Today we’ve got a fantastic guest post from Melissa over at Skinny Spending who is going to DROP SOME KNOWLEDGE all about TRUE COST of Childcare in the UK!
If you’re reading this there’s a good chance you have become a parent for the first time in the last few months, and the thought of sending your baby off to daycare in the not too distant future seems a scary thought. Not just because they are still so tiny, but also the cost involved. However, if you know yourself or your partner will be returning to work after parental leave, it is worth preparing early.
- Start thinking about childcare options as soon as possible (6-9 months beforehand)
I know – you’re shellshocked, sleep deprived and some days getting dressed is an achievement, so searching around for childcare either online or in person is probably the last thing you feel like doing. However, you could begin to think about the options available to you. How many days will you be returning to work, and how many days’ childcare will you need? Will you use a childminder or a nursery? Will any family member be offering to childmind on a regular basis?
Once you have some idea of these answers you can start to look at the costs involved and get in touch with relevant providers. Personally I was booted into action by idly phoning a nursery in August to enquire for the following April to be told they were already fully booked. Thankfully the next place I tried was not, but it got me in gear! The last thing you want is to be shelling out more money in a panic on the only available place left.
- Check what you’re entitled to
Both myself and my husband pay into the tax free childcare voucher scheme. However, this is now ending and is replaced with the new Tax Free Childcare system. Start saving now (if you can afford to) so you have a pot ready to go.
Child Benefit – although not linked to childcare, some people wrongly assume they don’t qualify for this. Anyone is eligible, although if you earn more than 50k (individually, not combined) you may have to pay a tax charge on it.
Funded places for 2 year olds – For low income families.
- Don’t just look at price alone
Saving where possible is the focus of this article, but obviously your child’s happiness should come first. This is not to say that the most expensive nursery equals the best care. As well as having a good feeling about the place, there are practical issues to consider.
Does your provider offer the 30 funded hours a week for 3 and 4 year olds? – It is not compulsory for settings to offer this (Although the 15 funded hours are universal) so it is important to check if this is something you will benefit from in the future. Your baby turning 3 might seem like light years away, but uprooting them a couple of years down the line to save on childcare costs elsewhere is not ideal.
Think about the times you will need to drop off and collect – childminders tend to be more flexible about early and late collections whereas extra charges may apply at nursery.
Location – Some go for near home, others go for near work, it all depends on your situation and the traffic. If you are driving 20 mins in the wrong direction in rush hour every day to drop off, it is going to get stressful for all involved. (Not to mention the fuel costs).
Childminder cover – While childminders tend to be cheaper and some prefer a more personal setting, there are some issues you may not have considered. If your childminder is ill, do you have someone else on standby, or is your work flexible enough for you to take time off? Childminders are entitled to holiday leave too – will you have cover for this?
This is not to say childminders are not fantastic – but these points need to be carefully considered rather than price alone as unpaid leave could prove to be far more costly.
- Don’t make assumptions
“Sarah pays £30 a day for her childminder, so I assume that one near us is the same.” – Never assume costs are the same! There is a great variation just in my area.
“We’re going to use a mixture of childminder and nursery to save money.” – Not all providers, particularly childminders, are willing to split this. This is not to say you cannot do it, but check with the providers first.
“The nurseries all provide nappies/food/milk don’t they?” – Again, there is huge variation with this and down to the individual setting.
“Because of our shift work, we’ll only need 1 day a week of paid childcare.” – Some childcare providers have a minimum attendance of 2 days a week, so again check this before doing the sums.
Childcare in the UK is notoriously expensive, and while these pointers can’t change that, being clued up can help you to save where possible.