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13 simple ways to save on child care

Tired of spending a fortune on child care? Here are some tips to help you cut costs.

By MSN Money Partner Jun 25, 2014 11:26AM

This post comes from Allison Martin at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyEver dreamed of owning your very own shiny Lamborghini? Turns out that by the time you are finished raising your child and he or she reaches the age of majority, you will have expended almost enough money to afford one.


Portrait of Little Girl © Radius Images, Radius Images, Getty ImagesAccording to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child for 18 years is $241,080, and that's not including college. Unless you're a stay-at-home parent, child care will more than likely be a part of the equation -- in some cases a very significant one.


Fortunately, there are ways to save on child care so you won't break the bank.


1. Plan ahead

If you have a solid idea of when you'll need care, don't wait until the last minute to commence your search. The high-quality, cost-efficient providers usually fill their spaces first, so secure your spot before the rush.


2. Check online databases

For a small membership fee, you can join websites such as Sittercity and Care.com that will enable you to query a database of local child care providers that are most suitable for you. What's even more beneficial is that all providers are screened, so you can retrieve a copy of their background check before moving forward.


3. Use private care

Are day care centers in your area too expensive for your budget? Try soliciting referrals from trusted friends and relatives about people who run in-home facilities. They are usually much more affordable and offer a smaller child-to-caregiver ratio. Says U.S. News & World Report:

In contrast to traditional day care facilities, family-run day cares are usually operated out of the provider's home, where she often cares for her own children at the same time. It's usually far less expensive than the traditional route.

4. Take advantage of employer-sponsored child care

On-site facilities at your place of employment may be another option. Employees are typically offered an incentive to enroll their kids, and they can also save money on gasoline and feel comfortable knowing that their children are just a few minutes away.


5. Review employee benefits

Inquire at the human resources department of your employer to find out if any dependent care programs or discounts are offered. An example is Bank of America's arrangement with Bright Horizons through the Backup Care Advantage program. Qualified employees are offered a set number of days annually of backup care at a discounted rate, and a small percentage off with select providers.


6. Split the duties

Establish or join a baby-sitting co-op in your neighborhood. But remember that you must give your time in order to receive, so you'll have to carefully consider if this type of arrangement is right for you.


Lisa McLellan, a professional child care provider and founder of BabySittingWorld.com, told U.S. News:

It works well for people who work part-time hours, and it's a wonderful alternative to paying hourly for an occasional baby sitter. On a more informal basis, two parents can simply trade caregiving hours with each other for a few hours a week. If one parent has more children than the other, they can work it out with points like a baby-sitting co-op so that neither parent feels cheated.

7. Hire a student

Do you need someone to watch your children for a few hours until you arrive home from work? Try out a high school or college student to get the job done. This is the perfect way to keep your children occupied without spending a ton of money.


8. Explore income-based programs

Check out the Child Care Aware or Head Start Program in your local area. Also, visit the website of the Office of Child Care, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


9. Share a nanny

It may be cheaper for several families to share in the cost of a nanny. Then the kids would gather with the nanny every day. Just be sure to get everything in writing and agree to the terms and conditions beforehand. Care.com offers a helpful list of things you should consider to determine if a nanny share is right for you.


10. Ask relatives

Part-time care is an option if you have a reliable relative who can pick up the slack a few days a week. Grandparents and other retired family members may be the perfect candidates for the role.


11. Ditch the workforce

In some cases, the costs of child care may outweigh the benefits of working. "The cost of taking care of one's children outside the home is now so high that many women cannot be assured of both working and making a decent income after taxes and child care costs," says The New York Times.


To help make a decision, Parents.com offers a Stay at Home Calculator.


12. Fund a flexible spending account

You can contribute up to $2,500 ($5,000 for couples) per year in pretax income to a dependent care FSA offered by your workplace, which will lower your tax liability at the end of the year. The funds can be used for day care, preschool and summer day camp. But be sure you use it so you won't lose it.


13. Use federal and state tax credits

Savings on child care may also be available to you through both the state and federal government. Says NerdWallet:

The federal Child and Dependent Care Credit will reimburse 25 to 35 percent of your child care expenses incurred in order for you to work or look for work. The credit pays out up to $3,000 a year for a single child, or $6,000 a year for two or more. Child care expenses, in this case, include day camps as well as baby sitting. Further, 24 states offer additional dependent care credits.

Regardless of which option you take, safety is a top priority that should not be compromised.


Do you have any additional cost-cutting strategies?


More from Money Talks News

12Comments
Jun 25, 2014 1:13PM
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Fix this country, put the U.S. first, cut taxes and then maybe one parent can stay home and raise the children.
Jun 26, 2014 11:26AM
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Save 100% on child care---keep your legs crossed.  Problem solved.
Jun 28, 2014 11:23AM
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Just hop the border, have the baby here and let the stupid Americans pay for it,..until that baby is 85 years old.
Jun 28, 2014 11:05AM
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When I was a mere baby puppy, my parents saved on

childcare by living on one income until I became old

enough to enter puppy school. Thanks Mom and Dad..

Jun 28, 2014 6:00PM
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Grandma's house (free), part time work for her so Grandma did not burn out and two jobs for me worked until they started school. With both kids in school my wife went back to a full time hospital shift from 7-3  then would rush home to greet the 3:30 school bus while I got to drop job # 2. Easy no, doable then yes but doable now ? Good luck since most employer child care benefits are gone, Grandma still works, a college kid gets 20.00 per hour, ditch the job not for most, private 500.00 at week, split a nanny two plus hundred a week. fund a account not in this ecomany and those tax credits is just one of the reasons you are overtaxed to begin with. My kids are grown, no grand kids yet and with their students loans who knows if ever. Oh well I guess a puppy will have to do .
Jun 28, 2014 7:19PM
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Why are there tax credits for child care?  Isn't it enough that there is public education, nutritional assistance, supplemental income, housing, etc.?  How many people of the village have to pay for an irresponsible parent?  Yes I used the singular parent.  If one parent is not able to stay home and care for their child whose fault is it?
Jun 28, 2014 6:49PM
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That's easy, give them a Hispanic or misspelled name and call a Dumbocrat, every taxpayer in the country can share in the cost.
Jun 28, 2014 8:49PM
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This day and time if you have more than a couple of kids you are dumber than a rock or you are trying to increase your food stamps...... the woman pictured here looks worn out.
Jun 28, 2014 7:11PM
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If Old Man Bush would have used a 75 cents rubber, it might have saved the country billions of dollars.
Jun 25, 2014 11:53AM
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Get a helper monkey.  They are great at changing diapers.  Just don't let the kid star the monkey in the face or it will gouge out their eyeballs.
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