How to Find Affordable Child Care While You Work

Posted on 13th Feb, 2019 by Barbara Davidson

According to a recent survey from, child care is unaffordable for seven in 10 American families.1 Many frustrated parents feel like their salary is nullified by the cost of a nanny or day care. In fact, 63% of parents said that the cost of child care influenced their career decisions.1 Whether it be reducing hours to part-time, requesting a flexible schedule or changing jobs completely, necessary adjustments were made in order to compensate for this weighty cost.

If you’re financially limited the high costs of traditional daycare may seem impossible, leaving many parents to feel helpless and frustrated. There are many factors that challenge your control: Where you live, the age of your child or even how many hours they will need to spend under the watch of another. What can you choose? The type of care your child or children receive. We’ve compiled a list of affordable child care alternatives you may not know about.

What Child Care Options Do I Have?
1. Babysitting Cooperative
What is it? A co-op is a resource of parents who offer babysitting services on a point- or hour-based system.

How does it save me more? If you find it hard to ask friends or family to watch your children for free, this is a great alternative. The parents involved in a co-op understand that when you watch other children, those hours get “credited” to your co-op account, which you can later use to have another family care for your child when you need it. There is no monetary transaction here — only your time for their time and vice versa.

2. Au Pair
What is it? A young foreign person, typically female, who helps out with child care and housework.

How does it save me more? An Au pair is a budget-friendly nanny alternative because part of their “income” is room and board in your home (practically free for the parent). If you already have a spare room, it’s a wonderful way to get the same personalized one-on-one care as a nanny at a fraction of the cost. A foreign nanny also has the added value of teaching your children about a new culture and maybe even a new language!

3. Flexible Spending Account
What is it? A flexible spending account, commonly abbreviated to FSA,  is an account you may opt in to in conjunction with your employer to help pay for certain life expenses. The list of eligible expenses is generally regulated by the IRS so there usually isn’t a lot of variation among insurers.

How does it save me more? This predetermined amount of pre-tax FSA money can be used on qualified child care up to 35%. Check with the IRS or a tax preparer to see if your method of child care qualifies.

4. Nanny Share
What is it? Multiple children share one nanny at the same time.

How does it save me more? One-on-one care from a nanny is one of the most expensive forms of child care. Despite the price tag, parents will spring for it because of the personalization of care (especially compared to day cares with much higher child to caregiver ratios). Nanny shares meet in the middle. While it’s not purely one-on-one care, it is more personalized than other options and you get to split the cost with one or two other families.

5. Non-Profit Centers
What is it? Donation-backed or government sponsored child care programs hosted at local community centers and churches.

How does it save me more? Part or all of the cost for these day care-like programs are offset through donations or government subsidies. A popular example is the YMCA after-school program. Check with your local community center to see if you qualify for free or reduced rates.

References, Inc. (July 17, 2018). This is how much child care costs in 2018. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from

Houlis, A. (n.d.). 10 simple alternatives to childcare that won’t break the bank. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from

Lewis, K. (January 12, 2018). 11 ways for savvy working moms to lower their child care cost. Retrieved February 4, 2019, from

About Barbara Davidson

Babs is Lead Content Strategist and financial guru. She loves exploring fresh ways to save more and enjoy life on a budget! When she’s not writing, you’ll find her binge-watching musicals, reading in the (sporadic) Chicago sunshine and discovering great new places to eat. Accio, tacos!