Is childcare eating up too much of your budget? Get tips from a working mom on easy ways to save money on childcare. Learn ways to save on childcare ($1,000s!) from an experienced mom.
This is the third month in the series where I am writing about my experience with The $1,000 Challenge by Brian J. O’Connor. My goal is to save $1,000 each month on my expenses – $100 savings in each of 10 spending categories.
In previous months, I have reviewed transportation and utilities. This month’s expense category is kid costs – ways to save on childcare, food, clothing, school supplies, and healthcare. My goal is to trim $100 from these expenses.
One of my goals in this challenge is to make easy cuts to my budget that are not emotionally draining. While childcare, food, clothing, school supplies, and healthcare are necessary expenses, there are ways to cut them like buying on a plastic online store so you can re-use the items.
The costs and savings involved will depend on your location, the type of work you do, and your family’s needs. Throughout the challenge, my level of intensity has been “freeing up extra cash,” to lower my monthly costs.
I am applying my savings on these expenses toward paying down a large debt I have. There are many more extreme and creative ways to save money if you are trying to make ends meet or can barely take care of basic necessities.
While reviewing my monthly transportation expenses in the first month, I was able to make a few small changes that yielded a savings of over $50 each month.
In the second month’s review of my utility expenses, I was able to trim nearly $80 each month. That was a grand total saved of $131.23, which is $68.77 short of my goal.
But, a very smart woman reminded me that that’s still a savings of over $131 each month and nearly $1,600 each year!
The good thing about my “freeing up extra cash” mindset is that the changes I’ve made so far only require me to get gas at a particular gas station, make one call to cancel an add-on I had forgotten about, go online to change my monthly service plan, or something similar. In other words, they are fairly easy changes.
These were ways the author had already experienced savings on kid-related expenses (before the challenge):
- Childcare – He applied for a scholarship at his son’s preschool.
- Food – He didn’t allow his son to get stuck on name brands.
- Clothing – He accepted second-hand clothing from friends, shopped thrift stores, and gave his son a clothing allowance once he reached a certain age.
- School supplies – He only purchased what was necessary and didn’t get caught up in character-driven gimmicks.
- Healthcare – He asked for discounts, utilized flexible spending accounts, and used generic prescriptions and name-brand samples from the doctor.
While going through the $1,000 Challenge, the author allocated funds for medical expenses into his flexible spending account, which reduced his taxes and gave him extra funds in his paycheck. It saved him over $100 each month.
Here’s my review of “kid costs”. Most of these expenses are necessary, so it’s a little daunting to think of how I can find any “easy savings.”
Ways To Save Money On Childcare
How to Save Money on Child Care – After School Program
My daughter is currently in 2nd grade and attends a church afterschool program. This is one of the easiest ways to save money on childcare – finding an inexpensive organization.
In my area, daycare centers are the most expensive, followed by the YMCA. Churches and Parks & Recreation programs are the least expensive options.
The church is 20% less than our county’s parks & recreation program (a childcare savings of $36 each month) and 26% less than the YMCA (a childcare savings of $68 each month).
My son is now in high school, so I don’t have any childcare costs for him. 🙂
How to Save on Child Care – Preschool
When I originally did this challenge, I didn’t have any childcare expenses. My son was in middle school and my daughter was in a government-funded preschool program. I arranged my work schedule around her school hours.
Other ways I have saved on childcare in the past include leaning on family, utilizing an in-home childcare provider, combining public preschool with an after-school program (to cover full day care), skipping an after-school program (when age appropriate), and making a part day program work. I’ve shared other tips on my blog for saving on childcare costs.
A full-time preschool program would cost an average of $563.33 per month.
I stick to a strict grocery budget, shop sales, buy markdowns, and use coupons. We don’t buy many name brands (unless I have coupons) and I get the kids involved.
They help me shop, are aware that we should be smart when shopping to get the most for our budget, and we cook at home as much as possible. Therefore I was unable to find any more savings under my already very tight budget.
I ask family and friends with older children for their clothing when their child outgrows it, shop at thrift stores, shop at consignment stores, and buy clothing from national retailers at the end of the season (1-2 sizes bigger for the next season). I’ve shared more tips on saving on children’s clothing on my blog.
Savings of $51.00
I look at the school supplies my son has left and then only buy what is actually needed. I stock up at the lowest prices. Generally, we don’t get character pens, pencils, or notebooks. I refuse to pay a 10 times markup so that the store can pay for a licensed product.
I’ll usually splurge on a folder, as those aren’t that expensive. Yet, I do buy high-quality notebooks with plastic covers (that last all school year), instead of the cheap paper covers that tear easily.
Savings of $5.00
Whenever possible, I use my grocery store’s generic prescription pricing of $4 for a monthly supply or $10 for a quarterly supply. This is often less expensive than the insurance co-pay. I always review the health plan options based on our family’s needs, not just what’s placed in front of us.
We’ve also used health savings accounts and flexible spending accounts to stretch our pre-tax dollars further.
My son has an online game subscription. By paying for the full year upfront, I save $60 (which is 50%) instead of paying month to month.
Savings of $55.00
What other ways to save money on childcare would you add?
As I’ve said before, this challenge is a great experiment. I am seeing that so many of my expenses are already low, but trying to find ways to trim them a little further while sharing what I’ve tried with you. I’m still holding out hope that the grocery category will bring in big savings because it’s one of my biggest challenges.
Remember that everything is relative. Review your expenses to see where you can make cutbacks based on your goals and level of comfort.
Come back in a few weeks to see if I was able to trim $100 from my monthly work expenses.
To read this series from the beginning start here: