Alternative Child-Care Options That Will Save You Thousands

affordable child-care options

Affordable child-care options are not exactly abundant these days. Sure, you have plenty of options as a parent; you can put your child in a home-based daycare, a regular daycare, a private school daycare, a faith-based daycare, hire a nanny, let family watch your kids, or you can stay home. For many men and women, one parent staying home is the most cost-effective manner when it comes to affordable child-care options. In fact, my husband and I have friends with three kids and it’s less expensive for the mother to stay home with them than it is for her to work and pay for daycare, and she has two Master’s Degrees. The problem is this; most daycares in the United States cost an average of $18,000 per year for just one child; just one child.

I have four kids. I work from home, so affordable child-care options are me and…me. Our 7-year-old daughter was home with me full time until she went to VPK. Our 4-year-old began asking to stay at school with her sister when she was only 2 and our oldest was in VPK, so we went ahead and enrolled her in school a few mornings a week. They attend school at a very educational-based program in the school where we attend church. Our daughter is now in second grade and our middle daughter will join her in public school next year. When we enrolled our middle daughter in school for 3 days a week from 9-12 in the mornings, we paid $35 per day (we also live in a small town on the Gulf Coast of Florida so we are well aware our daycare fees are much lower than in many parts of the country) and paid a grand total of $5400 for her to attend school that first year.

I became pregnant with our twins not long after she began school and was on bed rest the last three months. Affordable child-care or not, she had to go to school since I was on strict bed rest and we had to enroll her full time at $115 per week. Still not bad, and still a very affordable child-care option considering it’s still only just over $5900 per year. Now she’s in VPK and the twins are a year-and-a-half and I’m pretty much ready to send them to school a few mornings a week because they need the socialization and I need a few hours to work.

However, I simply cannot wrap my head around the fact that at the age of 1, the cost for them would be $150 per week per child on top of the $90 per week I pay for our VPK child to stay for a few hours after her class is over since it’s out during the middle of nap time. If all three went to school right now, I’d pay $20,280 for the year. That’s just ridiculous. That’s the income of a part-time employee at a supermarket – I’m not paying a full on salary to send my kids to school for three hours a day during the week. So, they’ll stay home with me until I simply cannot handle my schedule anymore. Also, they’re about as sweet and adorable as anything amazing you’ve ever encountered, so I like having them around (so far… we shall see how that goes if the terrible twos arrive double time).

With the lack of affordable child-care available in many areas, what are parents to do? So many families are put into a difficult situation – forgo having kids or give up a job so that you can stay home and live on a tight budget to save on daycare costs? Or go to work and basically work so you can send your children to daycare?

What if we told you that you could take advantage of some affordable child-care options that are available in many locations? They do exist; you just have to know where to find them.


Did you know that your local YMCA provides affordable child-care options? Before you start thinking that you don’t even have one near you, stop and listen. We definitely do not have a YMCA anywhere near our home, so imagine my surprise when my daughter asked me one day as I picked her up from school when she was in kindergarten why I don’t let her stay and go to the YMCA with some of her friends. I had no idea what she was talking about. It turns out that while we don’t have a physical YMCA location near us, we do have licensed and experienced YMCA teachers that come to all the local schools in the mornings and afternoons to provide child-care for kids with working parents so that kids can play, engage in arts and crafts and get their homework done. It’s a novel concept; and apparently, it’s cheap (No, our daughter does not go). For our area, the cost is only around $30 per week per child for your kids to attend the YMCA. I believe teacher’s children get to go for only $5 per day.

Find a Trusted Sitter

This is a job that is not easy to take on. We have our parents and family members, but we only have a few sitters that are not related to us that we trust enough with our kids to leave them in their care. One is the daughter of a family friend who we’ve known since childhood. We would use her from time to time when she was in high school to come watch our older girls so we could date or run errands. When she went to college to become a nurse and graduated, we still hired her to watch the twins. She recently moved, but we would trust her with our kids lives in any situation – and we adore and miss her so much. We paid her more than most people pay their sitters since we have four kids and twins, but still – she’s a very affordable child-care option for us.

We have another sitter we’ve gotten to know because she’s the daughter of a pastor our friends have known their entire lives. She’s in her mid-20s, married and her husband works nights. She works during the day, but she really doesn’t have much to do while her husband is working and she was looking to save for a home and so that they can have kids one day. We love her so much that we all argue over her. Her calendar is booked months in advance because we all fight to see who can get her first. She even comes over to play games and do arts and crafts with all the kids (our four and our friends four) when we have gatherings (showers and things of that nature). She’s amazing. We lucked into our wonderful sitter, but you can ask around, run background checks and look up licensed and certified sitters in your area with the state.

Work a Deal with Friends

If you’re looking for really affordable child-care options, work out a deal with friends. We do this all the time. It doesn’t work for us socially since we are always together and need sitters so we can attend events together, but we work together when one of us has a scheduling conflict. For example, I work from home and can get approximately nothing accomplished on half days. So, I’ll usually work ahead so I can take those days to chill with my kids when I pick them up at 12:30, and I’ll pick up my niece and nephew even though their mom is a teacher at their school – she’s in administration, so she always has meetings that take her out of the school those days, so I take the kids home for her.

She repays me for doing that by taking my kids when I’m traveling. During the summer, our older daughters have cheer camp the first week of summer – she’s still in meetings that week (full days the first two and only half days the second two days and she’s off that Friday) so I will pick her daughter up the first two days. She will pick my daughter up the second two days and keep her overnight for a fun sleepover and take her in the mornings, and we will get together to all do something fun after the last day of camp. It all works out. If you are friends with parents at your children’s schools, go for it.

You might be able to find a stay-at-home mom you know and trust who might be willing to accept $50 per week to pick your child up and keep him or her for an hour until you can get there. It’s not a bad gig.

The Boys and Girls Club

There is a Boys and Girls Club being built near our subdivision, and we are very excited about it. Do we need the childcare? No, but we might take advantage of it during the summer since summer vacation is very long for me with four kids and a career that requires me to sit in my home office a few hours a day to get any work done. It’s a brand new facility and it’s located between our neighborhood, which is a very nice gated community, and the most affluent gated community in the area – so I know it’s in a safe location. Also, it’s only 5 miles away.

Many people are able to pay as little as $50 per week for their kids to attend after school care here, and there is also transportation. This allows working parents a chance to keep their kids safe and out of trouble for the hours after school lets out that they have to work. It’s a nice alternative and affordable child-care option for those who want their kids to have some activities to keep them busy as well as a place to go that doesn’t leave them home alone or you scrambling at the last minute for child-care when a sitter or parent calls in ‘sick’ that day – it’s safe, accredited, licensed and very organized.

One thing we do urge you do to is be very careful of in-home daycare providers. Call me old-fashioned or overly paranoid, but they do not seem like a place I’d ever send my kids. Perhaps I’ve seen too many of them on the news. It took me years to be able to send my kids to school because I was too afraid; fortunately, we know the staff at their VPK and daycare because we attend church there. I also spend time volunteering my daughter’s class and speaking to the staff when I pick her up and drop her off. Just today, in fact, I took the twins and had lunch with her at school. I like to get to know them, and I like for them to get to know me. We urge that you do not allow your kids to attend an at-home daycare that is not licensed and listed with the state as a certified program – or one that is in a questionable neighborhood

And, as always, trust your gut when it comes to child care, affordable or not. If you are uncomfortable with a teacher or affordable child-care provider, don’t hesitate to find another option. Your gut is usually not wrong, and we want your kids safe.

There are so many ways you can find affordable child-care options in your own city. If you have more ideas, let us know. We’d love to hear them and share them with our readers. Many families struggle with this cost, and helping them out is our goal.


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