Managing child education costs for young kids

Having kids is expensive. I know I am preaching to the choir for anyone who has been there but it is worth repeating. Due to a recent divorce one of the big new expenses I have had to plan for is child care/education costs. I heard via friends who have to pay for childcare that it is expensive but seeing is believing and pain to the pocket book.

Background on the problem I was trying to solve

My goal was to find a place for my 4 year old son to provide child care/pre k type education without totally busting my budget. Originally my plan was to try to avoid pre college education costs for my kids since saving for ever increasing college costs is already a big challenge. To do this and still get a good primary education for my kids I was planning to take advantage of excellent local charter school programs for k-8 and pray that there was an equivalent option by the time they reach high school. Charter options are the most popular in my area due to the weakness of the local public system (some real, some perceived). I was fortunate to get into the local charter program for my first child despite a massive registration/wait list so that part had worked out and also means my 2nd child will be able to qualify.

I checked a few local places childcare places but not only were they expensive but they also seemed more like babysitting vs. pre k education. I was starting to get worried about my options and was considering some type of live in room/wage childcare option but after investigation that seemed even more pricey after factoring in benefits. I finally stumbled into a good option from a local religious themed school that provides pre k classes plus pre/after care for my youngest plus after care that buses directly from my older child’s school all at a relatively reasonable price. This is the closest thing to my best case scenario and the costs I pay are detailed below (keep in mind this is probably very cheap vs. high cost areas). I will still have to deal with summers which I currently have no plan for but need to get one by early next year.

Current monthly spend for child education expenses

  • $600 for full day pre k including pre and after care (up to 6PM) for my 4 year old
  • $175 for after care for my daughter to same location
  • $75 X 2 for college savings 529s (yes I realize this is no where near enough but is best I can swing at this point). My kids better work hard to get significant scholarship assistance and/or seek creative reduced options to reduce expenses as I will not sacrifice my financial future for extensive college debt.

My recommendations for managing child education costs

  • Investigate all options including religious affiliated schools that may be a good value for the cost.
  • Check with your employer to see if you can save for child care/education costs with pre tax dollars. This alone can save you up to 1/3 of the costs.
  • Try to consolidate after care options if you have multiple children so you can have one point of pickup. This lets the kids be together and is a huge convenience step. I would hate to waste the gas and time to do pickups at multiple locations. It is also important that any older kids can be bussed to the primary after school location.
  • Seek to avoid pre college charges as much as possible as long as your child will be in a safe learning environment. No one will ask what high school your child graduated from once they finish college or get their careers established so I am reluctant to spend big money pre-college.
  • Ask for multi child discounts and be friendly with the care providers so they will be sympathetic to your plight and more flexible in helping you out. Being nice goes a long way and doesn’t cost you any extra out of pocket money.

 

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