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5 Tips for Cheaper Child Care

When my husband and I lived in Syracuse, New York while attending grad school, there were three hours of each week that our son had to be in daycare. For the most part, our schedules could be arranged so that one of us could watch our son while the other attended class. We both worked on homework together after our son went to bed.

But there was that three hours each week that didn’t work out. That three hours each week cost us $200 a month, since we wanted our son at the best daycare/preschool, and we wanted one convenient to our apartment. We were relieved to move to Utah several years ago, where child care is much, much less expensive.

Child care costs are on the rise — just like almost everything else. For many consumers, child care is one of the costs that comes with raising children [3]. And it can cost thousands of dollars a year. If you looking for a little break on your child care costs, here are 5 ideas:

1. Tax Break

You can get tax breaks for your child’s care. You can take the Child and Dependent Care Credit, as well as use a flexible-spending account to help you pay for child care costs with pre-tax dollars. Understand, though, that there are different requirements and limits for these tax breaks. Sometimes, your flexible spending account [4] affects your eligibility fort he Child and Dependent Care Credit. Make sure you take these tax breaks in a way that allows you to maximize your benefits.

2. Make Use of Non-Profit Programs

Instead of going to a pricey daycare center, consider using non-profits. There are a number of these programs that cost less than you would pay for something that counts as a private business. Find out if your local church offers a low-cost daycare/preschool. Look to the YMCA, or some other local center. You might be surprised at what you find. Your kids will have access to activities and programs, and you can save money.

3. Form a Babysitting Co-op

If you have the time and ability, you can form a babysitting co-op. Get together with other parents in your neighborhood, and take turns watching each other’s children. You can all chip in for the cost of snacks and activities, and rotate who has the children on what days.

Another option is to arrange a nanny share. This is when you go in with another family. You split the cost of the nanny, and the nanny watches all the children.

4. Ask a Neighborhood Teen

For those that only need childcare after school, a neighborhood teen might be just what you are looking for. Teen babysitters often cost less than nannies or centers. You can pay the teen to do light housework as well as watch your children. As long as you feel as though there is someone you can trust in your neighborhood, and know they are responsible, this can be an elegant solution.

5. Look for Good Deals

Another option is to look for good deals on child care. Web sites like Sittercity.com [5] can help connect you with childcare providers in your area. You can even name your own price. At the very least, you can put out a price, and then negotiate from there. Being able to negotiate can make a big difference in what you pay.

(Photo: Ed Yourdon [6])