Children are always a blessing, but they're unfortunately also very expensive. Nowadays, working parents are a given, so that leaves most of us with childcare needs. And while daycare and kindergarten are excellent for improving your child's development and social skills, they are also notoriously expensive, which can make it difficult for your family to afford to offer the very best to your little ones.
1. Set A Budget
The most obvious way to cut costs in any area, including childcare, is to set a budget and then stick to it. We all want to offer our children the best of the best, but sometimes, you need to cut corners and scale back. You can budget for your childcare by opting for the supermarket brand diapers and baby accoutrement, but also by not enrolling your child into full-time daycare, for example.
Grandparents or other family members can make excellent child minders, and free or inexpensive ones, at that. Another tip is to look for other parents in your area - some of them may be willing to watch your child, together with theirs, or you can trade babysitting favours.
2. Check To See If You're Entitled To Help With Costs
Did you know that some parents are entitled to financial help with childcare costs? According to the Money Advice Service, you can get free education for three and four-year olds in the UK. Terms may differ depending on what area of the UK you're in, but in England, you get 570 hours of childcare or early education per year, for free. This is for three-year olds and four-year olds. That comes out to be 38 weeks with 15 hours per week. Your two-year old may even be eligible.
Who is eligible for extra hours?
Some families are even entitled to 15 extra hours of free childcare if:
- Both parents earn under £100,000 a year
- Both parents are employed, including single parents
- Both parents earn a wage equivalent with 16 hours per week at the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage.
- The child must be three or four years old
Where can you use your free hours?
Ofsted registered childcare providers enable you to use these free hours, including registered childminders, nursery classes and nurseries, Sure Start Children's Centres, pre-schools, and playgroups.
3. Use Universal Credit
If you are not familiar with Universal Credit, it's a benefit that is meant to replace up to six currently existing benefits, such as Working Tax Credit. People who are currently enrolled in work as well as out of work, are eligible. You can get back as much as 85% of your childcare costs if you are eligible for Universal Credit.
Who can get it?
- People who have a job offer
- People who are enrolled in work, regardless of the number of hours worked
- People whose childcare is ensured by a government approved childcare provider or a government registered childcare provider
How much do you get?
You can get up to £646 per month for one child, while two (or more) children get £1,108 a month.
4. Get Tax-Free Childcare
Another new scheme funded by the government is tax-free childcare. This scheme can be paired with the 15/30 hours of childcare for 2 to 4 year olds. However, it cannot be paired with tax credits, Universal Credit, or childcare vouchers.
Who gets it?
- Working parents of children under 12 (or disabled children under 17)
- Can be employed or self-employed
- Must earn less than £100,000 a year
- Must earn the equivalent of 16 hours at the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage
How much is it?
The government will provide up to £2,000 per child per year (£4,000 per year for disabled children), contingent on you paying £8,000 in the childcare account. Essentially, the government offers 20p for every 80p you pay into the childcare account.
How do you apply?
You can apply online, and sign up to the Childcare Service to get alerts when applications are open. You can find out more about this scheme at MoneySavingExpert.
In conclusion, there are ways to reduce the cost of your childcare. GOV.uk can help you with information on all the schemes and funding you can benefit from and are eligible for to help contribute to child-rearing costs.