Childcare. One of the top priorities on your Pre-PA checklist. And also one of the most expensive. While family and friends are the most reliable and cost effective option, it’s not an option for many parents heading to PA School. The average cost of daycare in the U.S is about $9600 with some families paying as much as $20,000 – $34,000 annually. Ouch! Figuring out who’s going to help you with the kids and how to pay for it can be challenging. But it doesn’t have to be, below are some options that can help you save money.
If the other parent is still employed, consider speaking to the HR department about a flexible spending account (FSA) for dependent care. This allows you to use up to $5,000 of pretax money to fund childcare related expenses. That can average out to about $2,000 in childcare savings per year. Age limits and other stipulations exist depending on your employer and state you live in. Speak to someone in HR for more info. Side note: Be careful not to over fund the account, whatever you don’t use, you lose.
In the state of FL, voluntary prekindergarten is a state funded program for children ages 4-5y old that prepares them for kindergarten. It is not income based. Donald trump could apply and get approved. It only covers about 3hrs of educational time. Any additional hours of instructions would have to be covered by the family. For example, if you needed 8hours of care, 3hrs would be paid for by VPK and the other 5hrs by you. Don’t worry about trying to figure out the math. Most schools have already calculated the costs. Research similar pre kindergarten programs offered by your state.
Non-Profit & City Programs
Check out The Boys & Girls Club, YMCA, Jewish Community Center or local recreation center. Many of these organizations charge significantly reduced rates and often use those funds to help low income families.
Income Based Assistance
Assuming that you worked prior to matriculation, your income is taking a huge hit with PA school. In addition to the increased expenses of your graduate school tuition, you are losing an income. State, local and federal government organizations may be able to help out with the cost of childcare if you qualify.
For those of you who have children with disabilities and/or prefer a private school education for your little ones, you may qualify for scholarships to help fund the cost of these services. Step up and McKay are some examples.
Who wouldn’t love to have a nanny? ‘Round the clock help with the kids is a dream. The problem is that you may not have “nanny money.” Consider nanny-sharing. Split the cost and services of a nanny with another family from your cohort or neighborhood. Or consider an au pair – providing room and board to a foreign person in exchange for childcare.
Find a responsible and reliable teen or college student that you can trust to help out on weeknights/weekends . You may come across some on campus while completing your prerequisite courses, at church or in your community. Ask around, there’s always someone who can provide great referrals.
Family Child Care
A daycare that is in someone’s home as opposed to a center. My daughter attended family child care and still does for teacher work days and spring break. The owner and I have become great friends and her daughter is a college student that babysits for me on weekends as needed. Not only was it the most affordable option for my family, I love the “boutique” experience. A small, personal, warm, inviting and cozy environment which parents and children enjoy. I suggest researching licensed facilities.
In addition to the savings above. Here are a few steps to take in the childcare hunt. Start early – the best providers with the best rates fill up fast. You want to make sure that you have done your research and are prepared for the time when enrollment begins. Set a budget – Yes there it is again, the B word (budget). You need to know in advance what you can afford. Keep in mind that childcare may be needed for mornings, afternoons, weekends, summer vacation, spring break, holidays, teacher workdays, half days and the dreaded sick days. Consider a facility with extended hours such as a 24hr daycare or a facility that does a drop-ins for a small fee. Get ideas from other moms in your cohort or who are on the grad school journey. If you are relocating for school, speak to locals to get the inside scoop on the best schools. Checkout student services where you have been accepted to find out what resources are available to non-traditional students. In other words, Network!