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Managing Childcare Expenses: Strategies for Working Parents

By Diane Amato

Published July 25, 2023 • 5 Min Read

The cost of childcare has long been a source of concern and stress for parents. In many households where both parents work, one parent may choose to go on parental leave, work part-time or stop working, or while their children are small because the economics of working and paying for childcare doesn’t make sense.

For those who need childcare, there are ways to manage the expenses that don’t involve putting one parent’s career on hold. Here are six strategies for working parents to consider.

1. Find a centre enrolled in Canada’s national childcare program

The Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care (CWELCC) system aims to provide affordable childcare to families at an average rate of $10/day by 2026. To achieve this objective, provincial and territorial governments are creating 250,000 new childcare spaces, backed by $30 billion in funding from the federal government. Facilities can choose to sign onto the program and must tell parents whether they are enrolled.

Agreements with all 13 provinces and territories have been reached, including an asymmetrical agreement with the Government of Quebec (already offering $10/day childcare). In Ontario, 92 per cent of childcare providers have already opted into the program.

And what if your child will attend daycare before the program is fully in place? If your child is enrolled in a participating facility, fees are reduced by an average of 50 per cent as of late 2022.

The program means big savings for parents. The Canadian government estimates that parents will save thousands a year — from $2,610 in Manitoba to over $9,000 annually in Ontario and British Columbia.

2. Apply for tax benefits

The Canada Child Benefit (CCB) is a tax-free monthly payment made to eligible families to help with the cost of raising children under 18. You can apply once your child is born, and you don’t need to apply for related provincial or territorial programs — the CRA will determine your eligibility when you apply for the CCB. How much you receive is based on the number of children you have, their age, marital status and family income.

3. Make flexible work arrangements

Many employers today have adopted a flexible approach to the workplace. Since the pandemic, some have moved to a fully remote model, while others offer a hybrid environment. Employers sometimes don’t require staff to work set hours — as long as the work gets done, you can determine your schedule.

If you have a flexible workplace, you may be able to balance work with the care of your child without the need for full-time help outside the home. Perhaps you and your spouse can work out offsetting schedules that ensure both can work and provide care. Even if you can reach such an arrangement once or twice a week, you can save on childcare costs!

4. Collaborate with other parents

As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” meaning it takes many people to provide a safe, healthy environment for children to thrive. Other parents in your community have the same objectives and challenges as you. Tapping into that shared goal of raising healthy, happy children is worth researching.

Whether it’s rotational after-school care for a small group of kids, a babysitting circle of teens in your neighbourhood or a reciprocal arrangement with other parents of infants and toddlers for occasional relief, there are ways to use your “village” to help with the care of your child, at little to no cost.

5. Did someone say, grandparents?

Today’s grandparents have a range of lifestyles, goals and priorities. Some active grandparents would love nothing more than to care for their grandchildren — full-time or occasionally, while others are willing to help out occasionally. It’s worth having a frank conversation with your parents and in-laws to gauge their willingness to take on some care responsibilities.

6. Hire a nanny/live-in care

Nannies can be a wonderful option for childcare. Not only can your child remain in their environment, stick to routines and receive one-on-one attention, but having a nanny at home can make life significantly easier for you. Consider this:

  • You don’t have a pick-up or drop-off to contend with

  • You can add extra responsibilities such as grocery shopping, food prep or light housework

  • It may be easier to negotiate longer hours on days you need to work late

  • If your child is sick one day, you don’t need to miss work because your child can’t go to daycare

Live-in caregivers are less expensive than nannies who come to your home. While you need to be comfortable with someone living with you, this can be a great option for ongoing care. Keep in mind having a nanny may eliminate the need for a cleaner and cut down on grocery delivery costs that many busy parents come to rely on.

Coordinating and paying for childcare is one of the more time-consuming tasks a new working parent has to manage. Fortunately, there are options available that can bring the costs down — so you can have a career and a healthy, happy, well-cared-for child.

This article is intended as general information only and is not to be relied upon as constituting legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. Information presented is believed to be factual and up-to-date but we do not guarantee its accuracy and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the authors as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or any of its affiliates.

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