5 Ideas for Finding Affordable Daycare for Your Kids

As a single parent for nearly six years, one of my biggest challenges in balancing home and finances was daycare.

Paying for bills, groceries, gas and gymnastic leotards is bad enough — but topping it off with a massive daycare tuition of hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars a month is a serious hardship.

The Penny Hoarder recently surveyed 2,000 parents nationwide about the costs of child care. Half reported spending at least 25% of their income on child care, and 44% spend $1,000 or more a month to pay for it.

Often times, parents (especially single parents) are so desperate for daycare they’ll settle for any schmuck who calls themselves a “licensed” sitter. Even with a thorough background check, finding the right sitter for your most precious cargo is a daunting task.

Here are five places to look for affordable daycare for your kids that you may not have thought of.

5 Ideas for Finding Affordable Daycare

1. Check Out Your Local Boys and Girls Club

Backed by Congressional support and partial funding, the Boys and Girls Club of America has been around for well over a century, with several thousands chapters across North America.

The tuition at the Boys and Girls Club is a steal: At one point, I only paid $50…for the entire school year. The facilities could be upgraded a bit, but my children are safe, have a great time and the staff is friendly.

The Boys and Girls Club in my area also operates from 2 – 8 p.m during the school year. It gives me ample time to commute from work and pick up my kids without dealing with late charges.

2. Try Your Local YMCA

Most cities have a YMCA, and in my area before- and after-school care in my area is less than $90 weekly. It’s even cheaper if you’re a YMCA member.

Visit the official YMCA website, type in your zip code and check out available daycare programs and costs.

3. Research Licensed and Non-Licensed Daycare Providers in Your State

Parents are uneasy about releasing their kids to just any John or Jane Doe. If your state has regulations for sitters, you can check them out yourself.

I’ve found a ton of so-called “licensed” sitters on Craigslist who weren’t in the daycare registry. Check out the social services website for your state —  You can type in your city, whether you want only licensed in-home daycare providers or facilities or both, and a list will populate.

For licensed in-home providers, you should be able to view any complaints they’ve accumulated over the years as well as if those complaints have been addressed. I’ve found that in-house daycare providers are more willing to work with you on prices and flexibility, saving you money in the long run.

I had one in-home sitter who would occasionally run specials, such as watching one child at full price and the other for free.

4. Get to Know Other Parents at Your Child’s School

Kids’ schedules can get as busy movie stars’. Your best ally for juggling after-school activities, sports, dance and everything else just might be other parents.

If you’re a working parent, you might meet stay-at-home parents who watch other kids for side income.

Don’t be afraid to query other parents about how they manage for help — and even ask them for help. You’ll be able to return the favor one day.

5. Research Prices Through Your City

The city government offers the cheapest prices for before and after school and full-day daycare in my area. For one week, your toddler can get full-day care for only $89. I remember paying well over $100 in daycare for just one kid when my children were younger.

One of my kids is in a before-school program and the other is in an after-school program; I pay just $93 a week. I pay a total of $372 a month in daycare and, considering the average monthly daycare cost in Virginia is over $500, I feel good saving nearly $200 a month.

Another thing I like about city programs is the additional services, like occasional field trips, holiday celebrations and parents’ nights out that come with little-to-no fees.

Unfortunately, you’ll likely pay daycare costs for several years. Here are six key ways to help manage this big expense and more than a dozen companies that offer child care support to parent employees.

Monica Leftwich is a former contributor to The Penny Hoarder.