It’s no secret to anyone that caring for a child is expensive and complicated. Not only is quality childcare costly, but it is also challenging to find. Even though a 2016 Department of Health and Human Services stated families should not spend more than 7% of their income on child care, a 2018 report found there is no state in the entire U.S. where parents can actually follow that recommendation.
In 2017, U.S. parents spent, on average, $9,000 for a single child’s daycare. This is roughly 7.5% more than in the years before, and costs are only getting higher and higher. Concerns over childcare costs are urging working parents to find alternatives to traditional daycare centers; alternatives that won’t burn a hole in their pockets.
If traditional daycares become too expensive to handle, and being a stay-at-home parent is not an option, you will be pleased to know there are other options to choose from. We listed 6 of those options below so that you can start doing research and choose one that won’t jeopardize the family’s budget.
Ask friends and family to jump in
Your family is there to support you, so why not ask them to help with the children once in a while? Call your parents, in-laws, siblings, or a good friend and ask if they have some hours to spare and come take over some of the childcare duties.
You may not be able to do this every time, but once in a while, when you want to cut down on sitter expenses, your family can jump in and help. If your in-laws take the children 2 days a week and your parents do the same for two more days, you only have one workday to worry about, and that can easily be arranged with a sitter.
Sharecare with other parents
Share-caring has become a very popular option for parents who can’t afford the full cost of a nanny, and it works very similarly. Instead of hiring three separate sitters, hiring one together with two other families will cost much less. Of course, no babysitter will agree to watch over 10 kids at the same time, but two or three are manageable.
If you and your friends have similar schedules, why not get the kids together, either at your house or theirs, and hire a nanny to take care of them. Nannies typically charge by the hour, not by the number of kids, so you can split the costs between two households easily, and it becomes a win-win situation for both you and the children because they will have friends to spend time with. What’s more, if children are together and engage one another in fun activities, the nanny will have fewer things to worry about.
Consider day camps
Day camps are fun places where children can learn, play, and form meaningful connections with others their age. While it is true day camps are not exactly inexpensive, there are plenty of programs for budget-conscious parents, so all you need to do is search for one. Camps in Queens, for example, have become very popular, as they are in the heart of the city and don’t involve needing to drive for hours to get to the camp grounds.
At day camp, children learn to develop their practical skills, are surrounded by trained and experienced caretakers, and can develop friendships much faster, which will help with their overall development. And because camp counsellors are trained to interact with children, you can be at peace knowing your little one is in good hands.
In-home daycare is also an option
In-home daycare is much less expensive than traditional daycare and can be easily found online. You can either ask for the caretaker to come to your house or bring the children to their location. Caretakers who use their home for this usually from small groups of 3-5 children, meaning there will be a better staff to child ratio and your kid will get more attention.
When contacting the in-home caretaker, make sure to ask how many children are in a group and check with the local legislation, because many states have laws in place when it comes to how many children a caretaker can oversee. Schedule a visit to see what a typical day for children in their care looks like and decide if it could be a good fit for you.
Ask your local school about programs
Some schools offer childcare programs for preschool children, to help kids accommodate for when they will actually start going to school. These programs are usually free or require little expenses, as they are a way for schools to promote themselves and attract new students. If parents are content with their day care services, then they may consider enrolling their kids there when they are old enough to start school.
Call your local schools and ask if they provide similar programs, then see what they have to offer. Some provide half-day care, while others provide full-day care, so it is up to you to decide which option suits your needs best.
Offer room and board to a student or undergrad
Hiring an au pair is a very popular, but also pretty expensive, which leaves parents with other alternatives, such as offering a student or undergrad room and board in exchange for childcare services. This is especially useful if you have a non-traditional working schedule and need someone to be at home all the time.
Room and board translate to housing and food, which means you let a student live in your house for free, and in return, they take care of your children. You can jump in an offer an hourly pay as well, but you have a very high chance of finding students who are willing to take on the job in exchange for accommodation only.
If you choose this option, make sure you discuss everything out and set clear guidelines, so both you and the caretaker are on the same page when it comes to expectations. Otherwise, the collaboration may become difficult to maintain.