What are the most affordable childcare and preschool options?

Finding and accessing quality childcare options is a challenge many families experience, especially since the price of many programs far exceed what families can afford. CareNectar expert Emily Louange reviews the most cost-conscious childcare options.

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Our income is a smidge too high to qualify for subsidized options, but we’re on a pretty tight budget and struggling to find affordable childcare or preschool options. Any suggestions?


Finding affordable childcare options so your family can work is such a challenge. And you’re not alone. For so many families, finding and accessing quality childcare options that are within their budget is a challenge. This is part of the nation’s ongoing childcare crisis, that keeps options that parents actually want so far out of reach.

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem, here are some options to considerone (or more) of which may work for you and your family.

1. Relatives

Some fortunate families have healthy parents, siblings, or trusted relatives who live nearby and are willing and able to help for little to no cost. If this is you, take full advantage! For many, family members are those you can trust with your children, which makes this type of care preferred for many parents.

But remember, caregiving, especially for young children, is a big job which for many is unpaid work. If you are relying on relatives and family members to provide care for your children, be sure to reciprocate in whatever way you can. Offer to assist around the house with projects, landscaping, cleaning, or other errands to show your appreciation.

2. Childcare Cooperatives (or Childcare Exchanges)

If you have some flexibility with your schedule or work part-time, childcare exchanges are an excellent no-cost option! Find a neighbor, friend, or family member you trust and offer to watch their children during certain times in exchange for them watching yours during alternate times. This does require some time and effort to coordinate, but is a great optionespecially since it can offer time for your child to socialize with other children.

To find these families, ask around at your children’s school or the par, or post in local Facebook parenting groups.

3. Nanny Sharing

Nanny sharing is an excellent way to curb costs while paying childcare providers higher rates! Nanny shares typically cost 33% less per family than the cost of a nanny, so partnering with a family gives you a cost savings while providing your nanny with a well-deserved bump in pay. Here’s a quick math example: Say the going rate for a nanny in your area is $18 per hour. For a two-family nanny share, the nanny’s rate bumps to $24 per hour, meaning each family would only pay $12 per hour. You save, and your nanny earns more!

To find a nanny or share family, ask your contacts, post in local Facebook groups, or use a dedicated childcare platform.

4. Au Pairs

Au pairs are an excellent option for families in need of full-time care when other arrangements—such as relatives or childcare cooperatives—aren’t available. Most au pairs are live-in, so if you opt for this type of arrangement, you’ll need the space available in your home. Please note that the COVID-19 pandemic has made this option less viable due to transmission of the virus, especially considering that many au pairs are international and unable to travel.

For families opting for au pairs, you’ll need to take extra steps to ensure you are following the law as a household employer. For information on the nanny hiring process, learn more here.

5. Home Daycares

In-home daycares (also known as family childcare programs) are a good option if you prefer your child to be outside of your home exclusively or want them to have social interaction with other children in a structured environment. This type of care can be a more affordable option than childcare centers (especially large, corporate-run programs). What’s great about in-home providers is they are often operating within your own neighborhood, making access to the programs more convenient for families.

Always do your homework and be sure the home daycare offers quality early learning experiences, is licensed with your state, and adheres to proper child-to-caregiver ratios.

We recognize that many parents are struggling with the challenge of accessing and affording quality childcare for their families. We hope this helps and you are able to find the right option that works for you.

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Meet The Expert

Emily Louange

Emily has held positions as a care provider for over two decades. She’s managed care as a nanny, home health aide, and as a RN after earning her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing. When she became a working mother, she was astonished by the insufficient systems in place to support and guide families. She strongly believes that our children and those who care for them deserve better support and solutions. Called to do something to help; she founded a childcare networking platform, Via The Village, served on the Board of Directors for the US Nanny Association, and helped start CareNectar!