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Making Your Summer Care Plans

Summer is, by far, the biggest season for child care. When our little ones are out of school, families have to fill 8-10 hours a day of child care. And it can be the most expensive time of year, too. Have you started planning? 
We’ve always sent our boys to summer camp, but with the economic downturn, Ron and I have talked about some creative ways to cut costs but still have our little guy, Adam, enjoy his summer. Our local town camp is a terrific option since it costs much less and he would get to see his friends from school. But the pick-up time is much earlier, so we still need to figure out after-camp babysitting.  
We’re working out what Adam will do, but money is always a concern for parents once June, July, and August roll around. The average family can spend almost half of their child care budget during those three months alone—that can be up to $7,000 per child! We asked Care.com members if they were planning on cutting back for the summer and 75 percent say they planned to find money-saving alternatives. Here are some options that might work for your family.
Back-up babysitting and relatives!
We ran another Care.com poll a couple weeks ago and found over half of our members say they need a sitter for the summer. Schedules can get crazy between work and the kids’ activities, so if you can find a regular sitter who can handle the shifting hours, great! But you should still make sure you’re using your “My Favorites” list on Care.com for back up for when she can’t make it (or takes vacation). Using friends and relatives as caregivers is a great way to save money, too—you just have to help them out in return! For advice on using relatives as caregivers, check out my previous blog entry.

You can also use Care-on-Call when you're in a pinch! Care-on-Call is a great way to find last-minute babysitters when you're stuck looking for a new child care provider. It's a free service, too. You just put in a request for a sitter and we'll blast it out via emails and text messages to nearby care providers!

Share-A-Sitter Why not split the cost and share your summer sitter with another family? This works great especially if you’re like us and have just one child who needs babysitting (more playdates!). With the economy the way it is, full-time sitters are used to these cost-saving arrangements, but you still want to be sure not to overload her with too many children. Generally speaking, caregivers shouldn’t watch more than three kids under age 6, four kids under age 12, or more than five of any age. Or if you choose to use a child care center, NACCRRA has suggestions for the proper child to caregiver ratio.
Co-operation is key!Babysitter co-ops are a great way to save money and organize regular playdates for your kids. Our free program, Care Co-Ops, helps parents connect with other families looking to share sitter services. It’s an easy way to meet other families and trade off babysitting shifts. Even if you only set up one day’s worth of exchange each week, sharing can mean a 20 percent savings. Or, it can be a terrific way to just trade a couple of hours of care each day.
Let’s Go Camping We are worried about the cost of summer camp, so we’ve looked into some low-cost options. Larger sleep away camps often have scholarships, which can be helpful when you’re on a budget. Day camps can be a great cost-saving alternative. They cost less since your children won’t have to spend the night away from home. I also suggest looking into local options like church or community camps. These are good options because they cater to a wide range of children and often offer a variety of activities.
Education doesn’t stop when school’s out.It’s summer break for college students, teachers, and professors, too, you know. Many of them pick up work as a summer tutor. Hiring one for a couple hours each week rather than signing them up for day long camp can help you save money.
This doesn’t mean they have to fill their summers with homework, though—you can make it fun!  Hiring a tutor can create great playdates if you invite friends to join in (and you can save by splitting the cost of the private lessons with other parents). And if you’re looking for a free option, your local library will often run classes or craft sessions, so check out its summer calendar.
I hope these tips have been helpful! Let me know what you’re planning to do this summer.
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