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Becoming a parent is an exciting time, but budgeting for it can seem a bit daunting. One such expense to consider is how expensive child care costs can get, especially during the first few years of your child's life. However, it doesn't have to cost you or your family thousands of dollars a month. The trick is to find affordable alternatives to the traditional options.

Government-Sponsored Programs

Some states offer what is known as the Voluntary Prekindergarten Education Program (VPK). Depending on which state you live in, you may be able to apply for a voucher that gives your child an opportunity to go to school for free.

Keep in mind that this program only runs for half days — you'll need to find alternative arrangements if you want your child there for a full day. Luckily, many of these facilities offer full-day care for an extra fee.

Drop off Day Care

Drop off day care isn't the cheapest option on this list, but it's great for those who need a more flexible child care option. Some locations offer 24/7 care and will even give discounts the more hours you use. Additionally, drop off day care centers may have options for to you prepay hours, and the cost can go as low as $5 per hour the more you pay. The downside is that you will need to pay for meals and snacks, but they're never more than a few dollars per meal.

Nonprofit Institutions

Nonprofits like the YMCA offer inexpensive preschool and after-school programs. These can include sports and art classes, teen centers for students to hang out with friends, and even traditional day care choices for infants.

Keep in mind that these tend to be popular choices so make sure you sign up as soon as you can or you'll be put on a waiting list.

Co-Op Day Care

A co-op day care tends to cost less than half or two-thirds of traditional preschool options. In exchange for lower fees, you will typically need to help around the preschool once a week. This can include cleaning duties, assisting teachers, or other administrative tasks.

These responsibilities usually fall during the day, so it could be hard for working parents. However, you can ask family members to pitch in if needed or see if there are afternoon or nighttime duties you can take on instead.


Gyms are a great option for those in need of a few hours here and there. While memberships at these places may be higher than other gyms, the added costs may be worth it.

Depending on where you go, these specialty gyms can offer up to two hours of supervised child care per day as long as you're on the premises. There may also be other amenities such as free Wi-Fi and a cafe so you can hang out, get some work done, or even go work out while your child is taken care of.

Child care costs aren't cheap, but it doesn't have to be expensive either. As long as you do your research and find affordable options, you and your family will be all set.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

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