Kids are more precious than diamonds, and can also be just as expensive.
Children can be a life-affirming joy. For many parents, having a child gives them a purpose in a way they may have never experienced before. Suddenly you are responsible for the well-being of an entire other person — and that person comes with needs, from food to diapers to clothes, which translate into expenses that not everyone can afford.
For working parents, child care costs can be a huge burden. According to a survey performed by Care.com, “The average weekly child care cost for one infant child is $199 for a family care center, $211 for a daycare center (also referred as ‘child care centers’), and $596 for a nanny.”
The cost of child care can be difficult to manage, regardless of your situation. If both parents work full time, then they may earn more money to help make ends meet, but at the same time, they may need to pay for more care. If you are a single parent who works, then you may have to deal with the disadvantage of having a full-time work schedule without a second household income. Assuming you have a second child or more, the costs of quality child care grow all the higher.
The bottom line is this: You want your child to have the best possible care, but you shouldn’t have to take out a personal loan to cover the high cost. We spoke to the experts to help brainstorm more affordable child care options — or at least a few cost-saving methods — so you can save money.
Talk to your employer
If you are a parent and work outside of the home on a full-time or even part-time basis, you will likely find it impossible to accomplish everything you have to do in a given day without a child care provider. The balancing act of being both a stay-at-home parent and a working parent are tricky, but if your employer is the understanding type, they may appreciate the needs of young children.
“Your employer will likely not allow you to start working from home full-time,” says Lynell Ross, founder and managing editor of wellness resource site Zivadream. “However, don’t just assume they’ll outright shut down any ideas you have. In fact, a lot of my clients have found their employers to be quite receptive to flexible schedules. For example, one of my clients now works in the office from 9 AM to 1 PM but then is allowed to work from home from 2 PM to 5 PM.”
“If you can successfully place your child on a sleep schedule, you can work in the morning while your child is still sleeping,” suggests Jaquetta T. Ragland, a mother and owner of YoungAndFinance.com.
She also points out that even if you cannot work from home the entire day, any money that you do not have to use to pay to a babysitter or child care program can make a difference, especially for low-income families.
Ask work about child care savings programs
As long as you’re talking to your employer, find out if they offer a dependent care reimbursement program. Dependent care reimbursement programs are similar to flexible spending account (FSA) programs, serving as a combination of a savings account and income tax relief program.
With a dependent care reimbursement program, you can designate a portion of your salary to pay for child care assistance. The money is put aside before taxes are taken out of your paycheck, allowing you to save for an existing expense, while also limiting the amount of money from your paycheck the government can tax. Your take-home pay may look lower at a glance, but remember: The money you set aside for childcare is waiting for you, tax free.
Friends and family
If you are fortunate enough to have a family member who lives nearby with time on their hands, it may be possible to create a low-cost solution to minimizing daycare costs. According to a study we just made up, the average cost of infant care with overjoyed grandparents is about $0 per week (minus any food they may eat from your fridge).
Unfortunately, not everyone lives close to relatives who are able and willing to devote that much time to babysitting. Even if you do, they may not be available all the time. This is when looking out to your network can help. “Moms who need to find quality and affordable childcare should consider starting their own childcare co-op,” advises Shannon Serpette, chief editor at Mom Loves Best.
And what is a childcare co-op? Serpette explains it’s “A group of women committed to providing babysitting services to each other’s children. Think of all the mothers and grandmothers in your life who are great with children — ones you know would take good care of your child. Let them know you’re starting a co-op and you’d like them to join.”
Serpette has said that her co-op has been a “lifesaver,” so it could be an option if you can manage with less than full-time care.
Child barter system
Bartering is one of the oldest forms of human interaction, and it can help save you money on childcare. No, we are not talking about bartering your child away entirely. We are talking about providing some sort of service to the daycare in exchange for a reduced tuition bill.
“If you have a specialized skill, you might be able to barter services with your child care operator,” Ross says. “For example, if you’re a dental hygienist, consider giving your child care operator free cleanings in exchange for a reduced child care fee. If you’re a web developer or graphic design expert, propose building your child care operator a more functional and optimized website in exchange for a reduced rate. You never know what kind of trade people will be open to.”
Financial assistance and scholarship options
It can’t hurt to ask if your daycare service provider offers a reduced rate for financial hardship. Some day care programs have scholarship or grant programs for families that may have trouble covering tuition. In Chicago, for example, the Jewish United Fund offers a grant of up to $2,000 for families that enroll their children in a qualifying early childhood program. Depending on where you live and your income, you may also be eligible for government-sponsored fee assistance or access other program options.
No part of having children is easy or cheap, but we hope some of these suggestions provide some ideas for finding some financial relief.
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