When you found out you were having a baby, you likely had dreams of how you would raise your child: teaching manners, doing science projects and enjoying cuddle time on the couch. What you didn’t count on was handing your child over to someone else so you could go to work for the week and take home a fraction of your paycheck, after sharing a pretty good portion of it with that childcare provider. Don’t beat yourself up too badly. Solo parent or not, this is an area that causes struggle for most parents. The trick is to use your resources to your advantage. In some cases, you can even use the rising cost of childcare itself to your advantage.
Cost of Childcare
According to Childcare Aware of America, childcare costs today can range from $300 to $1564 a month. That’s a minimum of $3,600 a year for childcare expenses alone. These costs are a minimal representation of what you need to pay, because providing snacks, meals, extra diapers, wipes, and so on, add up. Then there is the cost of driving to and from your childcare provider. It all adds up to far more than many solo parents can cover.
Thankfully, there is help for struggling solo parents who need assistance paying for childcare. Check out some of the options below, and if something doesn’t exist in your area, don’t be afraid to start something up. There are plenty of solo parents who need help with childcare.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services offers grants to states to help low income families pay for the cost of childcare. This grant is managed at the state and local level, so a great place to start is at your Family and Social Services Administration, or you can search for local offices through the Office of childcare. The voucher program is meant to supplement childcare costs, so you may still need to pay part of the fee once you are approved for the voucher program. However, the voucher program does not just pay for childcare expenses while you work. If you don’t have a job, it will pay for childcare for a limited time while you look for work.
More and more families are relying on each other for childcare services. Rather than paying for childcare, parents take turns being the daycare. For example, if there are five parents, each with one child, each parent watches the children for one day a week. This way, you avoid the cost of daycare and—bonus– the children get to spend more time with their parents.
The trade and barter system isn’t dead yet. You can swap services for childcare. Starting a remodeling business? Offer to do work for your daycare in exchange for services. Work in marketing? A few well- placed ads for your daycare can help offset the cost to you. You can even exchange childcare services with people you work with. Post an ad on the bulletin board in your workplace and exchange childcare services with someone on a different shift.
How to Make Childcare Costs Work for You
Maybe your bottom line is that you want to be there for all of your child’s milestones. You find you’re crying into your pillow at night because you missed the first step, or the cutest words. Rather than letting the cost of daycare take away from your family, make it work for your family by opening your own daycare. You can do this even if you are struggling financially to take care of your own child.
Certification and Licensing
Not all daycares have to be certified or licensed, and certification and licensure each have their own benefits. Either licensed or certified daycares can accept state voucher payments, so you can be of help to families who use them. The main differences are the requirements that individual states demand, and those vary by state. For example, in Indiana you can only have 5 children in your daycare who aren’t related to you if you are certified, but you may have as many related children as you want. Licensing has a set number that fluctuates when the state makes changes, but licensing also allows for state financial aid in providing healthy meals.
If you don’t have a background in childcare, don’t assume you can’t open a daycare. In fact, there is such a high need for quality daycare that Project T.E.A.C.H. offers educational grants with an agreement to serve. Essentially, if you want to get a degree in early childhood education, Project T.E.A.C.H will help fund your education–as long as you agree to keep your daycare open for a set amount of time. Couple that with PELL grants for low income students, as well as state grants for low income students, and you have the potential to increase your income by studying something that will allow you to open a business– without going into debt.
You have to pay taxes on your daycare income just like you would any other business you run. However, between the tax breaks like the Earned Income Credit available for single parents, and the deductions you can take for using your home as a daycare, you have a very good chance of qualifying for a refund rather than a payment, even at the state level—especially if you happen to rent your home. Deduct food, utility, shelter, gift, and clothing costs that go with running a small business out of the home.
Though the stigma of being a solo parent is fading, some solo parents feel marked by it. You don’t have to: be proud that you’re doing the job of two parents. Rather than seeing the downside, use your resources to make it work for you.