Where the money goes

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      Where the money goes

      Before you can budget, you need to know where the money is going.

      “The top five expenses for working families are housing, child care,

      health insurance, food and clothing,” says Yasmina Vinci, executive

      director of the National Association of Child Care Resource &

      Referral Agencies in Washington, D.C

      Child care, ranked the second-highest cost, consumes an average 9

      percent of

      America’s working families’ monthly income, according to a study

      released by

      the Urban Institute last year.

      The harsh reality is that the cost of child care is directly related

      to its


      “Parents have less money when their children are young, and that’s

      when the

      costs for care are so high,” says Vinci. “Even so, this is not the

      place to

      cut corners. Our children are an important investment. We know that 90

      percent of the brain’s development takes place before age 5.”

      What’s a mom to do?

      Examine carefully all your options. Weigh safety, kindness and


      attitudes of caregivers, ratio of children to teachers and the


      factor when making your decision. Visit several centers before

      placing your

      child. Do your research and be flexible to maximize savings.

      Talk to local experts

      Find and talk to your local child-care specialists. Child-Care

      Awareness is a

      nonprofit initiative that helps parents find quality care in their

      communities. This organization will help you sort out your options,

      from the

      cost to the quality. Plus, they’ll help determine whether you qualify


      government subsidies or other financial grants if your income is


      Talk to your employer

      Many companies offer a flexible spending account for dependent care.


      spending accounts allow you to deduct up to $5,000 in pretax dollars


      from your paychecks. You can withdraw this money to pay for licensed

      child-care expenses.

      Your employer may have a partnership with a day-care facility that


      discounted rates to its employees. Again, quality before cost

      savings! Make

      sure you’re comfortable with your child’s care.

      More employers are offering flexible scheduling. Ask about flexible


      job-sharing or telecommuting. Arrange your work schedule to alternate


      your spouse’s or relative’s to reduce the amount of time your child

      will have

      to spend in daycare.

      Do you know a co-worker with similar backgrounds and parenting styles?

      Perhaps you can split the cost of home child care.

      Take the pre-K initiative

      If your public school district offers a half-day pre-K program for

      4-year-olds, enroll your child. It’s free and reduces child-care

      costs to

      half-day rates.

      Another pre-K initiative, Head Start, offers early learning child-

      care for

      100-percent poverty level and special-needs children. They often have


      working collaboration with child-care facilities for additional hours.

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