Think you need to win the lottery just to afford childcare?
It’s true that childcare costs are sky-high, but before despairing and moving overseas, take heart in knowing there are affordable options out there. Some may require a bit of creativity, flexibility, and advance planning, but nonetheless, you should be able to find an approach that will work for your family – without breaking the bank!
Here are a few tips and tricks to finding affordable childcare options.
Share A Nanny
If you have friends who are also looking for daytime childcare, consider a nanny share. This involves hiring one nanny to watch both sets of children so that the two families can share the cost. Many larger subdivisions have listservs that allow residents to post questions about childcare options. Reach out to your community to see if there is a nanny share option near you or talk to your friends to see if they’re interested in possibly combining care for your two families.
Shift Your Schedule
If either you or your spouse does shift work, try switching up your schedules so that you can minimize – or even altogether avoid! – the need for childcare. For instance, if you plan to work a night shift, your partner can watch your children in the evening hours, and you can take days. Talk to your employer before your baby arrives to see if there’s a possibility of schedule-shifting or shift-switching.
Engage Family Members
Grandparents are generally always eager to spend more time with their grandchildren, so if your parents or in-laws live in town, ask them if they’d like to take a day or two a week to help with childcare. This could be either a part-time or a full-time arrangement based on your loved one’s availability and willingness to help – but remember to be understanding and flexible, as this is a tremendous service for you and your partner. Offer to help your family member by covering food and transportation costs for the day(s) that he or she is watching your child.
Explore Non-Profit Options
Some organizations, like local churches, the YMCA, or other nonprofits offer parents reduced-cost childcare options. These organizations receive grant money, so they have funds available to help families in need.
Request to Work from Home
If your boss is flexible, he or she may allow you to work from home either full-time or a few days a week so that you can watch your children while fielding calls and getting work done. If needed, you can hire supplemental childcare, like an afternoon teen babysitter, to help out if you anticipate having a full workday and needing to guarantee an interruption-free stretch of time.
Host an au Pair
It sounds fancy, but an au pair is simply a young person from a different country who works in childcare for very low pay. The benefit to the au pair is a year (or often more) spent in the U.S. to learn English, explore a new country, and possibly even explore citizenship and/or an education. They are essentially part nanny and part exchange student, and families provide them with room, board, and a stipend. While they’re less expensive than nannies, they also have less training – so keep in mind that you will need to vet them thoroughly before making a hire.
Utilize On-Site Childcare
If your company offers on-site childcare, use it! This will not only provide you with free (or employee discounted) childcare but also give you the peace of mind in knowing that your child is near – so if there is an issue, you’ll be able to intervene as soon as possible.
Consider Taking a Year Off
If your family can handle it financially, consider having one spouse take a year off to be a stay-at-home parent. While you’ll be losing the income (you can perhaps assuage this issue by selecting the lower earner to stay at home), you will also save on childcare costs, allowing you to save up for the next year.
Use a Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
If you set up an FSA, you can put pre-tax money into a dedicated account for childcare expenses. There is a limit on how much you can contribute, but it can still be a tremendous help. As you spend down the account, you’ll be reimbursed the amount you contributed, which can create a helpful windfall throughout the year. Not to mention, because you’re contributing to this account tax-free, you essentially give yourself a childcare discount of your marginal tax rate. You can also use a childcare FSA for before and after school care for older children.
When it comes to selecting a childcare option for your family, know that not every approach will work for everyone – and at every time. Don’t be afraid to mix and match options, to switch approaches, and to pivot at any time. By trying out at least a few of these options, you can cut the massive and often intimidating expense of childcare down to a sum that fits your budget and still allows your family to meet its savings goals.