A major expense in raising a child

8 Ways to Reduce the Costs of Childcare

by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

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Childcare is expensive, whether you need an occasional sitter or full-time. According to Child Care Aware of America, the average American annually spends seven to more than 12 percent of their household income on childcare. The average New Yorker spends more than $25,000 on childcare costs a year. In Wisconsin, it's about $21,000. Texans pay around $17,000, and in California, it's more than $22,000. Even in the least expensive state for childcare, Louisiana, parents shell out about $10,600 annually. Save money with these savvy sitter strategies.

  • Barter for babysitting. Maybe you can trade a skill you possess for some occasional sitting time. Could you tutor a teen in algebra, groom a stay-at-home mom's dog, or proof a college student's term papers? Think about what you could offer someone who could watch your child a few hours a week and work out a schedule.
  • Trade babysitting. If you know another family who needs a sitter at different times than when you do, perhaps you can simply share the childcare duties with each other. From a much-needed night out to regular kid-free time, this strategy can help two families manage their childcare while fostering friendships among the children.
  • Take advantage of low-cost day camps, community children's programs, after-school programs, free church clubs and classes, library storybook or craft time, and other group activities for kids. These opportunities are both enriching for your child and money-saving for you. Some may require your presence, but you can bring along your tablet to get some work done. Ask other moms in your area, check your community's website, and read regional events calendars. You can work with other families or a responsible sitter to provide transportation if needed.
  • Ask relatives if your children's aunts, uncles, older cousins, and grandparents want to spend time with them. Consider where they should babysit. Your home may be better childproofed; however, the novelty of a new setting may elicit better behavior and provide more fun. Unless you arrange payment or barter, don't expect relatives to step up daily for babysitting. For most, weekly visits are just right. Others may feel this is too often, so discuss their comfort level and time constraints.
  • 8 Ways to Reduce the Costs of Childcare

  • Reduce your sporadic sitting needs. Can you figure out a way to bring your children along for some errands? Perhaps you can enlist an older neighbor kid to entertain your four-year-old in the waiting area for a few bucks while you get your hair cut. That would likely cost much less than hiring a sitter to come over. You could also plan errands like this for when your children attend their club or day camp.
  • Look for an in-home sitter. Large daycare centers must meet operating expenses like maintaining a facility, payroll, and licensure that an in-home sitter doesn't. You may find a great home-based sitter at a much lower rate. Some are retired teachers. Ask other parents, your pediatrician, and pre-K teachers. Review potential sitters' references and ask about any credentials, such as Red Cross CPR. Review your state's requirements for home-based childcare centers before considering providers to ensure they're compliant.
  • Reduce your regular sitting needs. If possible, consider talking with your employer about performing some of your work from home, such as a few half days per week. More and more employers understand advantages to flextime. If you provide enjoyable, creative toys and activities, your children can likely entertain themselves for long stretches as you work. You could also plan to work some after they're in bed.
  • Life is flexible. Is your job?
    Find flexible work at Flexjobs.com.

  • Work entirely at home. Many people find that the high cost of quality childcare makes working outside the home unprofitable. Whether freelancing or consulting in your current field or operating a different turnkey home business, you likely won't need much childcare if you work for yourself. Plan phone calls for a specific "quiet time" or during the children's naps if they're small and rely on more email and text for communication. If you operate a family-oriented business, such as selling custom cloth baby carriers, vendors and customers will feel more "forgiving" of occasional child sounds in the background. As another plus, you may be able to deduct a portion of your home's square footage and your business phone as business expenses (talk with your tax preparer).

No one can watch his/her children 100% of the time and providing a safe environment for your children is paramount; however, with a little planning, you can reduce your need for expensive childcare.

Deborah Jeanne Sergeant has been freelance writing since 2000. Connect with her online at www.skilledquill.net.

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