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It's possible to save on quality childcare. Here's how.

·Senior Producer/Reporter

Finding trustworthy, quality childcare is tough enough, but factor in what it can cost you, and you’ll never want to go out. But families everywhere are getting creative and figuring out ways to make it work on a budget. Here are some of my secrets to saving on childcare.

Split the cost of a nanny with a nanny share

If you want to hire a nanny but you can’t afford one, a nanny-share may be just what you need. The more kids being cared for, the higher the cost. But a nanny’s rate won’t double because she’s watching two kids, so the savings for your family can be significant.

How does it work? You can either have one nanny watch both kids at the same time or you can divvy up the nanny’s time throughout the week. If you don’t already know of a family you want to start a share with, start by reaching out to your network. Parenting groups on Facebook and Meetup.com are a great resource; parents frequently post status updates seeking and giving advice, recommending excellent nannies, requesting baby items, and also just venting to one another.

Before you commit to a share, spend time getting to know the other family’s parenting styles and expectations. It’s important to iron out all the details (and there are many) about how much you want to pay a nanny, what to do about vacations and meals.

If your children get along and the chemistry between the families is in sync, this can be a great arrangement because your child will get more one-on-one attention than in a daycare where they typically have one caregiver watching four children at any given time. And having a playmate around will help your child with socialization and development, too.

Have room in your house and enjoy company? Consider hosting an au pair.

It’s important to note that au pairs are not live-in nannies. While live-in nannies are more experienced childcare professionals, au pairs come to the United States on a cultural exchange visa to live with a host family and care for their children.

Because you’re paying for room and board, an au pair’s salary averages about $360 a week or $19,000 a year. And most au pairs are insured by the agencies that place them, so you don’t have to worry about covering their health care. But they are living with you, so expect the monthly heating, food, and water bills to go up.

Hire babysitters through your local university

If you have kids in school and you need after-school care, go through your local university for college students looking for part-time babysitting work. For instance, some of the local colleges in my city, like Barnard and Hunter, have dedicated programs to match students to local jobs. Their rates are typically lower, but they can keep up with the high energy of your little ones and they’re probably better at helping out with homework than you are.

Join a babysitting co-op

For the nights you just need a date night, join a babysitting co-op or start your own with friends you trust. I joined one with four other families. No money is exchanged, just time.

The closer you live to one another, the easier it is to babysit. With our co-op, you get one point for every hour you watch someone’s child – and you lose a point when someone watches yours. If you’re at -10 points, you can’t ask anyone to watch your child until you gain more points by watching someone else’s child. And all of this is tracked on a shared spreadsheet.

What are some ways you’re saving on childcare? Tweet me your tips @jeanie531 or in the comments below.


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