Daycare expenses out of control? Is child care more than your health care? Your monthly mortgage!? Don’t despair. As parents, single or not, we’ve all been there. In fact, penny pinching while finding a safe, nurturing environment for your child is a plight most face. Only those who have prepared to be stay at home parents or that can afford an au pair can avoid the inevitable. It seems that daycare expenses have gotten out of control, so read on to find out how to take control of one of the most daunting expenses in a parent’s life – child care!
First, let’s be frank. There is no easy fix for the issue or a “one size fits all” solution. Every parent has different expectations and must take that into consideration. As single parents, you shouldn’t have to sacrifice quality care because the budget is tight. So ask yourself the following:
- What kind of environment do I want my child to be in for 8 – 10 hours every day?
- Is a fancy college preparatory educational institute what my baby needs or is the nurturing care of an at-home daycare better suited, at least for now?
- What are the credentials of the people that work at the potential daycare? Are they young, educated, experienced, patient, welcoming, generally pleasant or are they strict, oblivious to the needs of kids, and/or overzealous?
- Is the prospective facility new, modern, well-stocked with toys and educational materials or more home-like but still well appointed?
- Does the play area look safe and inviting?
- How is the commute? The surrounding area?
- What feeling do I get when I enter the place? How would my child feel?
- Is the place reasonably priced or will I have to eat beans and rice to afford the fees?
- Are there any assistance programs available that will help subsidize the cost of child care? If so, where can I find out more information?
All of these are valid, yet not-exhaustive questions to consider, with the ultimate goal being to match your child care needs (and wants) with your financial capacity. Just because you may have a tight budget shouldn’t mean your child has to have compromised care. Let’s explore what really matters a bit more.
For really young children, having social skills is more important than getting prepared for college. In fact, most experts would agree that during the early years, say 3 and under, developing social skills and values will better prepare kids for life-long learning than anything else. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t be taught and engaged while at daycare, it just means that paying for an academically challenging nursery may not be the best use of your funds.
Carving out a few minutes every day to read to your child will provide much needed one on one time and will ensure that the child receives daily enrichment. Once the child reaches four years old, some states may offer early learning programs which can greatly reduce the cost of child care. In fact, if you qualify for one, the total cost of child care can be reduced by as much as $100 per week. That’s $400 per month! I’m sure that’ll put a smile on your face.
Think about it this way. Kids have a lifetime to learn, so laying the foundation is what matters most in the pre-primary years. As they matriculate through the school system, that’s when an academically advanced curriculum is more beneficial and will be free in public schools.
As a single parent, I chose an at home daycare for my kids run by a woman that was in her 50s, raised children of her own, and that valued teaching kids how to interact with each other, work together, and develop life skills. Infused with the curriculum was daily reading, outside play, listening, and working with manipulatives. There were never more than 10 children in her home, she had a dedicated room designed as her “classroom,” and featured home cooked meals for breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack. I wished I could cook like her!
The kids loved her and the lessons they learned about gratitude, showing kindness, and respect have been ingrained in them for a lifetime. Due to her care and my own interaction with my kids, they have always been deemed respectful and lovable. One even turned out to be academically gifted and talented!
When it comes to daycare, really consider what matters most and what you can afford. You don’t have to feel obligated to pay top dollar for lackluster results. Go with your gut and choose what’s best for your precious little gifts. Referrals are great too! Look for reviews and honest assessments of potential caregivers. Visit your top three choices at different times of the day and request a daily schedule. Show up unannounced just to see what is going on. This is one of the biggest decisions of your life. Make it count!
So what tips do you have for managing daycare costs? What questions would you like answered? Share in the comments below.
Happy Saving! Live Well!