Most parents know the struggles of affording childcare. Regardless of income, marital status, or overall socioeconomic situation, we all have a hefty bill to pay in the childcare department. Let's face it, paying for proper, reliable childcare is like paying rent! Here are some tips that I've learned as a parent to help save money on childcare.
Parent-Child Exchange Hub
Daycare centers or before/after school care programs aren't your only options. Here's a little secret that might be key to you saving a lot of money.
One of your goals should be to stay in the loop with other parents. These are your people. Some parents like to group up into “hubs.” There can be hubs for everything: homeschooling field trips, homework checks, study groups.
But hubs can also save you money on childcare. Parents who are friends can do favors for one another, plan play dates or assist with birthday parties.
For example, if one parent works on weekends and you work on weekdays, you can trade off child watching duties. You watch their kids while they work, and they return the favor while you're working! One group of parents covers another for date night as a trade off to have their kids covered for during their workout routine.
This should always be a tight-knit group, not strangers. Get to know your group members before planning this.
Even if some cash has to change hands, friends are less likely to overcharge you, and are also more likely to be honest with you about your child's activities or behavior. After all, you both want what's in the best interest for each other! It's a win, win for the team!
Churches are more than willing to help the community. Not a member? No problem! Most churches don't discriminate, welcoming newcomers with open arms. They want to help. Even if you have no intention to join, some community churches will still offer free to low-cost daycare, school, and summer camps or Vacation Bible School to families in need!
Church members may encourage you to join their service; however, no one will be hurt or offended if you politely decline their offer.
Ask the State.
If you are a low-income family, there is always government assistance. There are programs specially designed to help low-income families with childcare. It is ok to use your community resources when you're in a pinch – you help pay for them with your taxes.
We all need help sometimes. Some examples of government programs offering free or low-cost options for low-income families include:
- Head Start and Early Head Start – Head start and Early Head Start are programs designed to aid families with children six months to 5 years of age. The focus of this program is to both provide free childcare and prepare younger infants and toddlers for kindergarten success!
- Childcare Financial Assistance – Each state receives aid from the federal government to aid low-income families in need of childcare. If eligible, an individual can receive aid towards any participating facility. There are also options for home care, such as in-home nannies or babysitters. This program has helped my family throughout my years in college. If you're not sure you would be an eligible candidate, it never hurts to apply!
- State-Funded Pre-Kindergarten – This program is designed to offer free to low-cost Pre-K to eligible families with toddlers ages 3 to 5 years.
- Military Childcare Financial Assistance Programs – No matter what your situation, if you are a military soldier or spouse, there are several programs that can help you pay for childcare. If you are militarily affiliated, go ahead and apply!
And that's just the tip of the iceberg! There are plenty of government childcare aid programs to cover a variety of needs.
Work from Home or Take Courses Online
There's no better time than post-Covid to find job opportunities working online! I know it sounds challenging, working while your kids tug on your shirt, asking for another cookie, but this may be a new lifestyle we all need to adapt to.
Another option worth considering is online college classes instead of in-person classes. You get more flexibility and can attend classes while simultaneously cooking dinner or folding laundry. It's a win win!
Shift Hours / Change Schedule
Life is a balancing act, and we must become our own acrobats. There are a couple of options. First, if you have a spouse or a partner, balancing your work time with your partner's off time and vice-versa is essential.
Whether it's you working nights while your partner works days, or taking a weekend job while your significant other works weekdays, you both get to spend time with your children and save on expenses.
If working with a significant other is not an option for you, for whatever reason, and you're a proud single-parent like me, you may need to take a step back and reassess. Think about changing your work schedule.
There will always be jobs out there that allow flexibility. Sure, not all parents can work overtime or weekends. But you have options!
Most childcare facilities offer sibling discounts! They may not mention it, so be bold and ask! Most facilities will offer a 10% to 15% discount if you plan to have your child stay full time.
If you're not planning on having your child stay full time, there is still typically a 6% to 8% discount available.
When choosing a childcare facility, it's worth the research. Don't forget to bring this up while discussing the price!
Find a Career that Offers Childcare
Yes! Some jobs have this feature. Unless you choose to work at a daycare center, it may be a struggle to find a job with that perk, but it's worth seeking out. If you can't find a top-notch office job with free or low-cost childcare right on the premises, don't worry! Maybe consider a career in education?
Teachers may not be paid what they're worth, but life becomes a little easier when you work at the exact time your kids are in school.
Another option may be to convert your home into an in-home childcare center. This comes with risks, such as having strangers pass in and out of your home, as well as children who may negatively influence your little ones.
Really, the same risks apply to any daycare facility, even with the constant supervision of staff and cameras throughout a public facility.
Hire your Neighborhood Teen
There's always a teen or college student in need of a little extra cash. You may have to pay for an app or a subscription to find them, but it's worth your money. A great feature of babysitter finder apps like Sitter City or Care.com is access to background checks.
You can also post ads, set your pay, and keep in touch with all sitters on a mobile app without giving out private contact info. Of course, not all sitters are flexible with pay, but it's come in handy for my kids and me.
Be the 1st to Sign up for Summer Camp
When it comes to Summer Camp, don't delay! Unfortunately, prices for summer camps go up as we get closer to summer, so I recommend doing your research at the start of spring or sooner! Know your registration dates and have them set on your calendar.
Expand Your Options!
If you can't afford the care center or before/after school care programs your child is currently attending, now's the time to take a look around! If there aren't currently any options, refresh your search periodically. Often, a new business pops up which could become your next go-to. Good luck!
I hope this was helpful for you! I know how hard it is, and I wish I had someone present these options to me when I was a young single mom and college student. Life can throw you curveballs, but don't give up. You've got this!
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