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6 Ways to Save on Child Care in Canada


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 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. 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.

Click here for more information.

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.

How do you save on child care?


  1. Andrea

    As a HOME daycare provider in Ontario, we like to see when parents are interested, but there’s no need to look a year in advance for childcare in home daycares. A couple of months is all you need if looking for home daycares! The reason behind is that in Ontario, and being private (not with an agency), we’re legally only allowed 5 children, not including our own, under the age of 10. If a parent wants a spot that early, be prepared to pay the provider a fee, and a non-refundable deposit to save that child’s spot. We as providers have bills to pay as well!!!
    If the provider is with an agency, they have different rules that apply.

    IF you’re looking for a Child Care CENTER, then you WILL have to look at least a year in advance! Spots are usually taken, and there are waiting lists that you can go onto.


  2. vivian

    Any comments regarding to how to find a trustworthy home daycare?

  3. Katherine

    You can not put a price on quality child care and I personally will not cut corners to save a few bucks and jeopardize my child’s safety or quality of care. Cheap childcare equals cheap service! Unbelievable the places parents enrol their children in to save a few bucks! Be it a home daycare or center based, child care is expensive and there is no way around it if you are looking for a quality program.

  4. Andrea

    Vivian – RE: HOME DAYCARE

    Know what you’re looking for. Know the hours you need for your child. Know what price range you’re looking to pay (different areas have different rates, some are daily rates, others are weekly or monthly).
    Be aware that some providers are qualified so they charge more: Qualifications related to childcare could be and are not limited to: First Aid, CPR, ECE, DSW, etc.
    Be aware that some providers have a manual for you as clients to follow.
    Please be respectful of your providers rules and home and family members.
    Ask for references from your provider.
    Know that you’re the client, and the provider is the BOSS! As I tell my clients, My home, MY rules! 🙂
    Be sure that there’s a contract to sign.

    That’s all that I can think of right now!

  5. Katherine

    Andrea…..what city are you in?

  6. Andrea

    Katherine, I’m south of Ottawa.

  7. Katherine

    Andrea makes some very good points!

    I would also like to add that its important that the provider be professional because that reflects on her business and how she runs it. Make sure she has policies for parents and children to follow and YES a contract. Child care is a service and every service has a contract.

    Also, does she have daycare insurance? Does she network with other providers? Take related courses to keep up with trends and new methods? Does she offer tax receipts?

    Keep in mind what the going rate is for your area. If its $35-$45 per/day and you come across a provider that is offering her services for much less, then you have to ask yourself “What is she cutting back on?”

    Do your research, ask the right questions and in the end, you will get a “gut feeling” when you find the right one.

  8. Katie

    Hi MrsJanuary, how lucky you have found oppurtunities to work inside the home since you were 18, May I ask what they were? When I am done Mat leave I would L.O.V.E to be able to stay home with my kids.. I don t want to leave them:( but I dont want to NOT work.. Technically, yes we could afford it but I like to be able to save for there educations and do “extras” like renos and tips

  9. CD

    Great article! I never planned to be a stay at home parent but after 3 kids it just sort of happened. The day care costs for the 3 of them would have ate up about 90% of my paycheque so after weighing all the options we decided that it wasn’t really worth it for me to go back to work. My MIL looked after my first child when I went back to work and that was a disaster. I would not do that again. It’s been good so far and we’ve had to be very frugal but I’m glad we made that choice. I am however, looking forward to going back to work in 2 years when the youngest finally starts school.

  10. Virginia

    Alot of people think they they can’t afford not to go back to work, but it turns out they can’t afford TO work. I have a couple of friends who went back to work after their mat leave because they needed the second income, but after adding up child care costs, the expense of a second vehicle and insurance, a work wardrobe and buying lunch out, they were actually PAYING to work. One friend ended staying home and one cut her hours in half and works when her husband is home with the kids. Something to think about.

  11. Lea

    I decided to stay home with my little ones until they are both in school full-time. As mentioned by other posters, I couldn’t afford to work. After full-time daycare for two, and all of my work “costs”, I was only ahead by a little bit. Add on the stress of having to leave everyday at 4:30 on the dot to get to the daycare on time, eating more processed food to cut down on meal time prep and sick days; I would definitely be in the hole. I’m planning on trying to find something either part-time or at home when time comes so I can be home for sick days, PA days, holidays and allowing myself time in the week to do housework, groceries, etc. and volunteer at the school. We want weekends to be family time, not house cleaning time!

    I found my daughter’s homecare provider on Kijiji of all things. We both (myself and my daughter) went for a visit before I signed the contract for both sides to see if we were a fit. We had a great experience with homecare.

  12. Anne

    Make sure to ask about sibling discounts if you are trying to find care for more than one children. A lot of dayhome providers I spoke to were willing to offer a bit of a discount for multiple children. And as we all know – every little bit counts!

  13. Andrea

    Ann, please understand that even if you have multiple children, that most providers don’t provide discounts for families as we still have to buy food and supplies.

    Put it this way: If we give a discount, does that mean one of your children doesn’t get as much food?!

  14. Jan

    Please consider your long-term options BEFORE you decide to quit your job and stay st home with your children.

    Admittedly, I did work full-time after both my children were born. I was fortunate to have a wonderful sitter and day care.

    Here are my reasons for working:

    1. I firmly believe that every woman should have independent means of income. A husband is not a financial plan. Don’t assume because you have a wonderful husband that it will always stay that way.

    2. Think long-term. If you take four or five (or even less) years off work, it will be very, very difficult for you to re-enter the work force. Your skills will be outdated and your contacts long gone. Jobs are hard to find these days.

    3. Think really long term. Think pension benefits. If you don’t work, your pension benefits will reflect your decrease in income. My SIL never worked outside the home and now that she is 65 has very little income. She is living below the poverty line and, guess what, her children won’t help her out at all. Not that all adult children are ungrateful, it’s just that these children are self-centred and spoiled. Women must be practical and think of their future. 68% of all women over 65 are single and living without a male in the house.

    4. Child care is tax deductible.

    I understand that day care expenses are high and it may seem that the cost is hardly worth it to work full time. In my case, I worked full time, took time off for two maternity leaves, then went back to work. I got to retire with good pension when I was 52.

  15. Angie

    Good points, Jan. Each of us has to weigh the pros and cons and a lot of it depends on how much income you make at your job in the first place, and how much child care costs in your area.

    One thing though, is that when you apply for CPP you can be “credited” for want of a better term the years you were at home with your children. My mom just retired a few years ago and she was able to do that, and partially make up for the years she wasn’t contributing to CPP.

  16. Katie

    If you put away the UCCB ($100/mnth) while you are on MAT leave in a savings account, you will have a good starting ground for paying for daycare when you go back to work

  17. Mike

    Andrea – I have had to use 3 different child care providers in the past 4 years (switched for reasons that were not related to poor care) and all three of them provided discounts for two kids. My current provider has a discount of 10.00 per day, keep in mind that these are toddlers and don’t eat much.

  18. Andrea

    Mike – It might be the area that you’re located in!

    Please remember that this is my opinion: this is MY INCOME! I choose to take care of other people’s children (I don’t have children of my own); your dentist/eye doc doesn’t give you a discount for having multiple children, so why should I!?

    My toddlers/preschoolers eat way more than the school-agers!!!! lol

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