Child care is very important to military families. Without good child care, spouses of deployed servicemembers may struggle to work, raise children, and manage the household. But, child care is expensive. According to a study by the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA), a family with a 4-year-old child will pay a maximum of $9,628 a year for child care fees. If you need child care for an infant, that number increases to $13,480 a year. These fees burden families who earn $18,000 a year or less, and eliminate child care from the family budget completely.
However, there are ways to cut down on the costs of child care. Here are seven ways military families can reduce the cost of child care according to Yahoofinance.com:
1) Child Care discounts: Many companies now set up special partnerships with local day care facilities to make services available to employees at a discount. This can often cut the cost of child care by 20 percent or more, depending on the arrangement your company has made with the provider. Contact your personnel office to see if they have such an arrangement -- and if they don't, encourage them to make one.
2) Telecommute: Another topic that you should discuss with your boss is the possibility of telecommuting a few days a week. With technological advances, telecommuting is much easier these days, especially if most of your work is done on the computer. Being able to telecommute may cut in half the days that the child needs to be in child care -- and also the costs.
3) Flex Hours: If a couple's employers allow flexible work hours, it may be possible for one or both to adjust their work schedule, so the children can spend less time in day care. More and more businesses are allowing flexible hours, so it is worthwhile discussing the issue with your boss.
4) Community Programs: More communities are stepping in and offering day care help and young-child activities. Be sure to check with your local community center to see if they offer any programs that could help reduce your child care costs.
5) School Programs: Check to see if there is a public school pre-Kindergarten program in your area. Some school districts offer half-day pre-K programs for 4-year-olds. Many of these programs are free, or cost a minimal amount of money. By enrolling your child, it will reduce your child care needs to a half day.
6) Use Operation Military Child Care (OMCC): OMCC provides child care fee assistance for National Guard and Reserve who are activated or deployed and whose children are enrolled in non-DoD licensed child care programs. It also provides child care fee assistance for deployed, active-duty Military (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Air Force) whose children are enrolled in non-DoD licensed child care programs.
7) Let Relatives Help: If a family member has offered to help watch your children, let them. Relatives that live nearby can provide a great family environment, as well as care for your kids.
For more tips on managing your family's finances, visit Military.com's Finance Center.