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Daycare Dilemma – Exploring Ways To Cut Costs

by Debt Destroyer on July 17, 2008

If you have a job and kids, the issue of daycare is bound to come up. As my Nitty Gritty post showed, it is our biggest monthly expense. And I bet that is true for a lot of families.

A few ways of dealing with this expense come to mind right away:

  1. Utilize daycare while both parents go to work.
  2. Work different shifts so one parent is always home with the little ones.
  3. Only have one parent work, so the other can stay home and raise the kids(full time job in itself).

My wife & I had good intentions and we planned to do option 3. And we went as long as we could. I think we lasted all of six months. We gave this up for a couple of reasons :

  • I didn’t really make enough to support a family on just my salary.
  • My wife under-estimated how much she would miss the social interaction the outside world offers.

Besides the obvious reason of wanting to raise our own kids, another reason we used option 3 at first was that finding a good daycare was tough.

REALLY TOUGH!

So when we switched gears and went to option 1 we were totally lost.

A good friend of ours pulled some strings and got us in the at-home daycare she was using for her kids. And that was going great until our daycare provider had a family emergency and was out of commission for three weeks. That really threw us for a loop. We weren’t lucky enough to have a local support system in place in case something like that happened.

So we begged our way into a center. As you can imagine the center was more expensive than the at-home care provider, but that was better than not having anything at all. My wife only worked part time so we only needed part time care. Surprising there isn’t much of a price break for this.

As I mentioned in my about page, my wife has started her own wedding photography business. Believe it or not, this actually increased our need for daycare. We went up from 20 hours a week to 34 hours (that is only during the busy season, May-Nov). And that is where we still are at.

The comments from my last post brought up the idea of one of us quitting our job and staying home to raise our kids. I’d love too, but my job is currently the higher paying one and we get our benefits from it. Plus the kids would drive me crazy in no time. And my wife is busy building up her own business, and that would be way more difficult to do with the kids around all the time.

Before I started my current job, I gave serious thought about working nights so we could utilize option 2. We have some friends who do this and it works quite nicely for them. But we decided that we enjoy seeing each other more than just on the weekends, so that idea was quickly put to bed.

While we like the center our kids are at (it’s also a preschool so now our 3 year old is actually learning some stuff), it’s weird that its the main reason why we’ll wait to have more kids. We just can’t afford to have 3 kids in daycare at once.

So there you have it, my breakdown of daycare. I’d love to hear your stories and strategies on how you deal with daycare. As always, I’m open to any and all ideas out there.

Until next time,

-DD

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

spillingbuckets July 17, 2008 at 8:00 am

I don’t have kids of my own yet, but I do see family memebers struggling with the same issues.

I have two aunts who live in the same town. One is a single mom of a 5 year old, so has daycare all day, and now after/before school programs for her daughter. It costs a lot and she doesn’t get to see her daughter much during the week. The other aunt is a stay home mom. It’s been nice for Aunt1 to have Aunt2 as a support system if something happens and the daycare closes. But it’s totally eating her financially.

I don’t really have ideas for dealing with this – but if other commenters have good ideas I’ll pass them back to Aunt1.

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JB July 17, 2008 at 8:49 am

Yes… a lot of families are having these troubles. I don’t have any research to back it up, but I think daycare prices have beat inflation.

We have a 6 year old (in school) and a new baby on the way… our hope is that my wife can start her own in-home daycare so she can watch the new baby as well as make a little money. We’ll see how it works out.

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Momma July 17, 2008 at 10:16 am

Day care is a tough one. As a single parent household, I’ve had to employ some very creative solutions over the years to make sure that my children were cared for while I worked. Now that I’m remarried and the children are old enough to care for themselves, I look back and wonder how on earth we ever managed.

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celticbuffy July 17, 2008 at 11:43 am

Back when we lived in Oklahoma and the ex & I both worked we paid $800 for daycare for the baby, $500 for the toddler, and $250 month for before/after school care for the oldest. I remember the pain of writing those checks week after week. Option #2 works well for some people but others really do need that family & couple time. I know your situation & I think you guys are working it right for your family. I feel I can safely say that option #2 isn’t a good one for you guys. Option #3 would definitely hinder the wife’s ability to do all that is required behind the scenes for her photography business. At this point, I think, it’s just kind of a “suck it up” period for the daycare costs & look at other areas for debt reform. Not to mention that once you find a daycare you like & trust, it gives you a bit more peace of mind. Hang in there! Kindergarten is not too far away!

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Ashley @ Wide Open Wallet July 17, 2008 at 12:48 pm

We worked opposite shifts until I became a stay at home mom. I only needed day care for a few hours while our shifts overlapped. I have a friend who was kind enough to help us out for a very discounted price. It stinks not seeing each other during the week but the cost of daycare is so outrageous I just couldn’t stomach it.

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AndyS July 17, 2008 at 1:07 pm

I hear you buddy. I had the same dilemma and paying $1500 a month for daycare. Here’s an option 4 to look at: Hire a Nanny who comes to your home. It will be much cheaper than having 2 or 3 kids in daycare. I know a friend who did this for 2 kids and it worked out great. They advertised on craigslists and did a series of interviews/background checks to find the right person. Their kids really like their Nanny so all worked out great.

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Bill July 17, 2008 at 3:02 pm

@Andy: I’ve thought about that, too. Maybe I’ll check out Craigslist. It’s unfortunate that the daycare situation in many areas in short supply and very expensive. With one child, we were able to easily afford daycare. However, when we had our second child, we determined that my wife, if she worked at her current job, would “earn” about $2 an hour. So, why not stay at home? Which would be great, but as Happy Rock says, my wife would go nuts if she watched both children. So we’re paying for daycare for one for 3 days per week.

With the economy the way it is, I see only accumulating a little debt over time until things turn up a bit. Of course, I’m trying to earn some money online and looking for teaching and consulting jobs to supplement the income, but it’s just really tough.

I think I’ll really look at the nanny thing again. Great idea.

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John July 17, 2008 at 4:45 pm

I work full-time from home and my wife works two days per week. When she is at work we pay a nanny to come in to our house to watch our kids.
The tone of the post and of most of the comments seems to me to regard this decision from a purely financial standpoint. But another thing to consider is what is best for your children. Sometimes, the most financially prudent decision is not the one that ends up providing the best “value” for everyone involved. Even if you have to spend more money than planned, it might be the best long term decision overall. And remember, you won’t have this childcare expense forever.

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The Happy Rock July 17, 2008 at 4:53 pm

I wanted to second the ‘nanny’ idea, which works depending on the number of children, hours needed, and the cost differential.

We have been paying for in home care for our children since they were adopted. The Rockette works out eighteen hours a week, so we pay for about 12 hours a week @ about $12 an hour. For the other day, I shifted my start time until after lunch. I get a morning home with the boys, and its ‘free’.

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The Happy Rock July 17, 2008 at 5:04 pm

What is the income percentage breakdown between you and your wife?

Aren’t a lot of your wife’s hours weekends and nights?

The only other thing that would like to throw in the mix is to understand what and why you want to get out of debt. Being out of debt is amazing, but unless you understand what you are getting it is hard to make the choices and sacrifices to necessary to get there. Solutions like your wife, slowly building her business in a way that frees her to be at home more might make sense in the bigger picture. It sets her growth back a bit, but in 18 months you would be debt free and a lot of the money you make is actually yours to keep(cash flow). At that points things like growing business, changing jobs are much more feasible and less stressful. Following your passions rather than just trying to scrap together food on the table makes you more creative and empowered to peruse your dreams in a way that will make you more successful. That is just scratching the surface of what getting out of debt buys you, but it the benefits are so big IMO that it is worth doing whatever it takes in the short term to change you and your children’s lives forever. My two cents.

Keep up the great effort!

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John (Debt Defier) July 17, 2008 at 11:03 pm

Thanks again for all the comments!

@ spillingbuckets – It’s great that your aunts have each other. I wish we had a backup plan.

@ JB – Good luck with the in-home daycare. My wife’s step-sister has one and does quite well (not in our town, otherwise we’d go there).

@ Momma – We too look back and think how have we managed to get by these past 18 months?

@ CelticBuffy – Kindergarten sounds like heaven right now :).

@ Ashley – You were tougher than we are. We don’t think we could do the “hardly see each other” option…although sometimes it seems we’re doing that already.

@ Andy – Hiring a Nanny is a great option #4. I love the idea and its one that I wouldn’t have thought of.

@ Bill – You’re right, it is “really tough”. Good luck with the Nanny search.

@ John – You are dead-on by saying that sometimes the best option for the child isn’t the best for the pocketbook.

@ Rock – I’m not surprised to find out that you are clever enough to use a Nanny.

Our current income breakdown is 60-40. But we have faith that my wife’s income will start to rise rather sharply in about a year. The biggest reason she/we started her business was our difficulty in making ends meet.

I’ll expand on this in a future post.

-DD

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Jerry July 18, 2008 at 12:12 am

This is an incredibly tough decision, and one about which many people in our society feel all-too-comfortable sharing their (dis)approval, regardless of the choice of the parents. My wife had to work outside the home for a few months after our daughter was born, and it would lead to be one of the hardest things she has ever done. (I was in school full-time, or I would have gladly shouldered the load). We were fortunate to have a wonderful support network through our church and other friends, so she was in trusted hands, but it still was hard. Finally, my wife found work that allowed her to stay at home and still make a decent living and insurance benefits. For us, this was the perfect solution.
Jerry

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spillingbuckets July 21, 2008 at 7:16 am

I forgot about nannies. My mom was bedridden with my brother’s pregnancy (and several miscarriages) so I had a nanny live at home with us several years.

Be careful with those. I had one nanny (from an agency, but I don’t know which one) who was abusive. I was only 5 but I have terrible memories and had to see a psychiatrist as a child. Other nannies were FANTASTIC and several we still keep in touch with. I think I had 5 total? (mom was pregnant for a long time with complications)

It’s a good option, but make sure you know the person you are getting.

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Monroe on a budget July 23, 2008 at 10:26 am

My husband and I work different shifts, although it’s not because of day care issues. That’s just how it is right now.

Luckily, my work is a mile away from home. I can, and do, go home for lunch. That’s when husband and I catch up for the day (he’s just waking up to get ready for his 3-11 shift).

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Nicki July 30, 2008 at 10:47 pm

We did option 2 when my job was a night shift (with benefits) and I was going to school. My husband and I didn’t see each other much, and 15 months into it we moved in with my parents, when we switched to option 1. That’s working, but we constantly discuss going back to alternating shifts. If one of us could find a job in our field that provided that option, I think we would go back to it in a nanosecond. At least my oldest is about to start Kindergarten – except for the summer, it will be a definite relief.

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Nicole G July 31, 2008 at 4:52 pm

Yes, daycare is a killer. We have 3 children and very little spendable income after basic needs and daycare costs. Luckily, we have found a few tricks to help us stay afloat. My oldest is now in a really good public elementary school, which helps. My younger two go to daycare only part time, 2 days/week. I work a regular 8-5 job and my husband works 3rd shift. He watches the kids three days out of the week. Also, we did some MAJOR shopping around for daycares. We finally found one that has regular part-time care (no “sharing slots” w/ other parents required), offers a sibling discount and also offers us a discount for dropping our children after 8AM and picking them up before 4PM (which we can do b/c of my husband’s schedule). It is not state-of-the-art and not a program that advertises offerings that will turn your child into the next Mozart or Einstein – but it is clean, safe and has a good caregiver/child ratio. We have made a lot of mistakes regarding our chose in daycares over the past 5 years. We chose care we really couldn’t afford out of a misguided sense that this would make up for the fact that we work and our children “need” such programs. The truth is, we are happier with our current program and so are our children. They smile and play and learn just as well as they ever did in the pricier daycares. I’m not saying that if you can afford pricey, you shouldn’t go that route – that is entirely based on what is right for YOUR family – but I will say that we are doing our best for our own children.

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My New Daycare October 23, 2008 at 1:11 am

I agree that daycare expenses are a tough one. I’m lucky enough that I work from home part time and keep my youngest home with me on those days, so only need a daycare center part-time during the week. However, she’s going through her terrible two phase now and requires a lot of attention to keep her out of trouble, so I look forward to her nap times and try to get as much work done as I can during those 2-3 hours each day. Having a “family friendly” job helps out a lot. When looking for daycare, we got so frustrated with finding a good daycare, that we started our own daycare listing service!

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