The cost of childcare in the US might literally give you a heart attack. I remember the first time I looked into daycare left me astonished. It was very hard to swallow. My kids mean the world to me and I want them to go somewhere that they are well cared for and feel safe. The problem is I also have to be able to afford it.
I love my kids but I also really enjoy getting out of the house and working. I think it’s not only good for myself, but also for my children to see me go to work and have a purpose outside of them. I love that they are learning that there are other safe people in this world and that they can learn to interact with other children.
I will admit I did sit down and look at the numbers and realize after taxes I either needed to get a higher paying job or be okay with the fact that almost all of my income was going to childcare. Did it even make sense for me to do what I do and only bring home a few dollars an hour after paying for childcare? This may be a question you are currently asking yourself. Luckily, I do have some creative suggestions that may help you to find affordable childcare options.
- What is the cost of childcare?
- Why is it so hard to find affordable childcare?
- 6 creative affordable childcare options
Table of Contents
What Is The Average Cost of Childcare In The US?
The cost of childcare is skyrocketing, and for single parent families that can eat up over 30% of your income. Childcare is in some areas of the country more expensive than college tuition in a year. For base standards of care at a childcare center in the US the average is 15k/yr for an infant, 13k/yr for a toddler, and 10k/yr for a preschool age child. If you prefer to send your child to a licensed at home childcare it is an average of 13k/yr. Now this will vary depending on where you live. We need more affordable childcare options in this country.
Why Is Affordable childcare So Hard To Find?
To give the quality care that is expected and maintain quality care givers can be very costly. Even with you paying these outrageous prices for childcare it is most likely still not sufficient to provide your childcare workers a decent wage and provide them with benefits. Hence, why it is so hard to keep quality care givers.
I personally have had to be rather creative with our childcare to make it reasonable for me to continue to work. Working 12 hour shifts as a nurse has allowed me to be much more creative, but has not always benefited my health and wellness. I advise you to not only take into consideration if you can do it, but should I do it. If your solution is one that will be very challenging I recommend that it is not your long term fix. Your mental and emotional health is important to your family’s happiness.
Start considering childcare in your first trimester, because waitlists are long and there is a real lack of affordable childcare in this country. You also don’t need the stress of finding a affordable childcare that is safe for your child during your maternity leave.
6 Creative Childcare Options
If you are at a place financially where sending your children to a typical childcare setting is breaking your budget here are some creative affordable childcare options that may ease your financial burden.
The cost of a nanny is often more expensive than your typical childcare setting. However, the cost to add an addition child is typically only a few more dollar an hour instead of an additional tuition cost. You may be able to find a friend that is also in need of childcare that you can share the cost of a nanny for both of your children. There are many options to finding a nanny. I would recommend reaching out on Facebook neighborhood groups, local college job boards, or online care portals (care.com, Sittercity, urban sitter).
- You know the other kids your child will interact with
- The childcare cost is shared
- Child could be cared for in your home or your friend’s home
- Have to do the work to find someone you trust
- Who will care for the children if your nanny is sick or wants to go on vacation
Childcare Exchange with Friends
This may work if you work part time or have some other working mom friends that have similar work schedules. As a nurse I only work 3 days a week to reach my full time status. I could easily find another co-worker with children and always work opposite days each week. This may be a great way for you to share the child care burden without the cost. Whether you have a flexible schedule like myself or could alternate part time schedule with a friend this could eliminate child care costs entirely. You watch their children when they are at work and they watch your children while you are at work.
- Can cut your cost almost entirely
- Your children will play with other children you know
- They are with another adult that you trust
- They will be in your home or at a trusted friend’s home
- May be difficult to find someone you trust to work with
- You don’t really ever have a day off
Be an Entrepreneur
This is a technique that my mom chose for our family growing up. Honestly I had great memories. I’m sure it may have been a little difficult for her at times with so many children, but it allowed her to stay home with us as kids and make some money.
Starting your own childcare business in your home could give you that additional income and purpose while still staying home with your children. You can build it as big or small as you are comfortable. There may also be some great tax benefits and grants out there to help you get all the supplies you need to start up.
- You work in your own home
- You can stay home with your own kids and still make money
- You set the rules and determine your price
- Time intensive to start
- Work to establish and maintain clients
Offer Room and Board
If you have an extra room with a bathroom in your home or an in-law suite that you don’t currently use, this may allow for you to offer that space in exchange for childcare. I had a friend that worked for a family while in college to cover her housing costs. You may also pay them an additional rate that is significantly lower than typical costs because you are offering them housing. This will all depend on what you determine to be fair and what a childcare provider is willing to accept.
- Significantly decrease your costs
- Caregiver becomes part of your family
- Using an asset you already possess.
- It may be difficult to find someone that integrates well into your life that you trust
- Living in your home with your nanny
Alternating Work Schedules
Maybe you don’t need to hire anyone at all to watch your children or rely on a daycare. If you and your spouse have flexible schedules you may decide to alternate childcare. I worked with many people that have made this choice. A lot of nurses end of marrying paramedics, doctors, law enforcement, or firefighters. They often had the option of working different shifts as we need these types of people to help us at all hours of the day. One may choose to work the morning shift while the other works the evening or night shift. There may be a few hours a day that overlap that a family member can help or a babysitter could be home with your children.
- Your childcare costs are minimal to none
- Your children are spending most of their time with a parent
- Less time to spend with your spouse
- Not a lot of free time out of work
Family Members or Friends
With these rising costs many parents are choosing to involve grandparents or other family members and friends in their childcare team. A lot of grandparents enjoy the extra one on one time that they get to spend with their grandchildren. They may not be your full time choice but can help out a few days a week. You may use multiple family members to ease your burdens. Perhaps your children go to stay with your mom and dad M, W, F and stay with your spouse’s parents T, Th. There are many options and again this comes down to your creativity and working within your network of loved ones.
- Children get to spend more time with family members
- Family members build greater bonds with your children
- Typically they are people you trust
- Often this is at no cost to you
- May require more planning
- May not be reliable with aging parents that may have more health concerns
Finding affordable and quality childcare can be done. It may take a bit of creativity and a little extra work. It may even be a better situation for your child than a typical daycare center. Having some options and ideas will hopefully allow you to think outside the box and find something that works for you and your family. These children are so precious and you want the very best for them. It can be a challenge but just remember this is also just a season of life. Our children will grow and one day no longer need childcare. We will have new things to worry about but at least childcare won’t be one of them!
Jess is a registered nurse with over 6+ years of critical care experience for patients young and old and is the mother of two small children. After having her own children she felt inspired to provide mothers with real actionable guidance and education to make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy and postpartum experience.