4 Tips for More Affordable Child Care

by Jessica Sommerfield · 0 comments

It should come as no surprise that many households spend up to 25% of their income on child care, and often as much as $1,000 a week. This expense can’t always be avoided in a tough economy which necessitates two incomes, or in a lifestyle of single parenthood.  Because child care is so expensive, it’s extremely helpful to find ways to save, such as: reconsidering your child care options, changing work schedules, and taking advantage of tax credits and other benefits. The following are practical ways you can start saving on day care right now.

  • Check with your employer about FSAs or other childcare reimbursement options.

Employers are aware of the challenge of child care, and in the interest of keeping their employees and increasing productivity, many companies are offering on–site childcare as a benefit. Even if your employer doesn’t offer child care, there may be an option to contribute to a pre-tax flex-spending account. These accounts are similar to health care FSAs, and usually allow up to $5,000 a year to be set aside for child care expenses.

  • Make sure you’re taking advantage of federal and state tax credits and assistance programs.

As of last year, the IRS may allow you to claim up to $3,000 per dependent child for childcare expenses if you meet the criteria. You can’t claim any FSA funds you’ve spent since they’re already tax-free, but anything you spend beyond that can be claimed. Also check into government programs for childcare. You may not qualify based on your income, but it’s helpful to be aware, and in the process you may learn about other programs you do qualify for.

  • Consider babysitting co-ops, bartering and family members

Baby-sitting co-ops are increasing as people realize how practical and helpful they can be. Members take turns babysitting each others children based on availability, and since they’re exchanging babysitting for babysitting, there are little to no expenses involved. Sometimes co-ops create a fund for special activities or gas money, but for the most part this swapping of kids doesn’t cost a dime.

Another option is to talk with your current child care provider and see if you can work out an arrangement that includes exchanging your skilled services for child care. Perhaps you have experience with advertising, creating logos or websites, filing taxes, or some other service that your child care provider would just have to pay someone else for, anyway. Don’t be afraid to ask, or step out of your comfort zone if their requested services aren’t exactly your expertise. Complete the work quickly and professionally to make a good impression.

Many parents are worried about imposing too much on their relatives to provide child care. Although it can be humbling, it doesn’t hurt to ask; many grandparents, in particular, are retired and more than eager to spend more time with their grandchildren.  Knowing your children are with a trusted family member can be much more reassuring than leaving them with strangers.  Offer some compensation, and at the very least, provide for your children’s meals and expenses while they’re with your relatives.

  • Consider changing your work schedule or working from home

Juggling work schedules can be challenging, but choosing to work different hours so you can avoid paying for child care could be worth it. If your spouse works during the day, consider a position you could work evening hours, or vice versa. It may not be the most appealing arrangement, but might only be necessary for a short time or a few years. More and more jobs are also allowing the flexibility of working from home. If your career field is one of these, look for employment opportunities that will allow you to work from home, at least part time. If you’re desire is to be a stay-at-home parent, research jobs you can do from home such as online writing, accounting, web-developing, computer programing, and more.

Whatever your child care situation, look for ways you can trim some expense and even some stress. Above all, do what’s right for your kids no matter what the cost.

Bonus Tip:

You can seriously cut your Internet and TV costs. Find a Verizon FiOS promotion code here and you might be able to spend less every month.

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