According to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, full–time child care can reach up to $14,000 a year for a single infant. And while child care is the last thing you want to be cheap about, there are a few proven and practical ways to limit your costs, which can really help in today’s tough economy.
Let Uncle Sam Chip In – Working parents can claim up to $3,000 for one child and up to $6,000 for two or more children on their 2008 income taxes for qualified child care expenses. Ask your tax professional about the Child and Dependent Care Credit to see if you qualify for this valuable credit.
It’s important to note that this credit can be reduced if you have a dependent–care flexible spending account (FSA) through your employer. These special accounts allow employees to set aside pretax dollars up to $5,000 for qualified expenses. Find out if your employer offers this program and discuss the benefits of each option with your tax preparer. If you need a referral to a qualified tax professional you can trust, don’t hesitate to give us a call.
Don’t Discount Your Employer – Be sure to ask your employer about any other child care programs it might offer. It’s not uncommon for companies to negotiate discounts in your area that can offset expenses and travel time. Also, find out if your employer offers flex time or telecommuting, even on a short–term or part–time basis.
Schedule for Success and Savings – For many couples, a simple change in schedule can cut down on the amount of child care you need each week. While having one spouse work the day shift and the other work the night shift might eliminate child care altogether, this could be very stressful on your relationship. But what if you just altered your schedules slightly? For example, if one spouse works from 7 am to 3 pm and the other works 10 am to 6 pm, this would cut down on child care and might not affect your time together as much. For couples who work together or even close together, working the same schedule could be more beneficial to child care costs and your marriage.
The right school program combined with the right work schedule can significantly reduce your child care needs. Some public schools offer pre–kindergarten programs, often for free, and many schools also offer before– and after–school care for older children at much lower rates than child care professionals.
Share with Friends And Family – While finding a relative to help out would be ideal, hiring a nanny with a few relatives or a few good friends is also a great option. This will allow you to share the cost of child care and pay less individually for each child.