Childcare is such an important subject. It goes to the heart of why we live our lives the way we do. If you are leaving your precious baby or young child for most of the day so that you can provide for them, it HAS to be worthwhile.
You need a good option – no, a GREAT option. Someone who cares for your child. Someone for whom your child is more than work. Who will help your little one develop and be there when they need hugs and reassurances.
The person or nursery you choose is responsible for your most treasured possessions.
So you can’t put a price on good childcare – or can you?
This means that there’s more than money to consider here but you can still make savings and ensure high quality care for your kids. From finding efficiencies to trying a childcare swap, you have viable options to explore.
Help with childcare costs for working parents can be found from government sources too so don’t forget to find out if there’s anything you are entitled to.
If your budget is tight and you’re wondering how to save on childcare, see if any of these hacks could help.
You might be able to save hundreds per month by implementing one or more of these ideas.
Let’s get started!
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How to save on childcare
If you’re back at work, childcare is probably sucking away a LOT of your salary. Let’s look at how to make your childcare use as efficient as possible.
If you want to get right away from paying for childcare – or reduce the number of days per week you pay for – here are two ways to do that.
Do a childcare swap with a friend
If it works for you, this method is the BEST!
You are not paying AND you are not taking from someone without giving back. Your child will even have another child to play with!
If you have a working friend with a child, consider a childcare swap. If you take their child for a day, they could look after your little one for a day in return.
This is only going to work if you can provide childcare for your friend on a day when they work but you do not.
Clearly, it’s not going to be an option if you both work full time but if you CAN make it work, the savings could be HUGE.
Before you float the idea to your friend, consider what you know about her or him and how likely they are to fit your needs.
Questions to ask yourself about a would-be childcare swap partner
Do you think your friend would be a reliable provider?
Is this a person who always turns up when they say they will or do they forget playdates and cancel coffee at the last minute? Think about this before even suggesting a childcare swap so you don’t end up backing out and harming your friendship.
You need a reliable person because if they let you down, you could have to take time off work at short notice to care for your child. Ultimately, you could end up looking bad at work, so choose carefully.
Saving money in the short term isn’t worth wrecking your reputation at work over. You stand to lose much more money than you save if you are passed over for promotion because you aren’t seen as reliable any longer.
Does their parenting style align with yours?
You will need to establish some boundaries and ground rules from the start. Talk through potential situations that might arise, such as the other person’s child refusing to do as they are asked or hitting your child. How will you each respond?
This matters because it could be a source of frustration for you if your friend disciplines your child in a way you find inappropriate or does not do enough to put a stop to negative situations.
You should also discuss which activities you each would do with the children and what food you might serve for the same reason. It’s in your interests to be sure that they will care for your child as you would like or it probably won’t work out.
To have the best chance of an arrangement that will benefit you both – and save you both money – have an in depth discussion before you begin. It could save you a lot of hassle down the line.
Good old grandma.
Many grandparents provide free childcare day in, day out to help their kids reduce their childcare bills. As long as the grandparents are fit and well, it’s a win-win because extra time with the grandkids is top of their wish list too.
So, if your parents or your partners’ are willing to provide childcare for free, give it serious consideration. It might not be what you’d choose in an ideal world, but the savings might be worth it.
Questions to ask yourself about potential childcare from a grandparent
Would it be too much of an imposition?
Are the grandparents very old or infirm? If you feel that they would not be able to cope with the demands of looking after an active young child, it might be a no-go.
Would you child be receiving the kind of care you want?
When the grandparent is with your child, do they treat them the way you would like? Do they engage them in activities or park them in front of the TV? Do they fill your child with sweets and cakes despite your protests? These are red flags and you should proceed with caution. Are you so badly in need of savings that you can accept any issues you identified?
Would it be reliable?
If the grandparents live a distance away or have health problems, they might not be the best choice.
Even if childcare is free, it NEEDS to be reliable because you NEED to be reliable for your work. If you think the grandparent won’t show up or is likely to be ill a lot, thank them and look for childcare elsewhere.
If you will still need paid childcare, you can still reduce your bill by using it as efficiently as possible.
Only use the hours you actually need
It’s not always easy to reduce childcare hours but if you want to save money it’s something you should try to do.
First, think about your own use of time at work.
Do you spend time chatting at work (I do this!) when you could be getting things finished and leaving earlier ? Think about how you could avoid those situations where you end up chatting instead of working.
It’s important to have time to talk to other adults – after all, that’s one of the plus sides of working outside the home – but if it means you use more childcare hours, you probably need to cut down.
If you could work differently and get away half an hour earlier, you could potentially save 2.5 hours per week – over a month that would be over ten hours saved.
Discuss your proposed reduction with your childcare provider. Bear in mind your contractual terms and the fact that you want a positive relationship with the person who is looking after your baby.
Explain what you want to achieve (reduced childcare costs) and ask if they can help you. It’s going to mean a reduction in their income so they may not be keen but if they want to keep you as a client they will hopefully try to accommodate you. You could always change childcare providers if you can’t reduce hours where you are.
Once you have reduced to the least possible hours, it’s time to consider whether any company or government schemes could help you pay less for childcare.
State help with childcare costs for working parents
Take advantage of any cost efficiencies that your government or employer provides. If you can get your childcare subsidised or pay for it from pre-tax salary, do it.
In the UK, we can request Childcare Vouchers through our employers to allow us to pay for childcare from pre-tax pay. This can mean savings of up to £90 per month per working parent – which is well worth having. There is also the Tax Free Childcare scheme, which may suit you better, depending on your circumstances.
Also ask your company whether they offer any childcare benefits, such as on-site daycare centres. Having your child in the same building, where you can visit during the day, is a great benefit for a working parent. Of course, you still have to consider how much the childcare costs.
If it’s super convenient but also super expensive, it might not be the solution you’re looking for.
If you implement ONE of these options, you will save money on childcare.
If you can use two or more – by doing a childcare swap one day and having a grandparent watch your child another day – you could save hundreds every month.
Remember though, to be open with your professional provider. It’s in everyone’s interests to maintain friendly relations and it could be worth paying a little more to keep the services of a great childcare provider.
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