For many of us, childcare is a huge expense every month, regardless of whether you have a new born or a teenager. With careful planning it’s possible to keep the cost down by making the most of government help and making changes to your work and home commitments. There are plenty of options out there which could get you £1,000’s of well deserved help.
Age is just a number
Most of us think childcare is for babies or young infants, when in fact it includes all children of school age. If you’re paying for your 14-year old son or daughter to go to an after school or summer club, then you may be entitled to some childcare. It’s definitely worth looking into.
For all three or four year olds there are free ‘early learning’ classes available. Families of a low income may also be entitled to free classes for two year olds. If you’re currently paying for childcare you might want to consider swapping for one of these free classes, typically available at nurseries, pre-schools, and childminders.
You are currently entitled to 15 hours a week for at least 38 weeks, adding up to a massive 570 hours per year. This can be used during school term time or over the entire year.
Grab your tax credits
The idea behind this is to help working parents cover some of the costs of raising a child, so that you still have a little bit of cash leftover each month.
The average pay-out is around £60 per week, or over £3,000 a year! So it’s definitely worth checking if you are eligible as you could be missing out on a huge amount.
These need to be offered by employers, but they could save you over £1,000 a year on childcare, so it’s definitely worth asking about at your place of work.
Most employers will work it on a salary sacrifice system, which sounds confusing and a pain but can be an easy way for some free money. For example…
You give up £1,000 of your salary, which after tax and national insurance is worth about £700 in your pocket. You receive £1,000 of childcare vouchers meaning you’re £300 better off!
Help during summer
Holidays can often be a nightmare for parents, with worries of who’s going to look after your kids, how they’re going to make the most of their time, and how much it’s all going to cost you.
It’s worth checking what’s on offer from your local council, whether there are any summer clubs running for a period. It’s also a good idea to contact schools, community centres and youth groups as there are usually many schemes on offer during school holidays which as well as being cheaper, would be a great thing for your kids to get involved with.
Alternatives to childcare
- Flexible working – Changing the way you work to reduce the hours you have to pay for.
- Family and Friends – Do you know someone (other than the grandparents) who might be available to help out at times for a lower cost.
- Community nurseries– Such as Sure Start Children’s centres, these are not-for-profit organisations that can work out cheaper and offer other free services as well.
- Moving home – Although this might seem like a drastic step, moving closer to affordable childcare or relatives and away from an oversubscribed area could make it worth the move.