If you have young kids and work a full 9-5, you know that childcare is not cheap. Daycares, nannies, au-pairs; all the traditional childcare options have a way of eating a big chunk of your monthly household budget. So it's no wonder that families everywhere are looking for ways to reduce the cost of childcare down to a minimum without sacrificing the quality of care for their children.
For any parent looking to reduce the costs of childcare, we have a few helpful techniques that other parents are already successfully putting to use:
1) Take Turns Babysitting with Friends or Neighbors
One of the best ways to save on childcare is to work with your neighbors and parent-friends. If you know other parents with kids, ask to swap free babysitting services based on whoever has the time or needs the favor. Families with one parent home after school might be happy to watch your kids in return for the occasional weekend date-night where you watch their kids. If you have weekdays instead of weekends off, take a 'turn' in the babysitting rota for your network of parent-friends and they'll do the same.
This is also a great way to build an emergency network of potential babysitters just in case.
2) Let Your Kids Go Home with Friends
If your kid has a best friend they want to go home with every single day, the right option might be to say "yes". Investigate the friend to make sure there's a responsible adult (or reliable teen older sibling) present after school, then give the go-ahead. Any afternoon your child is spending with their friends, supervised by the friend's relatives or babysitter, that's one afternoon you don't have to pay for childcare.
Just be ready to do a little favor-for-favor with the parents later on in return for the kindness.
3) Sitter-Share With Another Family
Another great way to approach discount childcare is to share a sitter. If you have a good parent friend who lives nearby, your kids can all go to one house where a hired sitter or local teen can watch them for pay. Then you and the other family split the costs, allowing both families to save money. You can even up the sitter's wages to account for the extra kids without breaking the bank, because neither family has to pay the full price for an afterschool sitter.
4) Video Chat Afterschool Supervision
If you have older kids (middle school and above), then you may not actually need to hire childcare. Older children are capable of taking basic care of their younger siblings including making snacks and calling for help when necessary. Especially if they have some form of adult supervision to rely on.
The best way to provide that supervision for kids home alone after school is through video chat. If possible at your work, you can simply open up your laptop to maintain a constant video chat connection with your kids. It's almost like doing the babysitting yourself because you can provide all the advice and oversight your kids need even if you are not physically present to make the PBJs and check the homework.
5) Check on Church and Home Daycares
Finally, if you really need daycare, there are low-cost options that you can trust. Church daycares, for example, often offer childcare at a discount compared to commercial for-profit childcare facilities. Especially for very small children who need to be watched all day while you are at work. Home daycares are another low-cost alternative, often run by stay-at-home parents or empty-nester grandparents who are happy to welcome up to a dozen local children into their care each day.
When your kids need childcare, don't think you're trapped into over-paying daycare prices. Modern parents are working together to help provide free or shared-cost childcare when it's needed most. Make friends with parents, and the parents of your kid's friends, to build a network of parent-allies in the quest for low-cost high-quality childcare.