There are line items on your budget worksheet that you can feel fairly comfortable skimping on, like paper towels or toothpaste. However, the supervision of your child likely isn’t one of those areas where you’d like to cut corners. So getting the best care for your son or daughter means shelling out major cash each month, right? Not necessarily. There are some options out there that won’t force you to erase your child’s college fund just to have them looked after.
Family or close friends
The idea of having your big loved ones looking after your little loved one(s) can be very comforting. And the fact that you could work out an arrangement that involves little or no money changing hands makes it an even more appealing choice. Do your best though to not make the caregivers feel like they are being taken advantage of. That can cause the situation to turn sour quickly and leave you back at square one.
Local low-income childcare programs
If your income level qualifies you, city, county or state programs may get you access to special childcare programs set up to help working parents. Check with your local social services office to learn more.
More and more babysitting or childcare cooperatives are springing up in response to the high costs of traditional daycare. The savings over regular daycare can make all the difference. Some co-ops let you earn points by providing childcare for others. Then you can exchange these points for the care of your own child and end up paying little to nothing. Read reviews online to find a reputable group. If one doesn’t exist, research how to create one!
Often, enterprising parents will create a daycare in their home to make some extra money while watching after their own children. Once again, the savings vs. a traditional daycare facility can be amazing. Check to make sure the proprietor of the home daycare has the appropriate licensing for your state. It’s also a good idea to ask for some referrals.
The YMCA is probably the best known non-profit that provides affordable daycare, but check to see if there are any other groups in your area that offer this service. Because there is no profit motive, the costs are held down. And there are often just as many, if not more, activities for the children to participate in.
Care sponsored by an employer, college or place of worship
All of the above organizations have been known to provide or subsidize childcare programs. While they may not completely meet your needs, it’s wise to check what kinds of programs are available before you make any decisions. Know that your employer’s benefits may be offered through an employee assistance program.
Extended baby-sitting or nanny care
Before you dismiss this possibility, consider how many young people there are out of work these days. Many of those young people have large student loans or other debts to pay. You may find that because of the competition among young people to provide childcare services, you can actually get a reliable and conscientious person to look after your child for much less than you had anticipated. Sites like SitterCity.com or Care.com can provide a list of caregivers in your area who have background checks and come with referrals.
You’ve probably heard a lot of fretting over the years about the cost of childcare and the lack of affordable options. However, where there is a need not being filled, services usually spring up to fill those gaps. With some dedicated research, you may find care that will feel good for both the attention your child will receive and the impact to your bank account.