Frugal Childcare

by Kelly · 9 comments

in A Frugal Family

girls_read_bookOur single largest expense every month is childcare. It costs nearly twice as much as our monthly rent, or as our rent and groceries combined. Admittedly, we have three children, and we both have full-time occupations, myself at school and my husband at work, so it’s reasonable to expect to pay a large chunk of change to the nanny every month, but I doubt that we’re the only family with the same experience.

Quality childcare can be hard to find, and I in no way begrudge our daycare provider’s monthly salary- she is worth every cent and more. While we call her ‘the nanny’, our children go to her house, where she also takes care of other kids.  My daughter goes all day, four days a week, and the older two children are with the nanny at lunchtime and after school (there is no standardized school lunch period in France). She’s been watching my kids since the oldest was 8 months old, and we’ve cut down on lots of other things rather than pay her less.

Here are some ways you can make frugal childcare choices for your family.

Family. It all depends on how comfortable with the idea of having your or your partner’s mother/father/aunt etc watch your kids, but they’re (probably) not going to charge you for the pleasure of it. While I wouldn’t want my parents or my in-laws to watch my kids every day, they are wonderful for occasional babysitting duties.

Do it yourself. I’m not saying that moms shouldn’t work, or that every family needs a stay at home parent. But if you do have a job that allows you to work at home with flexible working hours, could you arrange it so that a few of those hours are while your kid is sleeping? I do most of my blog and consulting work late at night or early in the morning.

Find a community center program. There are a great many community centers that offer childcare, and they are often less expensive than a private choice. It might be a reasonable choice for your family’s needs.

Trade with a friend. A good friend of mine lives quite close to me, and her daughters are close in age to my three kids. Every once in a while she’ll watch my brood, or I’ll watch hers. It’s a lot of fun for the kids, and helps each of us out as well.

Investigate tax credits or other government resources. Now, as you know, I live in France, so I’m really not familiar with the US (or any other government’s) childcare incentive programs. But in France, along with receiving monthly assistance with our childcare costs, we get a yearly tax break. I imagine that a good google search will reveal the same for your own tax system.

How do you save money on childcare costs?


1 Amanda April 6, 2009

Here in the US, there is a tax credit for child care. It's a percentage of the total spent for the year on child care. The percentage is based on your adjusted gross income.

The child care provider must also provide you with a SSN or a Federal I.D. number in order to claim the credit.

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2 Annabel April 6, 2009

I’m a stay at home mom and love it. It’s tough financially because my husband doesn’t make a big salary, but the satisfaction I’m getting has made it worth the sacrifices. I think it’s easier to find quality childcare at a more reasonable price in France. My sisters-in-law from France all work full time and are very happy with the community childcare centers and at-home daycare providers they use, whereas here in New York at least (I don’t know about the rest of the country), you’d have to spend at least twice as much (maybe more) to get comparable quality.

3 gonzomama April 6, 2009

i work a few hours in the mornings, just a few days a week at a gym in the childcare. that way i can bring my children with me, they get to play, i get a free gym membership and paid a few extra dollars. i don’t make much money but any little bit helps and my 2.5 yr old son likes going.

4 Kristy @ Master Your Card April 7, 2009

I don’t have kids myself, so I don’t really know the tax benefits here in the U.S., but something else that may be helpful to parents is to start a neighborhood co-op. There’s bound to be parents in your neighborhood that are in the same boat, why not see about sharing the responsibility if at all possible and save some money in the process.

I am not looking forward to daycare costs. The amount is shocking to me. There’s a restaurant I frequent quite a bit that had one of the waitresses recently arrested because she couldn’t afford child care and left her kids in the car at work. They had food, drinks, and entertainment and she was checking on them every 15 minutes, but it’s still not a good situation. She said she was paying about $900 a month for two kids. I about choked!

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5 Rebecca April 7, 2009

I’m lucky enough to be able to stay home with my kids now but I worked full time until my oldest son was two. My husband and I were able to coordinate our work schedules so that we only needed a sitter for him 3 hours a day, 3 days a week. A family friend watched him for us during that time. It was such a huge relief for us!

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6 Shevy April 7, 2009

We have a great childcare arrangement. We live in the same house with our Eldest Daughter and her family. My 6 year old is in school all day, her 4 year old is in preschool until 11:30 am 4 days a week and the 2 year old is just at home. Monday to Wednesday she takes the baby to work for a couple of hours and I go to work until 11:30. I pick up both little girls and go home with them. Then we go pick up my Dear Child at 4 pm. Those evenings I go back to the office for a couple of hours. Thursday and Friday my son-in-law is off so I work all day until I have to pick up DC. All in all, I work about 25 hours a week and everybody else works full time. But we don’t pay anything for child care. (School is another story, but thank goodness for sliding scale tuition.) Right now it seems to be benefitting Eldest Daughter the most but when she was on maternity leave (1 year paid at 57% of your salary here in Canada) she was home with all the girls and that was before Dear Child was in school so it was better for me back then.

7 Dorea April 7, 2009

Rebecca hit on this, but I'll say it another way. Make sure that you are exploiting the flexibility in *both* parent's schedules, not just mom's (assuming you are in a two-parent family). We were able to juggle leaves, flexible schedules, working from home, and temporary part time work between the two of us to keep our first home until 15 months, at which point daycare (in the US) gets substantially cheaper and more readily available. She then went into center care 3 days a week and we each take one day home (we both work a flexible full-time).

We have number two on the way now, and it's taking a bit more doing, but we'll again be able to arrange to have him/her home until about 15 months, by using FMLA creatively (which does include giving up some pay), and working some from home (our oldest will still be in part time). With both of us pooling flexibility, we can save a decent chunk of money (and get that nice time with our kid(s)). If we were relying on just one of us to cut back, or leave work completely, our bottom line would be much different.

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8 Kelly April 7, 2009

Great point Dorea! We do something like this in our family: when I’m working, ie not in school, I work 4 days a week. My husband works full time, but his schedule is a lot more flexible, so he’s the one that takes off for appointments, sick kids etc.

9 Ashley April 8, 2009

Another option to consider to save money on childcare costs is hosting in au pair. Compared to nannies which average 400-600/wk and daycares that can cost a couple hundred per week per child for those who need full time childcare, au pairs cost about 320/wk no matter how many children you have. These young international domestic assistants work for room, board and a small weekly stipend for up to 45 hours a week! Plus they bring a great cultural dynamic to your home. AuPairCare is my agency of choice, check them out 🙂

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