The first lesson of Parenting 101 is that having a child is expensive! As the decades roll by, the cost of raising a child has been increasing steadily. Your grandma will be surprised to hear just how much you spend on your child, and no, it’s not all unnecessary luxuries like most older people seem to think. Although inflation has a major role to play in the increasing of childcare costs (like all other costs, in general), that’s not all it is.
Families are struggling to support themselves and their children under the weight of all the expenses. Another thing that has changed in the passing decades is that more women are focused on their careers, compared to their ancestors who would see childrearing as their main purpose in life. But for some working mothers, it’s not just about growing a career because most just cannot afford to live on a single income.
Either way, this means that they have to put a lot of money into services like daycare or getting a nanny. Even these are not available 24/7, so it’s not like there’s a one-size-fits-all solution to childcare. Of course, parents always want the best for their children, but there are several ways in which you can look to minimize costs while also ensuring that your precious little ones get the best facilities and caregivers.
1. Nanny Sharing
Hiring a nanny/au pair or putting the child in a nursery/daycare is the most common solution to childcare when the parents are working. Choosing which option is best will depend on family to family. While things like the particular child’s interest and personality as well as the trustworthiness and reliability of the facilities available are the main criteria for selection, your budget is also a big thing to consider.
If you’ve considered all the pros and cons of daycare and are satisfied, by all means, go for it. Or if you can afford it, you can get a nanny or au pair who lives with you full-time. But if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, consider nanny sharing with a trusted friend or neighbor. This will save you a ton of money in the long run, and your kid gets to socialize with other children of their age!
2. Babysitting Circle
Many communities have babysitting circles or babysitting co-ops where participating parents trade babysitting hours with each other. They take turns throughout the week and get paid in child-free time! Every time you babysit, the number of hours you did get credited to your account. When someone else does the same for your kids, it gets deducted. This may even make your life easier when you do have the kids because they can play together and socialize.
If your community doesn’t have a babysitting co-op, you can be the first to start one! If you joined a new mom group when your baby was born, you may already know several moms with similar-aged children who you’ve gotten to know pretty well. You can start by doing a few group activities with the mothers and children so that everyone involved is comfortable with each other.
3. Flexible Work Opportunities
In today’s job environment, there are more jobs than ever that lend themselves to work-from-home opportunities. Flexible work hours, part-time jobs, freelance, remote work, etc. are all becoming more popular. Consider switching jobs or talking to your boss so you can work from home at least some of the time. Or you can consider taking up a night shift job so your spouse can be at home when you’re not. This way, you’ll only need to pay for daycare on the days when either of you won’t be at home with the kids.
4. Government Concessions for Childcare
Many countries around the world make an effort to make the job of the parent easier, so if you live in one of them, make use of it! In fact, you may not even know all the concessions your government has for parents, so educate yourself first.
For instance, Tax-Free Childcare is a program in the UK where the government contributes to a portion of a family’s childcare expenditure. In the US, the Child and Dependent Care Credit is a tax deduction available to those paying childcare expenses. Sweden offers paid parental leave and tax-subsidized daycare, along with Child Allowance and even Large Family Allowance for families with more than 2 children.
5. Free or Cheap Activities
Kids of today seem to need loads and loads of activities from sports camps to piano lessons. Unfortunately, this can all prove to be quite expensive, especially during summer or winter holidays when school-age children are bored and need to be occupied constantly.
Short of shipping them off to grandma’s house for a few days, you can try to find cheaper activities that are fun and educational at the same time. Spend time at places that cost you very little or nothing at all, like the beach, park, or a library during storytime. Kids can even get a kick out of visiting places like the museum or fire station (most will give you a tour) which can be fun and educational. Volunteer work or community clean-up days can teach them loads as well. Another good way to keep costs down is to get together with your parenting community to organize events for your kids. You can do movie nights, sports days, scavenger hunts, art competitions, etc.
6. Ask for Help
While we realize that this may not be a viable option for everyone, especially those who do not have family around, it is still something that is available to many. You can even consider asking close friends who already spend time with your kids. Even if you think your parents or siblings won’t like to look after your children, it wouldn’t hurt to ask, would it? You may be surprised at how willing they are, especially the child’s grandparents. After all, they say it takes a village to raise a child.
Being away from you can help your child bond with their grandparents, aunties, uncles, etc. as they share some alone time. Just be aware that this may not be a full-time solution or that they may expect you to compensate for the expenses they incur on your kids’ behalf.
7. Move Houses
This may sound like quite a drastic solution, but there are several areas (even in your own city) where childcare costs such as daycare and even the general cost of living are lower than others. This can help reduce your overall expenses as a family. Or you could consider moving closer to family members who are willing to help out for free.