Choosing a child care solution is difficult enough without the complication of child care costs to contend with; you’re entrusting your children to complete strangers, after all! It can feel almost impossible to keep child care costs low and get your child the quality care they deserve and you demand – but don’t fret. It’s going to take some work, but with this process you should find a healthy balance between expense and quality:
Put together an exhaustive list of options.
Start with a list of every option you can glean from the internet, your social network, the phone book, ads on the local café’s corkboard, anything you consider even slightly worthy of consideration. You can exclude options you think are beyond any possibility of choosing, due to budget or safety concerns, but keep the rest around for now. The point is to figure out all your options. Go ahead and include ‘stay at home parent’ as a choice, if it’s at all viable.
Learn how to assess your choices
There are a few ways to rapidly shorten your list; start with recommendations from friends and family, positive and especially negative. Then check government and private watchdog sites, to see if they have warnings or concerns about anything on your list. You can follow up with reviews on Google, Yelp, and social networks, but always take these with a grain of salt unless there are repeated, consistent complaints. A shorter list should start to emerge from your research.
Vet your options, starting at the cheapest.
At this stage, it’s time to start looking closer at your list. Order it by cost start digging deep starting with the most affordable child care provider. If it looks good, give it a visit and see if it holds up. Remember to check security, first aid, any sort of curriculum, whether the children look safe and happy, and the food quality. Really get a good sense of the place.
When you have narrowed your options to a few suitable facilities, you can make a choice that won’t break the bank.
Check for a few other ways to minimize the need for child care.
You already have the cheapest worthy care in front of you, but ‘cheap care’ isn’t the only way to cut child care costs. You can also minimize the need for child care. Consider ways to spend more time at home; can you stagger schedules with another caretaker? Can you work from home?
You should also check for work benefits, government benefits, charities, and anything else that might conceivably help out at this point. Every penny saved will help.