Friday, April 8, 2011

How Can You Be Frugal and Have a Nanny?

Frugal, it’s a word I’d include if someone said describe yourself in 5 words or less. So, when people who know me heard that we were going to hire a nanny to care for our children while we worked, heads tilted, looks of puzzlement shadowed faces, and the question emerged – how can you have a nanny AND be frugal? It may not be apparent, but it is true.

First, you need to start with the word nanny. Nanny may conjure up images of palatial homes, maids in outfits, and a mother who lunches. No, not at our house. A nanny is a child care provider who views themselves as a professional, often with a degree or two that focuses on child development. Many of them are connected with families through an agency; that is the case with our current nanny. They hope to earn a decent wage and provide quality child care.

Second, nannies care for sick children. In our home we are both self-employed. We did not want our work to come to a grinding halt if a child were sick. That would translate into no work = no pay. Yet, in a traditional child care center or home daycare, you pay even if your child is home sick. So, not wanting to pay for care when a child is sick, and see our own income go down, a nanny was an attractive option.

Third, children at home are less likely to pick up a virus, the flu, or other common childhood ailment if they are at home, away from lots of other small children. Sure, kids need to build immunity, but we have a high-deductible health insurance plan (remember, we’re both self-employed). That means we pay the first $5200 of health care expenses out of pocket (we use our HSA – more on that in a future post). A sick child for us does not mean a $25 office visit co-pay and a $10 co-pay on a prescription. If we have not hit the deductible, we pay the negotiated rate. Both kids recently spiked fevers (after a water park visit, which is retrospect, was a terrible idea). The virus lead to a UTI in our 8-month old daughter. That translated into a doctor visit ($250), cauterization and lab work ($150), antibiotic, ($130), and another doctor visit to make sure it was really cleared up ($250). That my friend is why we try our best to keep our kids healthy and out of the doctors’ office. We think using a nanny accomplishes this; in two and a half years of using a nanny, this was the first type of visit of this nature. All others were for Well Baby checks.

Fourth, when you have a nanny you get more than just childcare. We get someone to helps with household chores. From doing the kids laundry to emptying the dishwasher to prepping dinner one night a week; you won’t get that from a home daycare or traditional child care center. There is plenty of housework left for us to feel connected to the kids and our home, but it certainly eases the burden a bit.

And fifth, nannies work around your schedule. We are not confined to the hours of a center. When you are self-employed, this flexibility is wonderful.

Finding a good nanny is key. We resisted the idea of using a placement agency for a long time, finally did and were very happy. As the owner of Nanny Connections told us, it is more than connecting a family with a nanny who lines up with their needs. It is about matching personalities, and is very akin to a match-making service. We are delighted with our current nanny, and take comfort in knowing that should she be sick or go on vacation, we can be connected with a fill-in nanny (who has been thoroughly screened) through Nanny Connections. So, that is why we opted for a nanny and think it was the frugal approach.

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