CHILD CARE COSTS, part two
This is Part Two of the the frugal Yankee's report on Child Care Costs.
Part ONE is located HERE
Part THREE is located HERE
And if you'd like to see a short video of Louise Reilly Sacco & Karen Swenson discussing this topic on New England Cable News, please click HERE.
Moving beyond relatives babysitting, another way to cut child care expense is a swap with your neighbors. This is a traditional many communities have used for generations. One neighbor will watch the kids while another will mow that person's lawn, snow blow their walks, paint their garage even make a home cooked meal. It is neighborly and both side benefit. Be imaginative, however, it is important to keep track, at least loosely, so it's not one-sided. If one person feels there is an imbalance, the cost maybe more than child care.
Although not considered standard child care option, nursery schools, instruction and other programs can be used for a parent's 'own' time. These events can be a place to find parents of a similar bents and then a 'swap' can be worked out. One takes them this week, the other next week. A recommended Frugal Yankee resource is the library story hour. Children love being read to and this could be time to sit in a comfy library chair and relax, even for a while.
Depending on the size of a neighborhood, one approach may be "round robin" child care. With kids from 3 or 4 families at around the same age, one family takes the whole group one morning a week or an afternoon. Then another family does on another day, then the next and so on. For several mornings, the parents are free to do errands, kick back or work at home. On the plus side, kids have a morning activity and child care expense is minimized..
Since the beginning of communities, families have relied on the "Parent's Helper". A neighborhood 10 to 14-year-old is asked to help with the kids 2-3 times a week. The young teen watches the child or children for a small fee, maybe $5 and hour. They may go outside to play, or go to a nearby playground, or simply go to the pay room for some crafts or game playing. The mother or father stays at home while the young helper occupies the kids. This is great for work at homes, or if chores, like cleaning, need to be done If the relationship yields trust, out of home errands can be accomplished while the "parents helper" play with the kids.
A more modern twist on the "parents helper" is the babysitter. For years teenagers would make money taking care of children as parents went out. These days it has somewhat changed. Sitters are more scrutinized and at the same time valued. The first step is finding a good one. sitters: The Red Cross offers babysitting class instructions (See web site link below). Contacting the local chapter is a great place to start. Also see if the local school system offers a similar course, and of course asking neighbors for referrals is a good idea. Traditionally this role of the babysitter has been filled by teenage girls, but consider teen boys, especially if there is a young boy to be 'sat'. Before you hire a teen babysitter, talk with his or her parents. Assess whether they're mature enough and also to evaluate the parents. The life lessons imparted by parent to child should give an indication of the type of person the teen is. However, always check references.
One great tip for finding the right person for child care is to have a potential sitter come to the house. This would be an interview or 'get acquainted' meeting, but also see how they interact with the kids. Show them around, explain the rules, detail expectations about food, phone, computer, TV and visitors. This would also be the time to discuss pay and availability. Pay varies by community, but $8-12 seems to cover most situation in New England. The price may go up or down depending if the kids are asleep or if there are more infants, like twins. Finding a good 'babysitter' aka child care provider, is sometimes a hotly contested commodity, and this may drive the expense of child care up.
This may not sound frugal, but it's a great idea for the well liked sitter. Take the sitter on the family vacation. This accomplishes two things. First, for the young teen a free vacation will cement the relationship and secondly it offers the parents some time away form the kdis during the vacation. For example, if the vacation is a beach house rental, the additional cost is minimal to bring the sitter along. It is important to be very clear on pay, the sitter's time working, sitter's time off and what activities the sitter will be responsible for. These details are best worked out in advance.
A relatively new twist in child care,e specially when a good sitter has been found, is to consider an ongoing contract. The ongoing contract sets terms for an extended period of time. For example, successive weekend nights are needed for child care. A deal is struck where the sitter will be 'on call' for these nights. If called upon the pay will be a certain amount. If the not and sufficient notice has been given, the sitter will still get paid, but a lesser amount. Think about it as a retainer which will insure coverage. It may well be worth the additional child care expense so that the eventuality of having to have a sitter is covered. Parents won't be scrambling to find a sitter, then worrying if that person is trustworthy.
The final part of this series is located HERE