1. Check churches and colleges: Religious organizations often run inexpensive day-care centers, as do universities, where centers are commonly staffed by students studying child development.
2. Apply for help: Depending on your income, you may be eligible for assistance or scholarships. Inquire at day-care centers and go to childcare.gov to find out about state aid.
3. Save up for a discount: Many day-care centers offer a reduced rate if you pay up front for the session.
4. Start a co-op: Trade with a friend or expand your pool of free sitters with a baby-sitting co-op, where members earn points for each hour they sit, then redeem them when they need someone to watch their own children. For help getting started, check out care.com. You can also search the site to see if a co-op already exists in your area.
5. Weigh the costs: To compare the total costs of working and paying for child care versus staying home full or part time, do the math at childcareaware.org.