How to Save Money on Child Care This Summer

School's out for the summer, and your kids are probably bouncing off the walls with excitement. However, not many jobs offer the same summer break perks, leaving you with the costly decision of finding summer child care.

Here are some solutions to try to save money on your child care costs this summer.

Swap With Someone Who Has a Summer Break

If one of your friends is a teacher or school administrator, then they probably have a good portion of the summer off. Ask a teacher or a stay-at-home mom friend who is willing to watch your children for a few hours a week in exchange for you watching their kids on the weekend. Since many teachers and stay-at-home moms will have to stay home with their children during the weekdays, they might enjoy a weekend break.

Just make sure that the agreement is benefiting both of you, instead of being a burden on one of you. One summer, my mom asked my neighbor to watch my sister and I. The neighbor had six children that stayed at home as is, so my sister and I were barely noticed. We had a blast hanging out with our friends, and the mom just kept her schedule as she always did. We even did chores and went to local home schooling conventions.

In exchange, my mom was able to give her money each week, and it ended up benefiting us all. The neighbor made a little bit of extra money, my mom paid less for child care, than she would have if she sent us to day camp, and my sister and I had a blast.

Try Working a Flex Schedule

Many times your employer can be more understanding of your need for a flexible schedule during the summer months. Try to work it out with your spouse's schedule so that there will always be someone available to stay home. For example, your spouse can go into work earlier and come home earlier, while you can go in later and work later hours. Perhaps you can even work the weekends so that you have two free days to watch your children during the week.

I have witnessed many couples do this successfully, and work it out so that their schedules overlap the majority of the time. You can then fill in the gaps with the use of a family member or a baby sitter. While this schedule will take planning and getting used to, remember it is only for a few months.

Of course, many people do not have flexible jobs, but it is worth looking into. Even if you can work from home one day a week or come in two hours later, that is time you do not have to pay for child care.

Look for a Tax Break

Take a look at your benefits to see if you have access to a dependent care flexible spending account. If so, you can use up to $5,000 in pre tax dollars to pay for child care expenses.

If your employer doesn't offer an FSA, you can claim the child care tax credit when you file taxes. This credit is good for $3,000 to $6,000 in expenses, depending on how many children you have.

Get the Most Out of Your Babysitter

A baby sitter might be a better deal for the summer, especially if you have more than one child. Be sure to do a background check and to find a sitter that will keep your kids engaged each day rather than parking them in front of the television.

When you are going through the hiring process, specify certain tasks/jobs you want done. Obviously it would be unfair to request they deep clean your home, but if they can manage light cleaning, simple dinner prep, grocery shopping, or the kids' laundry, that will take the stress off your shoulders. (See also: 9 Child Care Purchases You Should Never Skimp On)

Look Into Camp Scholarships

Ann Sheets, former national president of the American Camp Association said, "About 90% of resident camps and 89% of day camps offer scholarships."

Start your search today and apply to any camp you think your child would be eligible for. Don't forget to apply for higher-end camps too, since their scholarships might cover more than you think. Try to stay flexible with your camp dates. Not sure if a camp offers a scholarship? Just contact them and ask. You might have a better chance at qualifying for a scholarship if not many people know about it.

While kids live for summer vacation, it can be hard to deal with the costs. Most professionals will admit that their kids' summer plans look like a mismatched quilt. That is okay! Be creative and stay flexible, knowing that this is only a brief season.

What are your child care plans for the summer?

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