It seems everyone is checking their budget for areas to cut and in these expensive times solutions for saving a dollar might be found anywhere. While at first it might seem that childcare is a fixed expense, there are ways to save even here.
If your full-time day care is breaking the bank consider cutting back on the hours of formal child-care you use. In some cases you may have signed a contract with your provider. But if not or if the contract allows for some flexibility, consider adjusting your work schedule to maximize time when you or your partner can be with your children yourselves. If one of you can go in to work late and the other can take-off early you can minimize the hours of care needed. Even a small adjustment of an hour or so each day can add up.
Another way to cut down the hours of formal care is to use some informal child-care for part of the week. Consider teaming up with a stay-at-home-mom friend who might be looking for some ways to supplement her family’s income. Perhaps you know a mom who would take your child one or more days a week for cash or even in exchange for skills and services you can provide. A local family member may be willing to help out for a limited number of hours as well. Check into YMCA, summer camps, or after-school programs for lower cost options as well.
Date-night may well become a thing of the past as families try to cut back on entertainment in an effort to balance spending with income. But instead of canceling the date, cancel the babysitter and find some friends who will swap child-care. One weekend you drop your kids at the neighbor’s and head out (or head home for take-out, Netflix, or some quiet time) and the next week you watch the neighbor’s kids and they get a break. It’s helpful to choose a family with children of similar ages and of course, parents you trust and with whom you have values and standards in common. Such exchanges or “babysitting co-ops” can be quite formal with points earned and exchanged among a group of families, or as simple as two families sharing a need for a cheap night out.
Another lower cost option for child-care needs is a “mother’s-helper.” Typically a young pre-teen, perhaps 10-14, offers babysitting care for a lower cost while a parent is still present in the home. This arrangement is less expensive than a traditional babysitter or nanny because a pre-teen has less experience and the parent is still at home. This also allows for greater safety and parental control of the environment because a parent is available if needed. This is great for after-school hours as the “mother’s helper” can supervise homework time, chores, and play time and the parent can finish some tele-commuting, home-based business work or family related chores.
Caring for our children is of course a primary concern and priority. Keep an eye to safety and quality of care as you examine the associated costs and where adjustments might be made. Thinking creatively and being flexible can lead to the child-care situation for the budget you need.