MONEY Health Care

4 Ways to Cope With the High Cost of Caregiving

140915_FF_ParentsMoneyCaregiver
Kirby Hamilton—2012

It's not just time and hard work. Nearly half of unpaid caregivers spend more than $5,000 a year on medical expenses and more, a new study finds. Here's how to make sure you're prepared to help.

Providing care for a loved one is a job that many Americans will one day take on. But the steep cost of this help may take you by surprise. And the unexpected time and money you’re devoting can potentially put a dent in your retirement plans and even damage your career.

According to a new report from Caring.com, 46% of family caregivers—defined as someone who takes care of a family member or friend for no pay—spend more than $5,000 a year on medications, medical bills, in-home care, nursing homes, and other health expenses. More than one in ten spend between $10,000 and $20,000 annually, while 7% go through $50,000 or more each year.

Spending that kind of money can have a huge effect on your finances, especially your retirement funds when you are suddenly tasked with taking care of elderly parents. The extra work can also set back your career. A third of family caregivers spend more than 30 hours a week looking after a loved one, and 60% of all caregivers say their duties have a negative effect on their job.

What can you do to keep caregiving obligations from shattering your own financial future? Andy Cohen, CEO of Caring.com, has a few suggestion on how to plan ahead.

1. Spend your parents’ money first

It might seem counterintuitive, but when you’re providing care it’s smarter to use your parents’ funds before your own. “Most adult children want to help their parents, but it’s a better financial decision to spend their parents’ assets first,” says Cohen.

By doing so, you can trim the size of your parents’ eventual estate, reducing the chance of facing estate taxes. If your parents have a modest net worth, spending down that money can qualify them for Medicaid benefits, including help with long-term care.

2. Don’t overlook benefits

Make sure your family member is getting all the financial help he or she is entitled to. As a veteran, for example, your parent may be in line for help with health care.

Use the U.S. Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator to find local programs that could help ease your burden. BenefitsCheckUp, run by the National Council on Aging, can help you identify services your parents may qualify for.

3. Look at your own benefits as well

It’s bad enough that unexpected caregiving can put a dent in your retirement plans, but it can also hurt your career by forcing you out of the office. “One of the problems of caring for an aging parent is that it impacts your own work,” says Cohen. “Make sure you check with your company before you make a rash decision to take time off unpaid or go part-time.”

If you need to take time off, know your rights. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, if your company has 50 or more workers and you’ve been on the job for a least a year, you’re entitled to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to take care of a family member.

Luckily, says Cohen, an increasing number of companies are including caregiving under their paid family leave policies, making it possible for you to take time off and still collect a salary.

4. Talk to your loved ones—sooner rather than later

A conversation about aging is difficult, but it will be easier to have when your family members are in good shape. Planning how you’ll handle care, including the costs, is one essential topic to bring up, but it’s not the only one. You should also make sure your parents and other relatives have proper estate planning documents in place, including a power of attorney, health care proxy, and living will.

Should your loved one’s health start to fade, says Cohen, “the adult child has to step in and make decisions, and if they don’t have financial or medical power of attorney they won’t be able to do that.” Making arrangements that will enable you to care for your elders both medically and financially, if that becomes necessary, should give peace of mind to everyone.

More on caring for your aging parents:

 

MONEY

6 Ways to Help Your Adult Kids Without Spending a Dime

Training wheels left behind
Michelle Lane—Alamy

Got a grown child who's struggling financially? These strategies let you lend a hand without offering a handout.

If you have an adult child who’s still on the family ticket, you’re probably getting tired of kicking in for everything from cell phone bills and health insurance to rent and groceries—and you may be more than a little worried about how your kid’s prolonged dependence will affect your own financial plans. (Retirement at 75 instead of 65? Not an appealing picture.) Yet when your child is struggling to make ends meet, what else can a loving parent do but cough up a few bucks (or a few hundred, or a few thousand), as needed?

Plenty, actually. If you’re among the many parents providing financial assistance to an adult child—nearly three quarters of people ages 40 to 59 with at least one grown child say they helped to support an adult son or daughter in the past year, the Pew Research Center reports—understand this: A handout is not the only way to ease your offspring’s transition to financial adulthood. In fact, in most cases, it’s not even the best way, since a bailout doesn’t teach Junior how to stand on his own two feet.

Here are six ways you can help your adult kids financially that don’t involve withdrawals from the Bank of Mom and Dad.

1. Be their financial BFF.

More than cold, hard cash, millennials need guidance about navigating the adult world of money. After all, they don’t teach you how to pick funds for your 401(k) in college or about the best way to set up and stick to a budget. Indeed, a study earlier this year from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation found that only about a quarter of twentysomethings were able to get a passing grade on a basic five-question financial literacy quiz, leading study author Gary Mottola to conclude: “Younger Americans lack the financial knowledge to make well-informed decisions,” which leads many of them to “engage in behaviors that are detrimental to their financial health.”

Since your child may be reluctant to admit just how little he knows about this stuff—or doesn’t know how much he doesn’t know—it’s up to you to introduce the subject. Best bet: Ask a leading question or two, using your own experience to ease the way into a conversation, rather than telling him what to do or not to do. For instance, you might offer that your company has just changed the choices in your retirement plan and you’ve had to switch investments, then add, “By the way, have you had a chance to sign up for your 401(k) yet? Need any help with the forms or figuring out which funds to go with?”

2. Share your own money mistakes.

Over the years, chances are you’ve messed up plenty when it comes to managing your money, especially when you were first starting out. What kid, of any age, isn’t secretly delighted to hear about a parent’s screw-ups? This approach to talking about money makes you seem more, well, approachable, and allows you to introduce a discussion about financial pitfalls and how to recover from them without seeming like you’re judging or lecturing. “You don’t want to be a paragon of perfection,” says Jayne Pearl, author of Kids and Money: Giving Them the Savvy to Succeed Financially. “You want to create this bond where your children can share their own mistakes and hopefully learn to avoid some of the poor choices you made when you were younger.”

3. Offer practical tools to succeed.

Twentysomethings are creatures of the digital age, and will likely feel comfortable using one or more of the many websites and apps that help users manage their money. Sites like mint.com, youneedabudget.com, budgetracker.com, budgetpulse.com, and learnvest.com all offer financial newbies an easy way to create and stick to a spending plan, manage debit and credit cards, track expenses and bills, and generally become smarter about saving, spending, and borrowing. The mint.com app even includes an alert that signals when the user has gone over a set budget. Maybe you should consider signing up too.

4. Help them lighten their load.

Seven in 10 students who attended four-year colleges graduated with loans outstanding, according to the latest stats from the Project on Student Debt—at public colleges, the average is $25,550, a 25% increase in five years, and at private schools, the average is $32,300, a 15% jump since 2008. Little wonder, then, that so many millennials are struggling financially (46% of them worry about having too much debt, the FINRA study found). One way Mom and Dad can help is to provide information about programs that help lower the monthly bills for college loans, such as income-based repayment plans for federal borrowing. Instead of the standard 10-year payback term, monthly payments under this program are capped at 10% or 15% of the borrower’s discretionary income, depending on when they took out the loans. Although your kid may rack up more interest over a longer payback period, the plans make payments more manageable now and any balance remaining after 20 or 25 years of consecutive payments will be forgiven. If your child is a teacher, works for the federal government or has another public-service job, she may also qualify for loan forgiveness after 10 years. (Get details from the Department of Education here.)

Financially strapped young adults can also benefit from having a credit card to fall back on and occasionally bridge the cash-flow gap from paycheck to paycheck. One gift you can provide is to point them to plastic with training wheels — that is, a card that can help them in a financial pinch without allowing them to get into too much trouble. A good option: Northwest FCU FirstCard. Specifically designed for first-time cardholders, this no-fee card has an ultra-low fixed APR of 10% (most cards are variable rate; recent average rate: 15.7%) and a credit limit of only $1,000 so the cardholder can’t get too overextended. Bonus: Applicants are required to take a 10-question quiz about credit, so there’s an educational element too. You must be a credit union member to apply, but this only requires a $10 donation to the Financial Awareness Network.

5. Make some introductions.

To get into the field she wants or maybe even to land that first salaried job, your child will need to network. You know people, and your people know people. Help her out by sharing her job search with your friends, coworkers, and clients, who may be able to recommend folks who’d be willing to meet for an informational interview or who will pass along news of appropriate job openings.“The best thing you can do is introduce your child to a professional in their field who can answer her questions, connect her with others, and just talk about the job,” says Jenny Erdmann, who helps direct Money MindEd, a teen financial education program.

6. Share a valuable secret.

When your kid’s pressed for cash, it may seem odd to stress the importance of saving, but do it anyway. Even putting aside a small, say, $25 a week, can get her in the habit of saving and make a big difference down the line. The sooner your child starts saving, the less of her own funds she will need to contribute to meet her financial goals, thanks to the power of compounding earnings on her investments. That’s an invaluable lesson to learn at a young age.

The secret to saving, as anyone who’s ever signed up for a 401(k) at work knows, is to automate it: Set up a savings plan at work or through a bank or mutual fund company that will automatically shift a set amount of your choosing at regular intervals (say, weekly or monthly) from your paycheck or a checking account into an investment account. Young people can start small, use automated savings plans to build up both an emergency fund and a retirement plan, and then increase the amount every time they get a raise. Studies show that people who do this end up with substantially more money than those who do not automate. “The biggest mistake someone can make is to push things off and wait for years to go by before they think about savings,” says Suze Orman, author of The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke. “Time is the most important ingredient in the financial freedom recipe.”

That’s a pretty cool concept for Mom and Dad to pass along.

Related:
How to Avoid Paying for Your Kids Forever

 

MONEY

Getting $$ Help From Mom and Dad? Tell Us About It.

If you’re a young adult (between the ages of 22 and 32) who is getting financial help from Mom and/or Dad—and that’s most millennials—and you also happen to live in the New York City area, we’d love to talk to you about participating in a roundtable discussion on this topic that will run as a video on our website. The level of support could range from staying on your parents’ cell phone, car, or health insurance plan to having them help with other bills (say, car or student loan payments or rent) to continuing to live at home or getting a hand with major expenses, such as the down payment on a house.

Among the topics we’d like to talk about:

  • What kinds of expenses your parents help you pay for
  • Why you and so many other young adults need financial help right now
  • How you feel about the support you’re receiving
  • How you think your parents feel
  • Anything else you think is important!

If you fit the bill and are up for appearing in a video, we’d love to hear from you. Please send us a short summary of your situation, including your age, the circumstances and any other details you care to share and think are important. Be sure to include your name and contact info (email address and daytime/evening phone number) so we can follow up with you.

MONEY Careers

How to Change Your Name Without Hurting Your Career

"Just Married" car
What to do if you're driving away with a new last name. Charlotte Jenks Lewis

Kim K. is now Mrs. West, she says. For the not-so-famous, though, adopting your spouse's name can create confusion in your professional life. Follow these eight strategies to keep your career running smoothly under your new handle.

When you accept the proposal, do you also take the name? Kim Kardashian, or should we say Mrs. West, has. The celebrity revealed her legal name change on Tuesday when she shared a new passport photo on Instagram.

That kind of change can be a bold career move when your name is your livelihood. The same is true for any bride switching names after exchanging vows, though on a much, much smaller scale.

Altering your professional identity can pose a problem if you’re established in your career and have built a reputation around your name—something that’s more likely as couples marry at a later age. Last year the median age at first marriage was 29 for men, and 26.6 for women, the Census Bureau reports. Plus, those with bachelor’s degrees—and therefore better career prospects—are more likely to wed than less educated Americans are, according to the Pew Research Center.

If you plan on adopting a new moniker in both your personal and professional lives, follow these simple steps to make the transition less disruptive at the office.

1. Hedge Your Bets

Think about how costly it would be to cut off your connection to the body of work or marketing that’s tied to your maiden name. If that worries you, opt for a more moderate approach. “The easy out is to keep your maiden name at work and in professional contexts, but use your spouse’s last name socially,” says Danielle Tate, founder of MissNowMrs.com, a site that helps women change their legal name.

Another compromise is to use both surnames, either by making your maiden name your middle name, using both last names, or creating a hyphenated last name. Kim took this approach initially. Shortly after exchanging vows with Kayne, she changed the name on her social media accounts to Kim Kardashian West. And just as Kim has done, you can use both surnames for a brief transition period to help people get used to your new identity before dropping your maiden name.

2. Get Help From Your Company

If you plan on making a complete switch, reach out for advice. “You don’t have to figure it out all on your own. You’re not the only who has gotten married or changed your name,” says Michelle Friedman, a career coach who specializes in women’s career advancement.

A good first move is to check in with your HR department, which may have policies in place outlining exactly what changes you need to make to your beneficiary designations, insurance benefits, company email and directory listing, and tax and Social Security forms. Aside from offering help with name-change paperwork, HR may be able to offer advice about managing contacts, as well as insights into how others in your industry have handled the change successfully (ask co-workers too).

3. Don’t Make It a Surprise

Give co-workers and clients ample notice about your name change to avoid confusion, especially if contact info such as your email address will be updated. Sandra Green, a U.K.-based executive coach, recommends reaching out a week to ten days before the wedding.

One easy way: Put a small note in your email signature in advance, says Julie Cohen, a Philadelphia career and personal coach. It’s an unobtrusive reminder and a good way to get people familiar with the change.

Not everyone in your email contact list needs to know. Run through your list of clients and sort them into groups based on the closeness of your working relationship. Some you’ll just need to include in a quick email blast, while others you should talk to directly.

“Obviously you don’t want to get on the phone with everyone, but in certain important client relationships this may be good to do,” says Friedman.

4. Stay on Top of the Technology

After you’ve made the switch, set up forwarding on your previous email account, or write an automatic reply that includes your new contact info. This way you don’t miss any important messages, and people have a longer grace period to update their contact info and adjust to your new name.

5. Go Back in History

Give former employers and references a heads-up about this change as well. This way if you’re applying for a new job, your background check will go smoothly, and you won’t run the risk of having people mistakenly deny that you worked for their company.

6. Use This as an Excuse to Network

Send an email to everyone in your work circle. “Whenever someone changes jobs or retires, they send these emails about good news,” says Cohen. “Do the same with this.”

This also gives you a perfect excuse to remind your network what you’re up to. “You always want to remain in contact,” says Friedman. “But sometimes it’s hard to think of a natural reason for reaching out. This gives you a celebratory excuse.”

You could even send this blast twice, says Green. First a few days before the wedding and again after you return from your honeymoon, when the change is in place.

7. Make Yourself Easy to Find

Think about how people locate you and your business. Is it through search, a review website, social media, or all of them? Update all your bios.

When you add your new name on sites like LinkedIn, keep a vestige of your old name. That can help people find you during the transition period. “Include your maiden name on social,” says Cohen. “If people are finding you by search it will serve you best to keep connected to both names.”

If you had a more common name or are making the switch to a more popular surname, adds Tate, having both names online could even help you come up higher in search results.

8. Update Your Memberships

To further help your new name show up high in search results and build up credibility for your new moniker, Friedman recommends having any professional organizations, alumni associations, company or community boards, or other groups you belong to change your name on their membership roles.

If you hold a leadership position or are listed elsewhere on an association website, perhaps for winning an award, request that the name change appear throughout. Ask to have any older content that can easily be altered, such as a post listing you as a guest speaker at a conference, updated too.

Of course, should things not end up “happily ever after,” you can follow the same steps to smoothly insert your maiden name back into your career.

 

 

MONEY

How Married Couples Master Sex—and Money

Michael Sheen as Dr. William Masters and Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson in Masters of Sex (season 2, episode 3)
Michael Sheen as Dr. William Masters and Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson in Masters of Sex. Courtesy of SHOWTIME

Masters and Johnson may not have asked couples how their paychecks affected their sex life, but we did. And here's what we learned.

With the season two premiere of Showtime’s Masters of Sex debuting this Sunday, MONEY decided to dip into our own trove of data about people’s romantic lives. But while Masters sexologists William Masters and Virginia Johnson explored the nature of human sexual response through lab work, we dug into the matter from an angle closer to our hearts: couples’ paychecks.

As part of June’s exclusive Love & Money survey, we reported on how earning power impacts marriages, including the fights, secrets, and lies money inspires. But we also learned quite a bit about how who wears the pants in the relationship affects how often those pants come off. Here are some of the more titillating findings.

Egalitarian households where the husband and wife earn roughly the same have the most sex, with about 47% of couples reporting getting frisky at least once a week. Couples where the women earns less than her husband were more likely to do the deed at least once a month than other earning pairs. But couples where the woman outlearns her spouse were most likely to say they have sex less than once a month.

Of course, as Masters and Johnson could no doubt tell you, quantity doesn’t equal quality. So we also asked our survey respondents how satisfying their sex was.

Again, couples with similar paychecks outperformed their peers. Egalitarian marriages reported having the hottest sex of any earning pair, with more than half rating their sex life as “hot” or “very good.”

Households where the wives earn nothing were least content with their current sex lives. These pairs were most apt to say their sex life “could be better” (or “what sex life?”), with the women more dissatisfied than the men.

But women weren’t fond of the other extreme either: Women who earned more than their husbands were least likely to report a satisfying sex life, while men in those types of relationships were more likely to feel sexually satisfied than their counterparts in marriages where the wives earned less or nothing.

Across the board, men were easier to please when it came to sex, the size of their paycheck notwithstanding. More men than women said they felt satisfied with their sex lives in every single type of earning relationship.

But there was one area where men and women largely agreed: Over two thirds of husbands and wives said they check their bank balance more often than they have sex.

MONEY Love and Money

3 Questions You’d Better Answer Before Starting a Business with Your Spouse

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Defining your business roles early on can prevent fights down the road. Getty Images

Make sure you and your partner are in alignment on money, vision and business roles, says entrepreneur Allie Sarto.

When people find out that I’ve been running a company with my husband since I was 24, the reactions are always a mix of shock and wonder. “How does that work out?!” they ask us.

I’ll be honest: While it’s been a lot of fun, there have definitely been bumps along the road. We jumped in head first back in 2009 with no clear vision for what we wanted to get out of the company. We were both just along for the ride.

Now, five years in, I think I’m able to offer some advice to others who are thinking about doing something they feel passionately about with someone they feel passionately about. I’d suggest making sure you’re in alignment on these three areas before getting started:

1) How will you pay for expenses—your own and the business’s? This is arguably the most important aspect to be in agreement on from the get-go. Studies have shown a negative correlation between consumer debt and marriage quality; add in the stress of business expenses and a lack of steady household income because you’re both involved in the business, and you’re likely setting yourself up for trouble.

For every tale of an entrepreneur who makes it big after going deep into the hole with credit cards, there are dozens of other stories about entrepreneurs who are still struggling to pay off their plastic many years later.

What worked for us: We built up a six-month emergency fund before we ever left our jobs to start the new business. This absolutely saved us in the early days, since it took more than three months of hard work to earn a single penny for the new business.

Other couples I’ve talked to have had one partner stay in a full-time job while the other partner goes all in during the early days. This diversifies the risk and allows the couple to focus on building the company together without the stress of wondering how the bills will get paid. Once the company is to a point where business is consistent and the couple has been able to establish a safety net of emergency cash, both partners can commit to the business full time.

2) What is your vision for the company? A second point to be in alignment on before starting your business: your visions for your company’s future. How big do you want your company to become, and what types of sacrifices—typically time put into the business—are you willing to make to get there?

This vision will inevitably change over the years, so don’t discuss it once and consider yourself set for life. During the course of our business, we’ve had to make new decisions about whether to sell the business (we decided not to) and whether to slow down after having our first child (we decided this was the right choice).

3) What role will each of you play in the business? This may sound silly at first, but it’s important to set clear expectations of who will do what.

After meeting many other couples who run businesses together, I’ve found that in the most successful pairs, the spouses complement each other’s skill sets. For example, one is very business minded, while the other is the creative force behind the business. One might be great at managing the business behind the scenes, while the other is very good at managing client relationships.

I’d suggest making a list of roles that will need to be covered within the business, and then divvying these items out; that way, no one steps on anyone’s toes.

I’m not saying that answering these questions will prevent you from ever squabbling with your spouse about the business (if only!). But having the conversations early on can help you set the foundation for success—and prevent major disagreements from damaging your business or your marriage.

Allie Siarto is the co-founder of Fare Oak, an online women’s clothing company.

Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of promising young entrepreneurs.

MONEY Budgeting

Say Yes to a Cheaper Wedding Dress

Bride and Groom
Look great, spend less. Charlotte Jenks Lewis Photography

You want this once-in-a-lifetime outfit to look great. But that doesn't mean you have to spend a fortune on your dress (or the groom's suit). Try out one of these ideas for paying less.

Couples spend nearly $30,000 on average to get married in the U.S., according to TheKnot.com. In this three-part series, we asked in-the-know wedding bloggers to share their best ideas for throwing a great party on a budget. Part one offered tips on picking the place, which is your single biggest expense (typically about half of the budget). Part two served up eight ideas for saving money on food and drink. Today’s final installment will help you score a deal on the all-important dress—and tux for the groom.

1. Make the Dress Your “Something Old”

“Shop your mom’s closet and have her wedding dress customized to fit your style, or hit up some consignment shops and see what they have. I’ve stumbled across some gorgeous raw silk wedding gowns at Goodwill that were selling for a steal (think $20 to $50). The fabric alone is worth way more than that, and you could easily take the dress to a seamstress and have her re-work the style for a fraction of the cost of a new dress. While it wasn’t my actual wedding, for a wedding shoot in Paris with my husband I wore my mom’s wedding dress from the ’60s. It has a mod vibe, so it still felt current.”— Sarah Darcy, Classic Bride

2. Score the Store Sample

“If you can find a discontinued dress, you will get an even bigger savings. The shop has to get rid of the sample since they can’t order the dress after discontinuation. So you are doing the shop a favor by taking it out the door. These dresses have often been tried on before, but so has most of the clothing you buy in any store, so that shouldn’t be a deterrent.” — Lisa Sokolowski, A Bride on a Budget

3. Hunt for Designer Discounts

“Shop sites like NearlyNewlywed.com and PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com to find designer dresses at a discount, or check out local bridal shops when they are hosting sample sales to score a major deal on your wedding dress.” — Jessica Lehry Bishop, The Budget Savvy Bride

4. Look Past the Wedding Label

“One of the best ways to save is get a white dress that is not marketed as a wedding dress. If you still want that more traditional wedding look or a more classic dress, I like to look at bridesmaid dress options that come in white.” —Meg Keene, A Practical Wedding

5. Adopt a More Casual Look

If planning a beach or destination wedding, there’s no need to go all out with a wedding dress. Check the clearance racks and even consider a cocktail dress (maybe one with a bit of color). Any dress can be fancied up with a colorful sash or even a pretty crocheted vest or shrug. I mention this because I recently featured a shoot that showcased an $8 dress from Target on clearance. It could easily work for a bride that wanted to wear a dress in a pastel color. It looked beautiful with a crocheted vest over it.” — Brenda Bennett Maille, Brenda’s Wedding Blog

6. Ditch the Tuxedo

“For the guys, consider suits instead of full-blown tuxes. You can get a ton of mileage out of a good suit, and stores like J. Crew and Banana Republic sell them for not-so-staggering prices.” — Dana LaRue, The Broke-Ass Bride

7. Go In as a Group

“Many of the major tuxedo stores will offer a group discount, and often the groom will get his tux for free with a certain number of groomsmen rentals. Be sure to ask about these discounts before ordering. Also, associates will add all accessories at the time of rental (cufflinks, pocket squares, shoes), but not all of them may be required for rental. Ask if anything can be removed. Your groomsmen might all have their own black shoes and can save money by not renting them.” — Lisa Sokolowski, A Bride on a Budget

MONEY Kids and Money

How to Use Flex Time to Reduce Summer Child Care Costs

Father and son at the playground
With flexible work schedules, one parent can cover child care by day. Terry Vine/J Patrick Lane—Getty Images/Blend Images RM

This is the fifth of a five-part "mommy blogger" series on affordable summer child care. Here, Christy Meares of "Frugalful" shares how she and her husband have managed their work schedules to avoid hiring babysitters.

Finding childcare during the summer isn’t usually a problem for families with little ones, unless you want to save money.

The average family can spend thousands of dollars during the summer months alone on childcare—ouch!—not to mention the headache that it is to find an accredited childcare facility that will fit all your standards and needs.

My husband and I have found that the easiest way for us to save money on care for our two-year-old son during the summer is to toggle our work schedules so that one of us can always stay home with our little guy.

While my husband works during the day—he’s a lab courier—I stay home with our son and work on my freelance website design projects. When he gets home, I head to work at night at my part-time job at a movie theater. A little hectic at times, yes, but it works. And best of all, it’s free!

During the day, I have a play area set up in my office so that I can watch my son while I do my freelance design work. I bring out all his fun and educational toys so that he can play while I work. Often, he’ll occupy himself for about 30 minutes before he needs attention. When I take breaks, we go for walks to the park or play outside on his play set. When we get back inside, he often goes down for a nap and I can get a little bit of rest in, too.

Luckily, my husband and I have schedules that allow us to both care for our son. If you and your spouse already have jobs that offer different work start times or one that allows you to work double shifts to free up time later in the week, consider arranging your schedules so that you work at opposite times.

If you’re at a more standard 9-5 job, consider negotiating for a more flexible work schedule that allows you or your spouse to cover child care by each working from home for one or two days a week. That way, even if you still do need to arrange for other child care, you’ll have reduced your costs by upwards of 20%. Your boss may be more amenable if the company or department already has systems in place to allow for telecommuting. But don’t make it about what’s better for you or your family; explain to your employer why this will benefit them. You could point out that by cutting down on commuting time, you’ll have two more useful hours to work, or that you’ll have fewer office interruptions to your workflow. For help making a convincing argument, ask around to see if other employees at your job have these schedules and how they made their case.

If a more flexible work schedule is off the table, you and your partner could always turn to your vacation time. While it sucks to have to use a holiday for babysitting, you and your spouse could each take your two weeks at different times and cover child care for a month, or stagger the days off and use them once or twice a week to cut down costs over the entire duration of the summer.

Before you go rearranging your whole summer, know that this method of cost-cutting can be hard on the body. The downside to staying home while working at night is my sleep schedule can be funky at times. Luckily, I don’t work at the theater every night of the week, so I do get to rest—though on the days that I do double duty, I am often pooped!

__________

Christy Meares is the mom of a two year old and the creator of Frugalful, a money-saving blog for women living the pretty life on a budget. She lives in Wilmington, N.C.

 

Check out our other posts on affordable last-minute child care:

MONDAY: Hiring a college kid

TUESDAY: Bartering with family and friends

WEDNESDAY: Going to the YMCA

THURSDAY: Finding a good deal on camp

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