Form a co-op
Take turns babysitting with another parent. This has worked well for a reader named Carrie, who writes NaturalMomsTalkRadio.com. “We’re doing a babysitting co-op – 3 days a week we take care of each other’s children for several hours so we can get work done,” Carrie said.
Host an au pair
If you have room, host a foreigner who provides childcare and light housework in exchange for room and board. There are many organizations that connect au pairs with families, including Cultural Care, AuPair.com, International Au Pair Association, and Au Pair in America.
Enroll in a Parks and Recreation program
Most large cities have low-cost activities for kids. In LA, the Parks and Rec department has more than a dozen programs. Reader Salima said she enrolled her boys for Palms Child Care in Los Angeles, which charges $130 for 15 hours of care per week, or about $180 for 35 hours a week. Search online for programs at your city’s parks and rec department.
Sign up for vacation bible school
A reader named Lisa said vacation bible school is a “cheap alternative to day camps – gets the kids out of the house for a few hours (and gives me time to work too since I work p/t from home). The best part about VBS is that it’s so inexpensive – most churches only charge $40-$75 a week and put on an entire week of fun all tied back to good old-fashioned values.” To find a VBS near you, Google “vacation bible school + 91367” or whatever your zip code may be.
Rely on friends and family
A reader named Chris taps “every available family/friend resource we have and set a schedule that usually has the kids visiting different family/friends once a week. We also change our work schedule, opting to work on Saturdays (when my mother is available to watch the kids) then having a different day (such as Friday) off with the kids. I also am able to work from home one of the days, which really helps when this option is available.”
Hire a student
Post a note on the job board at your local university or college. Many students who stay in town for the summer need work. Students can be cheaper than commercial childcare centers, while still providing quality care. If possible, share a student nanny with another family and really cut your spending.
Ask for a lower rate at your regular day care
Your go-to source of childcare would probably prefer to cut you a small discount than lose you all together. Call and ask if they have any flexibility with the pricing. Explain your situation and ask them to work with you.
Check for public school programs
In Las Vegas a program called Safe Key is very popular, says reader Charlene, who runs MaxBizMom.com. It is a basic day care program run by the local school district in conjunction with the parks and rec department. “It really has been a godsend,” Charlene said. Safe Key charges about $75 per week with care from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. each weekday.
Enroll in low-cost day camp
While traditional day care can be pricey, there are cheap alternatives. Call around and compare rates.