Mother coloring with her kids

One of the most challenging aspects of being a working parent is knowing where to find affordable child care. The cost of child care for kids under five years old can be astronomical, but if you know where to look, there are many affordable options. Here are some examples.

Au Pairs

Many families decide to hire an au pair. An au pair is a person from another country who comes to live with you and works by taking care of your children and performing some housework, in exchange for room and board. This is a great option if you want your children to be exposed to an international culture and, possibly, another language. It’s also great if you need flexible child care throughout the day.

Keep in mind that when you hire an au pair, you have to provide them with their own room as well as meals and, often, even educational expenses. Longtime au pair agency Culture Care explains that au pairs on average cost $385 per week (whereas a nanny could cost more than $500 weekly). Costs can vary depending on how many amenities you’ll provide. For example, will you pay for your au pair’s gym membership or their iPhone? This will vary from family to family.

My husband and I considered hiring an au pair several times, but in the end we decided to hire a part-time nanny. Although we loved the idea of hosting an au pair, we have lived in small homes with only one bathroom. We thought it would be a challenge to add another adult to our house. However, if we lived in a larger home, it would definitely be an option worth exploring again.

In-Home Day Cares

One of the reasons that day cares can be so expensive is because of the overhead costs: owning or renting a building, hiring staff, managing supplies and paying for utilities. However, there is another option: in-home day cares.

In-home day cares are just like they sound: day cares that are operated out of someone’s home. Without expensive overhead like paying rent for a commercial building, an in-home day care often charges less. This is also a great option as a job for moms who are looking for a way to bring in extra income (just be sure to read up on the laws and licensure required to open one at your house).

You can find in-home day cares by asking friends and family members or by searching online at a place like Care.com. I’ve also seen many women advertising their in-home day cares on Facebook or on different online forums. I know of one in the neighborhood next to mine, and she simply gets business through word of mouth from her neighbors. My friends in that neighborhood love it because they can just walk their kids down the street to day care before heading off to work.

A Nanny Share

Hiring a full-time nanny is an expensive endeavor because this means you’ll likely be paying a full-time salary. Full-time salaries for nannies vary depending on what part of the country you live in, but they could be as much as $45,000 per year, according to Payscale.com.

If you have flexibility with your work schedule or live near family who can help with your child care, you could consider a nanny share. This means that you would share your nanny with another family. This could mean you hire them 2.5 days per week while another family hires them for the other days. I’ve also known families who have a nanny in the morning and then the nanny goes to work for another family in the afternoon. The benefit of this is that you get high-quality child care but only pay half the price.

Leverage Your Gym Membership

One of the affordable child care options I utilize the most is my gym membership. Many people think of a gym membership as an excess – something that can be easily cut to make more room in a budget. However, for me, my gym membership is a truly integral part of it.

I pay $200/month for my family membership at my gym, so it’s definitely on the high end. However, I chose it because they have an exceptional child care facility with games, a jewelry making station and even a moon bounce. I bring my kids there almost every afternoon for 2.5 hours. When I do the math, I’m only paying a dollar or two per hour for child care. I earn more than that while I sit in the gym’s cafe and work using their Wi-Fi and drinking their free coffee. The moral of the story is to not discount something because you think it’s over your budget. Instead, consider the full value of it per hour and how you will use it.

Ultimately, child care doesn’t have to be exorbitant. If you think outside the box, get creative and gather advice from others, you can absolutely find a way to get affordable, quality child care for your little one.

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