How much do you spend on childcare? For most families, it's a huge expense -- the second-highest item in a monthly budget and about 15 percent of their income, says Sheila Marcelo, CEO of Care.com. And even though your own salary might be lower these days, you probably still have to pay the same amount -- or even more -- to the people you hire to watch your children. So do you have any options?
Yes, says Marcelo. "It is certainly worth revisiting your care arrangements periodically to find ways to save," she says, and adds that there's no reason for parents to feel guilty about trying to spend money wisely. Often, you can find comparable, high-quality care for significantly less than what you've been paying.
Of course, before you shop around, you should know the going rate in your area. Online calculators can help you figure out that number.
Start by taking a close look at your situation:
Another option that's slowly growing in popularity is a childcare exchange. You and a few friends get together and establish some ground rules -- either a schedule of who's watching the kids when, or a point system when every hour your spend as caregiver entitles you to an hour of care -- and rack up the savings.
Several points you should remember if you go this route:
Maybe your current situation is too pricey -- or just no longer right for you -- and you want to hire someone new. You want to get the best possible price, but you also need to know your child will be cared for properly. In addition to an interview, take the time to check references and run a background check.
If you think you'll need to interview several possible candidates, consider getting a premium membership at Care.com, which allows you to run background checks for free.
Remember that while price is important, "finding someone with the right training and level of experience to look after your children is a priority," cautions Marcelo. Take the time to do a little digging, and you'll uncover someone who fits perfectly into your life -- and your budget.
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