While most kids look forward to the end of the school year, it can be a source of stress for working parents. Three in four parents say they have at least some difficulty finding child care during the summer months, according to the Center for American Progress. And then there’s the expense. If you aren’t prepared, it could take a big bite out of your budget. A 2021 Bankrate survey found that 45% of parents planned to use credit cards to cover their summer child care bills. The average estimated cost came in at $834 per child.
With summer break right around the corner, we’ve rounded up five ways to save on child care.
1. Set up a babysitting swap.
One option is to tap your social network. If you can find a group of other parents who are in the same boat, you might be able to create your own child care swap. Let’s say there’s three parents in all. All the kids spend the first week at one house playing together. The next week, they switch to the next house, and so on. This gives each parent two weeks of child-free time to work. When it’s your turn to have the kids, you’ll have to arrange your work schedule around your babysitting duties. This may or may not work with your job—but it could save you a significant amount of money if you can swing it.
2. Explore nearby camps.
Summer camps don’t always come cheap. The average 2021 daily cost for day camp is $178.49 per child, according to the American Camp Association. However, you may be able to find cheaper options. YMCAs, for example, offer a wide variety of camp options. You can also check with nearby schools to see if they’re hosting any day camps this summer. Digging around might turn up some budget-friendly child care options that may be more affordable than hiring a one-on-one babysitter or nanny.
3. Consider a parent’s helper.
This might be a good option for work-from-home parents. A “parent’s helper” is someone who comes by and spends time with your child while you’re home. A family member or local teen in the neighborhood could end up being a great fit. If something comes up and they need you, you’re right there in the next room to lend a helping hand. Meanwhile, you can get some focused work done while they entertain your kiddos. It may be cheaper than paying for a formal babysitter to come over, prepare meals, and take your child for out-of-the-house activities.
4. Look into local assistance programs
There may be child care financial assistance programs available in your area. You’ll have to meet your state’s eligibility requirements, but their design includes helping certain low-income families cover the cost of child care. And if you meet the eligibility requirements, you may be able to claim the child and dependent care credit when you file your income tax return. It could ultimately lighten your tax burden the following year.