Choosing Childcare While Protecting Your Pocketbook-
Not your first concern – but budget matters.
You don’t want to think about it yet you’re down to the wire. What are you going to do with your new baby when you go back to work? It may be hard to imagine putting on some presentable clothes (that might even need to be dry cleaned), packing up your briefcase with breast pump in tow and heading back to the office. Your life has changed so much in these past weeks!
What choices do you have when you don’t have any relatives to help you watch your little one? Though it isn’t your first concern when it comes to baby, the money does matter – that’s one of the reasons you’re returning to work in the first place! You want the very best for your infant. What should you do?
Here are some options to stretch your childcare budget. I can speak from experience here to all of these.
1. Daycare Center – Daycare is an economical and reliable option, and your child also is around other children with good supervision. Do some research here- there are many more affordable options through community and faith-based organizations. Some even have sliding pay scales based on need – so don’t be afraid to ask.
PROs: Your baby will eventually have other children to socialize with; the care is reliable and fairly affordable with qualified supervision. Staff is trained, and the center is licensed and regulated.
CONs: There is less flexibility; you have to pick up and drop off your baby at about the same time each day. Caregivers oversee several children, and it may be difficult to find centers that accept infants. Most centers have strict sick policies that could impact your employment. Be sure you understand the costs of taking a sick day.
2. Home Daycare – Home daycare is held in the caregiver’s house, with smaller groups of children in a more casual setting. Many home daycare providers offer sliding pay scales and are less expensive because their own children are at home or they are taking advantage of special tax incentives that allow them to charge less.
PROs: Kids can socialize with others in a nurturing, home-like environment. Less expensive than regular daycare, and pick-up and drop-off times are more flexible.
CONs: No caregiver supervision and less stringent licensing requirements. Caregiver may not have formal nanny or childcare experience or education. As with daycare centers, children also get sick more frequently, and home daycare also is usually closed for holidays and vacations.
3. Full-Time Nanny – A full-time nanny can be a more expensive option. However there are a few options to help save some cash. Here are a couple:
Live-in — Nannies can be paid hourly, or on a weekly basis. If you have the space, live-in nannies can charge less since room and board is included.
Nanny/Housekeeper – Can the nanny double up doing household chores and even yard maintenance while the baby/children are napping? Even meal preparation can save you in the long run – from expensive carry out – a common expense for overtired new mothers.
PROs: Your baby will get more attention from a nanny who pays close attention to his/her every need. Your schedule can be more flexible and convenient (no pick up or drop off) and your baby stays in a familiar home environment. You would be allowed a flexible working schedule, and might even be able to squeeze in some grocery shopping and an occasional date night!
CONs: There also is no nanny supervision, and playtime with other children must be specifically arranged. In addition, you can be stuck if she calls in sick or finds other employment.
4. Nanny Share – A Nanny Share can bring the best of both worlds together. Sharing the cost of a nanny with one or two like-minded Moms can be a great set up, especially if your kids are around the same age.
PROs: You can have a wonderful nanny in a home environment (either yours or another family’s), and your baby gets some socialization with other children. If the nanny gets sick you have others to help pitch in. Your baby receives more attention than daycare and remains in a familiar environment. You also have more flexibility with your schedule. You share the cost of the nanny with others, making this a more affordable option. You also share paying the “nanny tax.” (see below)
CONs: You hope all of the children get along; as well as you and the other family! You might have to do some juggling with schedules.
*What is The Nanny Tax? If you pay your nanny more than $1,000 per quarter or $1,900 throughout the year, you are legally required to pay the nanny tax, otherwise known as the “household employment tax.” Failure to do so can set you back with fines and penalties up to $25,000. In addition, being compliant helps your nanny become or stay eligible for social security and Medicare benefits upon retirement.
- Lori Bolas
Lori Bolas is a working mom and a director at SurePayroll, Inc., a leader in online payroll for families and small businesses.