My brother and sister-in-law have four kids and a one-income family, so they’ve taught me a lot about how daycare costs can impact a family's bottom line.

Luckily, families today have many more budget-friendly options for childcare while one or both parents are working.

Whether you’re simply seeking an alternative to traditional daycare options, or your family's budget requires getting creative to find high-quality care, these seven tips can help you brainstorm the best type of daycare for your child.

1. Consider staying home with the kids

Every year compiles a survey of what they call the "mom salary." The survey results compare the financial value of services provided by stay-at-home moms versus moms who work outside the home.

Part of the value of this survey is to help families calculate whether it makes better financial sense for both parents to continue to work outside the home, or if one parent should stay at home with the kids (at least while they’re young).

This resource includes a salary calculator for both mom and dad to help you decide!

2. Consider joining a co-op or exchange daycare option

Depending on the hours your child will need daycare services, it may make more sense financially and time-wise to consider joining a babysitter swap, co-op or exchange. One of the best perks of this alternate path to daycare services is that you have access to a group of trusted, vetted sitters that rotates, and the swap/co-op/exchange aspect makes services much more affordable.

3. Split the cost with another family (or two)

If you’re finding the cost of affording daycare prohibitive, you may want to go in together with another family (or two) to hire daycare and sitting services. In some circles this is called "nanny-sharing." The most critical aspect of success using this model is to ensure you and the other parent(s) are in agreement on daycare basics, such as diet, nap times, activities and study time.

4. Use a daycare budget calculator

One of the best things about the Internet today is access to a wide variety of helpful free budgeting calculator tools. You can use these free tools to forecast how adding new expenses will impact your budget using a variety of scenarios.

5. Be sure to take all available childcare-related tax credits

The IRS actually wants to help parents with childcare costs for dependents—and the variety of tax credits available can really help offset your annual costs for childcare. You just need to be sure you have a thorough understanding of each tax credit option and which one(s) you qualify for—these resources will help (for both single parent and two-parent households).

6. Consult with local branches of nationwide nonprofits and agencies

There are a handful of national nonprofits and associations that maintain their own accreditation standards for local daycare providers and facilities. Finding a local care provider or center that has been approved by one of these associations goes a long way towards vetting the quality of care provided (after all, if you’re going to spend money on daycare, you want to be sure it’s money well spent!).

Here are three organizations that offer daycare accreditation (and can provide local referrals):

7. Consider a home daycare provider

Here, you’re bringing your child to a provider's in-home daycare center, rather than to a commercial daycare facility. In addition to lower costs (in some cases), you can sometimes take advantage of extra services such as language classes and special activities, as well as a convenient location closer to you.

  • To personally vet a home daycare provider: First, find out how long the provider has been in business. Next, you can check with your state to ensure the facility is licensed, check for accreditation (see #6 above), conduct your own site visit and provider interview, look for a comprehensive emergency plan, check for a low staff-to-child ratio, and ask for current as well as past references you can call for more information.
7 Tips for Choosing the Best Daycare for Your Family’s Budget