1. Parenting

Tough Economic Times, Expense Means Some Families Are Axing Child Care

Parents Who Become Cash-Poor, Laid Off Work Taking Harsh Look at Family Budget


Today's tough economic times can be felt across the nation's daycare centers as well as public and private schools, as cash-strapped parents must make changes in their family budget to keep food on the table.

Any working parent understands completely that the cost of child care can carve a large chunk out of a paycheck. The same is true for private school, before-or-after school care, and extracurricular programs. Job layoffs, work schedule reductions for hourly employees, and predictions of salary freezes and no bonus distributions have many families re-thinking every expense in their household budget. If you are trying to save money, here are some common child-related expenses to consider cutting, at least temporarily:

  • Child Care. Parents who have been laid off or have had their hours reduced are pulling kids from daycare, and are either keeping their kids at home until another steady job is secured or finding a less expensive option altogether. Child care costs vary; but typical weekly daycare fees range from $100 to $400. Usually, there are enrollment and supply charges and even program or enrichment costs beyond that.

    Parents already struggling with higher food prices, job insecurity, cost-of-living increases and wildly fluctuating gas prices may just say "no" to the daycare their child has been attending. This enrollment withdrawal at daycare means that staff there in turn may face staff layoffs, a reduction in hours and a change in assignments. Some daycare centers are changing food offerings based on rising food costs, and have limited or even eliminated the number of field trips, special programs and optional extracurricular activities. Parents and providers alike are teaming together to find solutions to daycare options on a budget.

    Family child care is affected, as parents pull out their children until work situations improve. In-home family providers typically plan a certain number of kids at certain ages to balance their home care in terms of cost and profit. Openings in non-peak months may be hard to fill, and less kids means an early educator is working for less money, which affects that household budget as well.

  • Private kindergartens or schools. Public schools offer free kindergarten programs, but they may not be at the level or hours that discriminating parents want. Some families may prefer private kindergarten with childcare over public kindergarten, because many free kindergarten programs may only be for one-half day or feature shortened hours. That may be changing. Private schools are very expensive, and supply lists, uniforms, and other so-called essentials add up for a family who may be currently struggling to pay the bills. Other parents are going ahead and sending their tot to kindergarten rather than waiting a year for additional maturity, in part due to saving daycare expenses. Some public schools are seeing an increase in enrollment at all levels due to a change from private to public, although the numbers spike most at kindergarten and younger elementary ages.

  • Extracurricular activities. It's great for your child to take private piano or golf lessons each week or to be on the select soccer team or dance company, but you might want to consider reducing some of the expenses. Most parents aren't necessarily pulling kids altogether from extracurricular offerings. Instead, they are removing kids from the elite (a.k.a. "expensive") programs and placing them in community programs or rec leagues, normal dance classes, and reducing or eliminating "privates."
Working parents who are facing tight budgets and mounting bills may also be relying on relative-provided child care, babysitter co-ops (where time is the only thing exchanged) and having older siblings watch younger ones instead of using after-school care. Some kids become latch-key children until parents can get home. Many times these are temporary solutions until better times can be had.

While current economic news is sobering, consider using these tough times to teach your kids valuable lessons about saving money, charity, and finding family fun activities that are free or don't cost a lot of money. If kids understand why the family needs to change certain lifestyles or make different financial decisions, they are usually much more supportive and eager to find solutions together.

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