The cost of childcare in the U.S. is a painful reality. In a recent CNN post, Emily Jane Fox reports the cost of childcare exceeds the cost of rent for families in most states. For some families, the cost of childcare is so high that one parent is forced to stay home in order to eliminate or reduce childcare expenses. Before you take the leap and quit your job, check out these ideas for reducing the cost of childcare.
Reduce Childcare Costs with Off-Shift Jobs
Switching to an off shift may not be the most favorable decision of your career, but if your profession works around the clock, you have the option to put in for a second or third shift transfer to allow one parent to be home with the children. Just be sure to have a back up plan for sick kid days and days when your shift runs over or car trouble delays you in getting home.
Share Childcare with Another Family
As a nurse, I am generally scheduled to work every other weekend, with the option to pick up additional weekends whenever I want. This alternating weekend schedule allows me to coordinate childcare with another nurse who works the weekends opposite me. We watch each other’s children when needed, and the arrangement works well for us. Since I live on a farm, having an extra two or three kids is no big deal. It just means more little hands to scratch a calf’s ears, carry water buckets, or pick apples from the orchard. If I keep them busy with animals, crafts, cooking, or games, the day runs smoothly and I’ve helped a friend save some money, knowing she’ll return the favor.
Enlist Your Relatives to Help with Childcare
If you have family living locally, and they’re not candidates for a guest appearance on the Jerry Spring Show, you can often rely on them as free or cheap back-up childcare. If you’re lucky enough to have a great family, sending the kids to grandma’s while you work saves you a bundle and lets you rest easy about the quality of care your kids are getting. Just be prepared to pick up kids stuffed full of cookies and armed with bare-butt baby pictures from your childhood photo albums.
Get Creative to Save on Childcare
Ask your childcare provider if you can get a discounted rate for sending packed lunches and snacks with your kids. Consider pairing up a teenager with a senior in your neighborhood to tag-team as lower-cost childcare alternatives. We have a wonderful mentally retarded friend who is great with our kids. I wouldn’t feel comfortable about leaving her in charge, especially in an emergency situation, but when I deliver her and my children to my elderly aunt’s house, I know some will have the energy to chase after my boys and keep them entertained, while someone else is available to make sure they are safe and cared for responsibly.
David’s Note: Taking advantage of a flexible spending account many employers offer is also an option. The idea is that you contribute money into the account pre-taxed and as long as it’s paid for qualified expenses, those contributions are tax free.
The high cost of childcare doesn’t have to force you to put your career on hold. With some creativity and advanced planning, you can return to work without breaking your budget.