Be Aware of the Hidden Costs of Child Care
It’s hardly a secret that raising children is an expensive endeavour in modern society. Many families are accustomed to a two-income lifestyle until their first child arrives. The adjustment in income and lifestyle can be quite a shock.
In some cases, one parent will quit work to care for the child full time, at the cost of career momentum and income. In other cases, the parents will pay a fortune for the privilege of sending their kids to a day care provider while they work, which may carry with it a sense of guilt. Others hire a nanny or babysitter to take care of children at home.
Unfortunately, in either of these cases the children may spend more time with their carers than with their parents in a normal week.
Much has been said about rising child care costs in Australia, with pressure from parents and the providers on the Government to find solutions to the problem. However, even if parents choose to accept the cost of full time day care for their children and budget for the expense, there are a number of hidden expenses associated with child care that can add up and change the balance of the equation.
It is inescapable that you’ll be late from time to time, regardless of whether it is your fault or not. A meeting run overtime, traffic congestion or a breakdown – these things happen. But when you’re late to pick up your children from care, this can add additional late fees if they need to stay past the provider’s normal hours. Even if you pay a nanny to care for your children at home, they may be entitled to receive overtime if they work too many hours in a week.
Driving to and from a day care centre, especially if it is far from your normal route to work and home, can add up significantly over time. Fuel costs affect you immediately while additional wear and tear on your vehicle can increase repair bills, increase depreciation and cost you if you plan to resell your vehicle in the future. Even using public transport, riding or walking can cost you significant time during your week that could be better spent with your children.
Don’t forget that even if you employ an in home baby sitter or nanny, they may need a vehicle or transport of some kind to take the children to activities. Having an extra driver use your car may incur extra insurance fees which have to be factored in.
If hiring a nanny or babysitter, it’s probably unrealistic to expect them to sit at home all day with nothing to do – more importantly; you want to child to experience and interact with the world.
These activities often cost money – parking, libraries, entertainment, museums, galleries can all have fees associated with them. Day care centres usually provide activities as part of their fees but occasionally there may be extra costs for materials or other classroom fees.
Some day cares also offer add-ons – special classes in gymnastics or art or provide options to teach kids other languages – at a cost.
Extra Food and Other Supplies
Feeding children is a normal part of raising them, but they may still need to have snacks or lunch provided to them when they’re in day care. A nanny or babysitter, even a family member caring for your kids at home, will likely consume some food from the house. This means you’ll have a higher grocery bill, as well as higher utilities because of the extra time people will be spending in your home.
In some cases you’ll also need to provide nappies, baby wipes and other supplies to day care centres as these are not provided. This may not cost any more than you’d normally spend, but factor it into your expenses. Other facilities may charge additional fees which could be significantly more costly than providing them yourself.
Like many schools, some day care facilities will hold special parties, charity drives or charge for field trips which place additional burdens on your wallet. And it doesn’t hurt to show your appreciation for those that care for your offspring with a little gift for the individuals or team responsible.
Loss of Income
Even though your child is in care, there are circumstances where you will need to take additional time off work to look after them yourself. Facilities may be closed over the Christmas period and on public holidays. If you get penalty rates for working public holidays this can be an extra blow to your income. Similarly, you may miss opportunities to earn penalty rates on overtime work if you have to leave to collect children from care.
Under the new National Health and Medical Research Council Guidelines, stay-at-home ‘exclusion periods’ for sick children have been laid out depending on their illness. Even with a doctor’s certificate, children may not be able to return to care until the period is up, meaning you may be away from work for days at a time. Even if you don’t lose income, it can wear on your employer.
It isn’t all about the expense fortunately. Many care providers have been doing an amazing job of providing a happy, stimulating environment for children to play and develop.
With the new National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care, training standards for carers are being increased – a minimum of a Certificate 3 in Early Childhood Education and Care is required and half of staff should have a Diploma of Children’s Services qualification as well. Centres will also have to have an early childhood educator on staff.
However, once you factor in not just the upfront cost of paying for childcare, but also all the incidentals associated with care, you may reconsider using formal care services and find that it is more economical to have one parent leave the workforce to care for the children instead.
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