Childcare costs are one of the largest expenses a family with children will face. This is especially true for single parents or for families where both parents work full time. Finding ways to save money on child care costs without sacrificing your child’s care is a top priority for all working parents. Here are some tips for saving money on child care costs:
- See if your public-school district offers a pre-kindergarten program for 3 or 4-year-old. Some districts offer this and it is usually free. These are typically half day programs that could cover half of the daily daycare needs for your child.
- Explore other public and charitable options. You should also investigate care provided by your local YMCA, JCC or churches. While each program varies, child care provided by non-profit entities like these are generally less expensive.
- Seek Employer Discounts. Some companies negotiate discounts with local child care centers. Find out if your company offers any. If they don’t, take the time to suggest they consider it. Contact your HR manager and explain the benefits. It can’t hurt!
- Adjust your work schedule. While this option may not be available or realistic for some people, these days, employers seem to be more open to flexible work hours. Employees who have more flexible work schedules can divide the childcare duties by working in shifts – one parent works evenings, while the other stays home with the child during the day – that’s more time at home with your child and less money spent on child care.
- If you have a job that can be done remotely, even in part, consider asking to work from home. You may still need to secure childcare for some of the time (let’s face it, working at home while tending to small children is not always realistic). But you can reduce your child care costs by as much time as you can work while the child is home (think before and after bedtime and naps). It will take some shuffling around, but working from home is a viable option for many parents with small children.
- Explore Tax Leverages. Uncle Sam might pick up some of your child care tab with a tax credit for children and dependents. Paid with after-tax dollars, and subject to income eligibility requirements, the tax credit may allow you to claim up to 35% of your child care payments to a maximum of $3000 per child or $6000 for more than one child.
- Barter for Care. You can offer to perform a service for the individual or company that is caring for your child. For example, if you are an accountant, you could review the day care’s tax situation. Babysitting co-ops are a form of bartering and are easy to setup. See if you can offer to exchange babysitting services with friends, family, or co-workers. This can be particularly helpful when you swap with kids that are close in age to your own, as you are earning free babysitting services as well as built in play dates. Win-win!
- Talk to other parents who are in the same boat. See if you can consolidate your child care needs, and save money, by joining forces. Nanny shares are a great way to reduce child care costs. Hiring one babysitter to watch multiple children significantly lowers the hourly cost of care, and many independent child care providers are experienced in handling more than one child. Depending on how many people contribute to the share, these situations can often cost less than conventional daycare.
- Hire a responsible college student. Young people in school are usually eager to work and typically have time during the day to babysit. This option is usually cheaper and allows the child to be cared for at home, which cuts travel time and cost (no drop-off or pick up!).
- Contact local elementary schools for tutors and retired school teachers who might be interested in pre-school, summer, and/or after-school childcare to help supplement their income.
Exploring these options is key when creating a child care plan that works for your family. It’s possible to combine some of these to create a powerhouse of child care savings. We will continue to post related savings tips for families. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to leave a comment below. Happy care hunting!