No one said that parenting is an easy job- and one of the hardest parts may be paying for childcare. One of the biggest things that many new parents underestimate is the financial toll that childcare takes on their household budget; Freedom Financial Network currently estimates that, depending on your location, you can expect to pay anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000 a year for full-time childcare. If you are finding that the cost of childcare is putting high stress on your finances, consider taking one or more of these tips from Freedom Financial Network to lower the cost of childcare while maintaining the safety of your child.

Call on the village. Most of us have heard the African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child,” yet very few of us take full advantage of our “village” when it comes to childcare. Freedom Financial Network recommends getting your community involved with neighborhood childcare- if you’re struggling to keep up with your childcare costs, chances are that other parents in the area are in the same situation as well. Consider speaking to other parents in the area, and consider setting up a childcare cooperative in which trusted parents take turn watching multiple children at once, allowing everyone in your “village” to benefit and save money.

Get your tax credit. If your employer does not offer a flexible spending account for childcare, or if you spend over $5,000 a year on dependent care, make sure you are taking full advantage of the tax credits available to you. Under the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, parents with a child under the age of 12 are eligible to receive up to a 35 percent credit on child care costs of $3,000 for one child, or $6,000 for two or more children.

Be careful with alternative daycare options. While home-based daycares are almost always less expensive than their larger, franchised alternatives, they may not always meet state licensing requirements. Freedom Financial Network recommends conducting independent background checks before trusting smaller, independent daycare centers with the safety of your child. Additionally, search your area for reputable church groups, youth centers, and even YMCAs offering affordable childcare- these centers are often less expensive than large childcare centers as well.

Seek financial assistance. The US Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Child Care may be able to provide financial assistance to you and your family if you are considered a low-income household. In most states, families living below the poverty line (making an annual household income of about $44,000 in most states for a family of four) offer additional subsidies for childcare costs. In addition to government programs, Child Care Aware is a service dedicated to helping families struggling with childcare costs locate affordable centers near them, as well as direct them to information about a childcare provider’s current licensing statute, complaints, and violations.

Switch up your work hours. Freedom Financial Network has found that most employers who do not provide childcare are very understanding when it comes to parents asking for flexible hours due to expenses. Don’t be afraid to ask your employer about telecommuting, or changing your hours slightly so that you require less childcare for your little one. Remember, many bosses are parents themselves- it never hurts to ask for help when you need it.

Affording childcare can be difficult- especially in our current economic climate. However, by searching for alternatives, working with your employer, and by taking advantage of government programs and tax credits, you will be able to rest with the peace of mind that comes along with knowing that your child is in good hands- and your account isn’t overdrawn.