How to Take the Bite Out of Childcare Costs

by Jamie Simmerman · 7 comments

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.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

ChrisCD August 30, 2012 at 7:18 am

Another alternative is to start your own day care. We enjoy having my wife home with our kids and starting a day care has enabled her to do so.

The fact is no one will take care of your kids like you will. So if you don’t need the income consider having one of the parents stay home or like us, start your own.

cd :O)

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KM August 30, 2012 at 7:35 am

We have tried a few of these already. First, my husband stayed home with my son until he found a job, which was during the second shift. So I went to work in the morning, he stayed home until around 1pm, then dropped off my son to my grandma’s, who looked after him for a few hours until I picked him up after work. It worked great until she started feeling less and less well, getting tired more quickly, so we enrolled him into child care for half a day, which was great to save some money. But my husband and I were getting tired of never seeing each other and not being able to plan anything and he wasn’t getting enough sleep, so he transferred to first shift and we transferred our son to full time and to another school that was closer and better. Although it costs more than the house mortgage, we are all saner and happier, and our child gets a quality education and has the opportunity to socialize with others.

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Marcia August 30, 2012 at 8:13 am

The only reason childcare is less expensive than my mortgage is because I live in Coastal California.

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JJ August 30, 2012 at 8:28 pm

If she is truly a friend, you might want to rethink your words.
“The term mental retardation acquired pejorative and shameful connotations over the last few decades due to the use of the words retarded and retard as insults. This may have contributed to its replacement with euphemisms such as mentally challenged or intellectually disabled. While developmental disability includes many other disorders, developmental disability and developmental delay (for people under the age of 18), are generally considered more polite terms than mental retardation.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mental_retardation

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Jamie Simmerman August 30, 2012 at 9:50 pm

Please forgive my political incorrectness. She doesn’t mind the term Mentally Retarded, and often tells others that she is MR. She is accepted as she is by my family and hers, and we have never subjected her to such a stigma from medical terminology used in her presence. As a nurse, this is common vernacular for me. I would never knowingly use a term that would label or offend someone, and I apologize if it appeared offensive to you, JJ.

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Lorena September 1, 2012 at 8:27 pm

Up until recently, my husband watched our son in the afternoons (he works part-time). In the mornings, a family friend or my cousin would watch him. My son just started at my company’s childcare center, where I pay a lower rate than most (it’s open to anyone but has a long waiting list as it is highly desirable and offers high quality care). It isn’t cheap, but my son enjoys it and my husband now has time for errands and finding full-time work.

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Shane September 3, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Great tips, child care costs have gone through the roof over the years. I think it is best if you can get family to help out.

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