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Ready to lower your bills and save money? Here are some great ideas to help you spend less on child care.
1. Share a nanny
Two families, one nanny, one salary to pay. All this takes is a bit of coordination and a little luck. If you and a family you are close to -- personally and geographically -- want to share a nanny, some nannies are perfectly willing to divide their time between two houses.
2. Take your parental leave
Moms don't need much encouragement, but dads, check with your employer and the government about paternity leave -- and take all the time both of you are entitled to.
3. Ask extended family for help
The so-called traditional nuclear family -- Mom, Dad and kids -- is very much a modern Western world ideal. In most other parts of the world, the extended family household -- Mom, Dad and the kids plus grandparents, aunts and uncles -- is the norm.
Food blogger and mom of three Jill Chen is a fan. "It's worked out extremely well with having my mom live with us," she says. "In the morning she's up early making breakfast for them and braiding hair, and she also helps to prepare dinner. We also are fortunate to have a last-minute, built-in babysitter."
4. Live closer to family
OK, if living together is too close for comfort, what about moving a little closer to where the grandparents or aunts and uncles live? Yes, moving is a huge undertaking. Yes, it's expensive. But if you plan it right and perhaps make the move before baby comes, the move should pay for itself in free child care in no time.
5. Take turns babysitting with a friend
Consider looking after your friend's kids when she wants to go to yoga and she'll look after yours when you need some downtime, too. Trading kid-sitting hours is a great option with a work mate as well, assuming the timing and geography works.
6. Start a day-care co-op
Think about organising and forming your own child-care co-op. Here's how the Government of Canada explains it: "A co-operative is an enterprise that is jointly owned by the members who use its services. By pooling their resources and working together, the members can satisfy that need through the co-operative." Think about how a group of like-minded parents can solve their child-care needs together.
7. Consider getting by on less money
This might be a sensitive issue, or not. It depends. Perhaps one of you isn't so smitten with your job. Perhaps the pay isn't so great. The smartest thing to do may be for one or both of you to reduce work hours to part-time.
When their kids came along, Toronto couple Kristin Marshall and Paul Young both dropped their work hours to slightly more than part-time. "One of us was always home with [the kids]," they say. "We made less money, for sure, but we ate better, had more quality time with the kids, and we made it work."
8. Send the kids to school
It's never too early to start learning, and some provinces understand the benefit of early childhood education. Where available, consider enrolling your little darling in full-day kindergarten, junior kindergarten or prekindergarten.
9. Consider working from home
Can one or both of you work from home or telecommute a couple of days per week? With so much technology in place, keeping us connected to our bosses, colleagues and clients, it's easy to work from just about anywhere, any time.
10. Look for at-work day care
Some workplaces offer day care as a benefit. Perhaps you're in a profession or have the skills that would allow you to change jobs and move to an employer who does. Here's a list of the most family-friendly workplaces in Canada.
11. Sign up for subsidies
Look into government -- municipal, provincial, federal -- subsidies and benefits. The National Child Benefit is one and many provinces offer assistance, too. Do a Google search with the name of your province or town plus child-care subsidies and see what comes up.
12. Keep your kids active
Is your kid old enough to participate in an after-school program offered by the school, your place of worship or local community centre? From swimming to cooking lessons, some programs may cost a nominal fee or be free, and will buy you some time.
13. Share your job
Are you able to job-share with someone in your office so that you can spend more time at home? The perfect arrangement would be to share jobs with a coworker who also needs child care -- you could share that, too.
14. Consider student-run day care
Just as teaching beauty schools run salons, so some colleges that teach early childhood education offer student-run day cares on campus. Inquire with education programs in your area.