If you are in the sacred parenting years, then you may be wondering how to save money on child care. Saving money on child care is no doubt of interest to most parents because it is one of the major expenses in child rearing. The current cost of child care ranges anywhere from $350 to $1,000 per month or about the average cost of a second car. Next to health care and education, child care is one of the most expensive responsibilities that come along with modern parenting. Here are some suggestions on how to save money on child care.
While we tend to think of child care as a rainbow colored facility, privately owned child care providers, retired acquaintances, family members and friends are also often viable sources for child care. These alternatives offer the same quality of care, which is often more specialized, and with smaller adult to child ratios at potentially less expensive rates. You will still have to conduct the same amount of research to ensure the standards of quality are met for your child, but private providers, retirees and neighbors can be an avenue worth researching when seeking to save money on child care costs.
You don’t know if you don’t ask, and it never hurts to ask. Ask your child care provider for a multi-child discounts, some child care providers will offer a reduced rate for families with more than one child enrolled in their facility. The reduced rate could be as much as 20-50 percent off for a second or third child, but don’t stop there. If you are in a carpool or if you have nieces and nephews or neighboring children who can be picked up and dropped off together, ask if this same discount can apply to your grouped child care costs.
Another way to save on child care is to inquire about bartering. Ask if your family can trade off man hours in exchange for child care hours or discounts. For example, grandpa offers to sweep the parking lot of the child care center on Sunday afternoons in exchange for a 5-10 percent discount for your child’s care during the week, or Mom and older sister agree to three hours each of administrative duties Saturday afternoons for the exchange of one full day of child care for the toddler in the house.
Check in with your employer, and see what benefits your employer offers to help offset the costs of child care. Some companies offer Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts. These types of accounts offer savings through pre-tax dollars set aside for dependent care. Individual maximums vary, but this could be another way to save on child care. The only drawback here is that you will need to keep up with child care receipts and you will need to add another manual step to your household bill paying duties. However, if the option to save long term is available to you, then the extra work may be well worth the efforts in the long run.
You can also seek employers who offer on site child care. Several of the best companies to work for offer child care in their facilities (with comparable if not better rates than off site child care provider). If you can find one of these companies in your area and in your field of work with open space for child care you would be wise to take advantage of this perk. Even if you can’t change jobs or find an employer to offer this perk, there is still something you can do to save here. Consider finding child care in close proximity to your work place or home. The savings comes from how much less you will spend on gas by not having to drive out of your way to drop off the kids. You may even be able to have lunch with your children or stop by for an afternoon hug.
For parents with younger children, consider buying all of your child care supplies required by your child care provider in bulk. It can be quite a challenge to maintain double supply duty between your home and your child care provider’s needs for your children. If you purchase staples such as baby food, diapers, formula and baby wipes in bulk, then you will save money and you will see the cost savings when you compare volume pricing on these items compared to buying in smaller more frequent quantities.
For older children, consider The Boys and Girls Club of America for after school, school break and summer enrichment. For more information visit their website to see if there is a location near you. The Boys and Girls Club of America offers character development, leadership instruction, education assistance, career development, health and life skills specialized programs along with fitness and recreational opportunities. This option has the potential to save you money when you are looking for activities for your child to participate as opposed to expensive school break, summer day and extended stay camps.
Give up the second car. This is a family decision, but if both parents must work the price of the second car could offset the costs of child care. The costs of maintaining a car can be expensive. Once you factor in routine maintenance, annual licensure, gas and parking if these costs could better be utilized towards child care this may be an easy decision to make for the time being at least.
By far the most effective way to reduce child care is to reduce the number of hours your child spends in child care in the first place. Most child care providers require families to sign semi-annual or annual contracts in order to enroll in the program. Some child care providers even require you to pay a place-holder fee for weeks you will not bring your child to the facility and some require a set number of hours per week in order to stay enrolled. Review these contracts closely and look for ways to save money by coordinating efforts by planning vacations, stay-cations and early pick up days in advance.
If you know of a trustworthy teenager or college student, who is available summers or school breaks, factor these dates in and secure your own contract for a commitment to child care from a trusted student while signing your child care provider’s contract to ensure you will have child care while saving money over summer and school breaks.
If there are two parents (or grandparents close by) consider working opposite or gapped shifts so that your children can be picked up an a few ours earlier than they would if there was no one available for pick up until 5 or 6 pm. Of course, this will need to be factored into your child care provider contract, but even just one or two hours per week can help cut child care costs.
For some parenting couples it may be more economical for one parent to not work outside of the home. In some communities the cost of the commute, gas, parking, child care, lunch and wardrobe maintenance can leave families with a negative balance once the fee’s associated with child care are factored in especially if there is more than one child. Some mom and dads take this opportunity to start their own businesses or participate in independent consultant programs to make sure they have all of the flexibility they need to raise their children while earning a living. Being at home gives families the creative space to meet the needs of their children.
Child care is a daily requirement for many families. Whether you decide to barter, buy in bulk, hire a student or even give up the car, if you need to save money on child care consider at least one of these options. Child care needs won’t last forever, but good parenting does. Our children are here for us to enjoy and if we can lessen the burden of expensive child care we are that much closer to removing a financial barrier that should not be allowed to take away our joy of parenting.