Preparing for the Cost of Preschool and Finding the Best Fit for Your Child

Planning ahead for preschool is important for a lot of reasons, from budgeting for the cost of preschool to choosing the right curriculum for your child. Many preschool programs can be quite pricey, with costs sometimes being thousands per month. Generally, you should expect to pay a few hundred dollars per week for your child’s attendance. That may seem like — and in fact, is — a lot of money. However, in return for a steep tuition, you’ll be giving your child a head start on their learning and preparing them for their future. So take the time to do research, visit different facilities and create a financial plan for the cost of preschool.

Budgeting for the Cost of Preschool

You can use several methods to budget for the cost of preschool. First, inquire whether your employer offers a Dependent Care FSA. If so, you’re eligible to divert up to $5,000 per year of your income — tax free — to an FSA. Simply use those funds to pay your preschool tuition bill. If your employer doesn’t offer a Dependent Care FSA, you may be eligible for the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, according to the IRS. This credit removes up to $3,000 from your taxable income if you have one child, or up to $6,000 if you have two or more children. By reducing your taxable income, this credit offers big money savings. If you know that you’ll be taking the Child and Dependent Care Credit, consider changing your paycheck income tax withholding amount to better match the taxes you owe each year. This can put more money in your pocket up front, rather than waiting for a refund in the spring.

Choosing the Right Preschool Curriculum

Preschools offer a variety of types of development curriculum. A popular type of preschool is Montessori, where children of various ages are grouped together and learning is hands on. Other curriculum types that use practical learning are Waldorf and HighScope, while Reggio Emilia and Bank Street curriculum types use practical learning elements as children explore the world around them, according to Parents.

Plan to visit several preschools — with your child in tow — to really find the best environment for their learning. Many preschools will allow a trial run, ranging from an hour to even a few days, to see if your child meshes with the program. Plan to act quickly once you’ve identified your ideal school because spaces can fill up quickly.

Determining the Best Schedule

The final bit of preschool planning is practicality and figuring out what best fits your schedule. Would a part-time program be a good way for your child to begin socializing while you yourself work the same hours, or would a flexible schedule be best? Maybe your career demands full-time child care and it’s important to find a school that offers extended hours before and afterwards. Do you have a higher degree of flexibility in your schedule, an interest in education and a desire to save more money? If so, consider a co-op preschool, where parents partner with teachers and school administration.

Laying the Foundation

Between a method of savings, to the curriculum you favor, to the schedule that best meets your needs, take the time to thoroughly evaluate your options. And be prepared to start early — some preschools require deposits to reserve your child’s place months in advance, and the best schools tend to have waiting lists. Don’t fret if you’re short on planning and prepping time, however. In most areas, you’ll have a wide variety of options to consider, even when your time frame is cut short.

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