10 Ways to Lower Your Childcare Cost

You are not left with much to take home when in year 2015, the median gross monthly income of a full time employed resident, in year 2015, earned $3,949 last year, including employer and employee contributions.

Depending on your preferred type of care, full day childcare fees alone can escalate from $600 to up to $2,500 monthly. As for infant care, expect the range of fees to increase up to 100%.

The good news is that expenses reduce drastically when your child progresses to a local primary school.

In the interim, there are several ways to help ensure childcare costs do not negate your monthly income. By investing in pragmatic alternatives, you can avoid overpaying and still have the best facilities and caregivers for your little ones.

1.  Identify the Most Basic Type and Scope of Care Required

Childcare is typically provided on a drop-off, session based, half day or full day care basis. Some charge on hourly basis while others lock you in with a signed contract. You will need to pay more if you want meals, education and specific developmental play services as well. To manage cost, have a good understanding on the most basic type of care required.

You would want to look for care as early as possible as the more affordable or value for money childcares get grabbed early and childcare slots fill up quickly. Do note there are parents who approach popular schools like St. James’ Church Kindergarten and Pat’s Schoolhouse with birth certificates that are still hot from the oven.

2. Shop Around

Do your research on affordable options. Ask your friends and family members. Surf the internet for community reviews and visit facilities armed with a checklist of questions to ask to see if they’re worth the price.

3. Search for Community Driven Organizations That Care for Kids

Local non-profit organizations or churches do offer childcare that is a lot more affordable as compared with the private sector. As these organizations are community driven, you are likely to get the best of your buck without short changing on the quality of care of your child.

Explore ECDA appointed anchor operators committed to maintain full day childcare and kindergarten fees at no more than $720 and $160 respectively. Metropolitan YMCA’s MY World Preschool, Kinderland Consortiums-Skool4Kidz, and EtonHouse International’s E-Bridge Pre-school have since joined PAP Community Foundation and NTUC First Campus’ My First Skool as anchor operators offering quality education at a fraction of their usual childcare fees.

ECDA appointed preschool partners have also committed to keeping childcare fees affordable. 23 operators who collectively run 169 childcare centers have, since January 2016, reduced their full day monthly childcare and infant care fees to $800 and $1,400 respectively, with commitment of keeping manageable fee increases moving forth.

4. Scrutinize Miscellaneous Fees and Charges

Registration and stationary fees, uniform and bed cot purchases, and late pickup charges drive up costs. A good childcare should provide you with a fee schedule detailing fees and charges, so be sure to ask for one and confirm which are necessary and which are optional.

An optional charge may include participation in enrichment courses provided by external vendors within childcare premises. Teach your child if you have martial arts, swimming or rock climbing skills. Otherwise, check on price reasonableness and enroll if your child is interested and if you feel value adds to your child’s holistic development.

5. Discounts, Promotions, and Staff Benefits

Fee waivers are typically offered during open houses or when a childcare facility branches out to a new location. Take advantage of marketing campaigns by keeping a keen eye on advertisements, mailers, preschool related websites or roadshows. Get yourself on mailing lists so that you are not missed out on any promotions.

Some childcares also offer sibling discounts. If you are expecting to place more than one child with the same facility, be sure to enquire on sibling discounts as this will help you better manage expenses for at least a few years.

Check with your company for alliances with partners offering employee preferential rates. If in luck, your company may have preferential arrangement with a neighboring childcare center.

Get together with friends who are also looking for childcare. You may want to approach childcare facilities together to ask for a better price. If you are hiring a babysitter, bargain for a preferential price to watch both sets of children.

6. Seek Family Help  

Family support can help ease your burden of childcare costs. Ask your parents if they are willing to pitch in. Ask family members who are stay at home parents themselves if they can help take care of your child for a couple of hours. Offer to pay them or perhaps bring over groceries regularly to thank them for their time and effort.

7. Engage Your Neighbors

Engaging the help of neighbors can be cheaper than drop in child care centers or after school care. You may want to consider teenage neighbors who have the energy to keep up with your little one. Choose one with an accompanying adult at home to keep an eye on things. It's also a relief to leave your child with someone whom you probably have known for years.

8. Adjust Your Schedule / Take Unpaid Leave

Check with both your and your partner’s employers on schedule adjustments. A lot of organizations offer flexible working hours to support parents who want to stay home and care for their children.

Depending on your circumstances and preferred type of care, the cost of child or infant care may negate your entire month’s income. You may want to consider taking a year off work if you are not that much financially stronger with a job. Besides, the privilege of having time to bond with your child at this critical phase of life cannot be measured simply with dollars and cents.

9. Qualify for Subsidies

Children who are Singapore citizens and have enrolled in ECDA licensed child care centers are eligible for subsidies. The amount of subsidy extended is dependent on meeting a combination of eligibility criteria including the mother’s employment status, type of enrolled program and household income.

We would recommend that you make reference to ECDA's website to find out details on Basic Subsidy that is extended to families regardless of income, Additional Subsidy, Start-Up Grant and Kindergarten Fee Assistance Scheme (KiFAS) among others.                                

10. Enroll for the Baby Bonus Scheme

The Baby Bonus Scheme comprises of two components - a cash gift and the government matching your savings in the Child Development Account (“CDA”).

The cash gift of up to $10,000 is given to help defray expenses and is to be used at your discretion. Do however note that the amount is gifted in 5 instalments over 18 months.

As for the CDA, the government will match each dollar that your save for your child up to $18,000 for your fifth child. CDA withdrawals can only be used with Baby Bonus Approved Institutions that includes childcare centers, kindergartens and enrichment providers. This said, instead of paying every dollar from your pocket, you might as well do some research and engage the services of approved institutions to fully optimize funds given by the government.

We would recommend that you refer to the Baby Bonus Scheme website for details.

Finally, you can manage childcare costs in a pragmatic manner. Decide what works best for you and your family. Everyone’s answer will differ.