Our 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?