Among the financial hurdles single moms face, the cost of daycare ranks right at the top. In some cases, childcare takes up even more of the budget than housing!
We have to work to support our kids, but we can’t work unless they have care. And we can’t focus on our work unless we know they’re safe and happy.
But how can we afford the cost of daycare on a single income, especially if we don’t make a large salary?
With a little imagination and some chutzpah, you may be able to reduce the cost of daycare for your child.
6 Tips for Reducing the Cost of Daycare
1. Work for a company that subsidizes the cost of daycare for employees
While few and far between, some companies really do help their employees with the cost of daycare.
If you’re in the market for a new job, do your research. Run a Google search for “companies that subsidize childcare,” and apply to those companies.
This won’t work if you have a large network of support in your current community and don’t want to move, but if you haven’t yet built your village and you’re willing to relocate, why not consider a company that will save you thousands in childcare costs?
At some centers, Bright Horizons offers discounts to employees for childcare.
Before you decide to go full-force for these or any other companies, check their benefits policies carefully.
Many companies (like Home Depot and Starbucks, for example) tout their backup childcare benefits. These are great in an emergency – if your child is sick, for example, and can’t go to daycare, or your nanny quits at the last minute.
However, backup benefits usually cover 10 days per year. You’re on your own for the rest.
So be careful. Don’t think you’re getting great childcare subsidies when you’re in fact only eligible for backup care. Or believe you’re eligible for reduced-cost onsite care when you work at a satellite location rather than the headquarters.
Another thing to watch out for is the difference between on-site and subsidized childcare. While having your child attend daycare where you work makes life easy in many ways, it doesn’t help with finances if you still have to pay full price.
Still, for companies that do provide subsidized care, what a great benefit. How awesome would it be to have low-cost care for your child in a state-of-the-art childcare program?
2. Ask your family for help
If you can manage to maintain civil relations with your relatives and trust that they’ll care for your baby in a safe and loving way, now’s the time to call for help.
Even if your mom or sister cares for your baby one day a week, you’ll reduce the cost of daycare by one-fifth.
Asking for help is one of the hardest things we can do as single moms. We want the world to see us as strong and independent and able to handle everything on our own. After all, we got ourselves into this situation, right? It’s our responsibility to provide everything our children need.
All by ourselves.
Wrong. It takes a village, even for partnered parents. And don’t get me started about the double standard. If a dad parents on his own, he’s seen as a hero and everyone swoops in to help. For moms, there’s blame, shame, and judgement.
Get over it. Go to your mom and say, “I could really use your help. The cost of daycare is putting me over the top. If you can watch baby just one or two days a week, that
will save me a lot of money that I could use for food, clothes, diaper, and rent. You’d be helping so much.”
Offer something in return, even when you’re tired to your last bone. Cook dinner, do the dishes, help with cleaning or yard work. Then you won’t feel like the recipient of charity, but more of a partner in an exchange of services.
If your family has proven themselves toxic, find another solution. DO NOT subject yourself to hateful and belittling comments. If they smoke, drink, or do drugs, do not trust them around your baby.
You’ll find another way.
But if they love your child and you trust the quality of their care, family can offer you a safety net.
Grab it. You can pay it forward in the future.
3. Negotiate the cost of daycare with the center
Approach the world with the attitude that you can negotiate everything.
This will save you a lot of money in every area of your life, not just with the cost of daycare.
It’s simple. Just ask for a discount. The likely answer will be “no.” Use that as a starting point, not an end point.
You can ask if there’s anything you can do in exchange for a discount.
Possible offers you can make include:
- coming in on the weekend (you can bring baby) and cleaning
- writing a weekly newsletter
- running their social media marketing campaign
- doing outreach to families interested in enrolling their children
- getting a weekly supply list and doing their shopping
- yard work
Offers are only limited by the limits of your imagination. Keep offering and they may eventually say yes.
4. Change hours at your job
I know, I know, this is a tough one and won’t be possible for many. But it never hurts to ask.
Can you work two extra hours a day, four days a week, so you can have the fifth day off?
If you don’t already work from home due to Covid, you can offer to work those two extra hours at your home computer in the evening once your baby goes to sleep, or wake up especially early in the morning.
This won’t be easy. You’ll be tired. But the benefits might be worth it.
You will reduce the cost of daycare by one/fifth, assuming you can leave your child in care a couple of hours longer for not much more money, if you can’t work from home. Or you can ask a family member to pick your child up and provide care for the extra two hours a day.
When this option works, it satisfies many needs. Not only does it save you money, but it gives you an extra day every week for quality Mom-and-baby time.
5. Open a family childcare program in your home
Do you love children? Have you had babysitting experience, or even better, experience with group care?
Consider opening a family childcare program in your home.
It won’t be easy, especially at first. I know, because I did this. The first year was HARD. But it got better, and I ended up running a very successful in-home preschool for 18 years.
It worked so well when my children were young. I did work I enjoyed and had the benefit of time with my kids when they were little. When they got older they had Mom at home when their school day ended. I eventually hired teachers to work for me and had my afternoons off.
As a single mom and the sole provider for myself and my two girls, I put food on the table, kept a roof over our heads, and paid for everything my children needed – all from my family childcare program.
You can do it, too.
Research your state regulations and prepare your home for licensing. Create a Covid prevention policy. If you rent, make sure you get permission from your landlord. You will have to buy liability insurance and will have a few other upfront costs for art supplies, blocks, and a few other materials (most of which you can get second hand).
Then put the word out to everyone you know that you’re open for business.
6. Apply for public benefits that help with the cost of daycare
If you make a low salary and no other options work for you to lower the exorbitant cost of daycare, consider applying for public help.
You may be eligible to receive childcare vouchers. Lawmakers created these assistance programs to help people work, so have no shame in taking advantage of them.
Every state has different rules, so research the requirements where you live.
In Massachusetts, for example, you must make 50% or less than the median income, unless your child has a documented disability or special need, in which case your income must be 85% or less than the SMI.
Check the requirements in your state and apply NOW, as waitlists can be long.
If you work for a company that offers the option of a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), make sure to contribute. An FSA will allow you to put aside up to $5,000 a year to pay for childcare. It comes out of your paycheck every pay period, and you don’t have to pay taxes on that money.
Just be careful, as FSA’s come with a “use it or lose it” rule, so if you don’t end up spending the $5,000 by the end of the year you don’t get it back.
And FSA’s certainly won’t solve your high cost of daycare problem. But with the tax break, they’ll take a bit of the edge off.
What’s Your Creative Solution?
Sometimes we think we have no options. I’ve heard many single moms say, “The cost of daycare will put me under – I can never afford it.”
Yes, securing affordable, high-quality care for your child presents a huge challenge.
But you’re a bad-ass single mom, and the one thing single moms have to learn is how to be resourceful.
So what’s your solution to the high cost of daycare problem?
Share your ideas in the comments.
Click the Facebook icon below to check out our FB page for single moms wanting to change their financial lives!