Raising a child and balancing work life is a challenge as it is. Here in Canada, raising an infant can be expensive, with a huge chunk of the expense going towards childcare.
As a parent, making choices about child care is important. You want your child to be happy, safe and in an environment that is consistent with your family values and philosophies.
Here are some tips on how to save money on childcare.
1. Start Your Search Early
In order to secure affordable child care, you need to start your search early. Waiting lists can be long for child care providers, so do your research and start in advance to find the option that fits your family and your budget.
If you don’t do this, you may be forced to select a child care option that is not as budget friendly.
2. Childcare Swap with Family or Friends
For occasional child care, consider arranging a swap with trusted friends or family members who also have kids.
A child care swap basically means that you babysit for others and then they return the favour when you need it.
If you don’t have family or friends to swap babysitting with, consider a service like Sitswap, which connects parents for babysitting exchanges.
Other sites like sites like SwapCity.ca and Kijiji also have sections where families are looking for child care swaps.
Here is a great article from Aaron about The Nanny Share and another by Amy about The Babysitting Swap.
3. Hire Grandparents or Other Relatives
Do you have grandparents or relatives who would love to have more time bonding with your child(ren)?
It’s likely that they would love to help you out and spend time with your child. Simply ask them if they would be able to take care of your kids for a few days per week, for free or an inexpensive amount.
This would be a win-win for everyone. You get free (or cheap!) child care, and your relatives get to spend more time with your kids.
When it comes to family, don’t be afraid to ask. They are usually happy to help.
4. Stagger Your Work Schedules
If you have a two-parent household, try to arrange your work schedules to reduce the amount of time that child care is needed.
You’d be surprised at how much you can save on child care, just by scaling back on the number of hours or days that you need it.
5. Work From Home
Working from home has its benefits, but I also understand that it’s not for everyone.
I have been working from home since I was 18, but I have only been working from home with a child for 3 years – and I’m still not quite used to it. Now that we have added another child to the mix, it’s even more of a challenge. It’s definitely not easy, but it works for our family.
We do pay for child care a few times per week so that I can get some work done, but most of the time I am here with the kids.
Working from home is a great way to save on child care. How much you save will depend on your situation – the type of job you have, the age and number of children you have and the support system you have at home.
Most times, working from home doesn’t mean that don’t need any child care at all, but it can reduce the amount you need.
6. Quit Your Job and Stay Home
I know that this will not work for everyone, but it is certainly an option for some.
If your spouse makes a decent income that can support your family, you may be able to quit your job and become a stay-at-home parent. You don’t have to stay home forever – just until your children are in school, or you can afford quality child care.
Readers Digest has an interesting article about this, titled “Can you afford to be a stay-at-home parent?“.
Financial Programs to Off-Set Your Costs
Child Care Subsidies
Quebec is the only province in Canada that offers a subsidized universal day care program.
For the rest of Canada, there are different child care subsidies available to lower income families. Eligibility and the amount you receive depend on your area.
DaycareCanada.com has published this list of daycare subsidy programs across Canada.
Child Tax Benefit
The Child Tax Benefit provides money to families that qualify, to assist with the costs of raising children.
This is a non-taxable monthly payment that is based on your family net income (click here for an idea of how much you can get).
To be eligible to receive the Child Tax Benefit, you must be a Canadian resident that is the primary caregiver for a child under the age of 18. Either you, or your spouse or common-law partner, must be a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, temporary resident living in Canada for the past 1 1/2 years, or a protected person.
Universal Child Care Benefit
The Universal Child Care Benefit is a $100 monthly payment (per child) made to Canadian families with children under age 6.
If you already receive the Child Tax Benefit, then you will automatically receive the UCCB.
Childcare is definitely not an area where you want to go cheap. Quality of care and reliability is very important.
What will work for your family will depend on factors like the age of your children, the type of care you need and other circumstances.