what your local parks and recreation department is offering.
If you are having a difficult time cutting costs, consider changing your work schedule. If you can change your work hours, you might be able to save on child care costs by being home some of the time your kids need care.
4. Do your research
If you have multiple children, try to find a day care that offers a discount for having several participants enrolled. Be sure to factor in the amount of time that you will be driving to the center (and the gas you will use), as well as the convenience of their operating hours. If your company has a child care facility on-site, you can save money and time because you won’t have to add to your commute.
Although babysitters often charge more for multiple kids, if you set up a regular schedule with the same sitter, you may be able to save money because they might be more willing to negotiate with someone who is going to need their help regularly. It can help to know the going rate for babysitters in your area — Sittercity has a listing based on where you live.
There are many other ways to save money on child care. If your company supports it, you can set up a flexible spending account to save money on child care, or you can include the childcare credit on your taxes.
While the cost of child care is obviously important, be sure to choose a place that you are comfortable with. Your children need to be safe, and you need to feel comfortable while you are at work.