By contributing writer Laura
Whether you’re currently a happy housewife or happy working mom, your children and their care is extremely important. Over the past few years I’ve transitioned from a stay-at-home mom role to part-time working mom. One thing I know many working moms struggle with is finding good child care without breaking the bank.
And I’m not the only one. According to the Department of Labor and Statistics, today more than half of all new moms go back to work, when their infants are younger than 1 year old, and need to find affordable and safe day care options. It’s reported in 35 states and Washington DC, the cost of center-based day care is now higher than the cost of a year of a public college. That is a pretty penny! So what are some ways to cut down the costs if child care is a necessity for your family?
Do your research to find child care options that fit in your budget. I recommend beginning your research online, and then start the process of visiting child care providers’ homes or centers, checking licensing and obtaining referrals from other parents. That whole process can be quite tedious and time-consuming, which is why you need to take advantage of resources that make the process less stressful and keep you organized.
One time and sanity saving website for parents looking for day care and preschool options is CareLuLu. CareLuLu.com is a new, free online resource, created by parents for parents, that collects all the important information on local day care and preschools, including tuition. It allows parents to compare and research child care providers on one platform. CareLuLu currently covers the Washington DC metropolitan area, where I live (and where child care is pretty expensive) with plans to expand into other markets in the near future.
Ask prospective child care providers if…
…they are able to offer a discount.
Let prospective child care providers know that price is an important factor to you. Simply asking for a discount or any current offer they can extend to you, whether through ad campaigns or coupons, could help you cut down costs.
…they can offer discounts for multiple children.
If you have more than one child, you can often get a discount for enrolling multiple children. I’ve heard that many daycare providers offer a 5-10% discount for additional siblings.
…you can bring your child to a free discovery day before committing.
Making sure your child is comfortable and enjoys the environment and staff is crucial before signing a contract. If you can determine this before enrolling them, you can prevent any cancellation fees you may incur when deciding it’s not a good fit for your child. Be sure to ask about attending a free discovery day to get a good feel for the child care environment.
…they’re willing to waive registration fees.
Once you’ve narrowed down your top choices for child care providers, another simple way to save money when enrolling your child is to ask for them to waive the registration fee. Many providers will waive it if you ask, which can easily save you $100-$200.
Cost & Time
Weigh the costs and benefits of working.
Make sure you identify all the costs associated with working — including transportation, gas, wardrobe, as well as child care. Considering your family’s financial situation and goals, plus what your budget allows, can help you make an informed decision on your child’s care.
Cut back on the days or hours you need child care.
If you have a family member that can help watch your child, even just one day a week, consider cutting back the days your child is in child care. This can help you save even more money, but be sure you have a reliable and fit caretaker plus an agreement that works.
My sister does this with her day care provider, and one day a week her toddler gets to spend quality time with his grandparents who are retired and excited to spend time with him.
If you’re navigating the day care and preschool scene for the first time, be sure to research, compare costs, and ask the right questions to get additional discounts.
Considering the importance of finding a safe, high quality child care provider as well as the financial investment involved, how does your family save money on child care? Leave a comment and share your tips!