A parent sacrifices a lot to balance the family’s household budget. When you can’t afford a sitter, a regular date night away from the kids is one thing you surrender in the name of fiscal responsibility. Unfortunately, you can’t always decide to forego a babysitter. Thanks to emergencies and other circumstances outside of your control, sometimes you need to pay for child care. The next time you find yourself in one of these tough situations, remember to keep the following five money-saving tips in mind.

  1. Join a Local Parent Community Online

You might feel alone sometimes, but there are countless of others struggling with the same child-care issues. You can find other parents who share similar experiences online. Whether they live in your city or halfway around the world, these individuals can offer a digital shoulder to cry on as you vent your frustrations. As you offer the same, you might uncover previously unknown tips and tricks that other parents have used to keep their costs low.

  1. Get to Know Your Neighbors

One of the most effective ways to slash your child care budget in half is by making friends with your neighbors. If they have children as well, you can arrange to swap child-minding duties when your schedules allow it. Share a calendar on Google docs and have everyone note the days they need help looking after their kids. Those who are free can offer to look after these kids in addition to their own. As long as schedules allow — and parents share an equal number of babysitting days — this technique offers local, reliable, and cost-free care.

  1. Take Advantage of a Cafeteria Plan

If you need to find long-term child care, so there’s someone looking after your kids while you’re at work, check to see if your employer offers a cafeteria plan. Otherwise known as an FSA or Flexible Spending Account, it’s a way to set aside a portion of your income to pay for approved expenses, like child care. Family contributions are limited to $5,000 each year, but it’s all tax-free, saving you roughly $2,000. However, the money you deduct does not roll over into the next year, so make sure you only set aside the funds you need to pay for daycare, day camps, or preschool.

  1. Be prepared for the unexpected

The time will come when all your careful organization goes to waste. Like when your usual sitter cancels with only a few days warning, and you’re forced to hire a more expensive replacement. A loan is an obvious solution to your cash flow problems, but thanks to your tight deadline, traditional banking services aren’t always the ideal source for this assistance. When you need help with a last-minute crisis, an installment loan is a faster alternative. Lenders like MoneyKey carry out most of their borrowing process online. That means you can apply by visiting whenever you find time in your day to do so. These lenders offer fast-acting loans that you can receive in as little as one business day, making their cash advances a lifeline for stressed-out parents.

  1. Digitize Your Search for Babysitters

Just ten years ago, you would have used word-of-mouth and classified ads to find a babysitter. Thanks to an emerging group of child care tech companies, you don’t have to rely on these old-fashioned and time-consuming methods anymore. There are several apps you can add to your phone to simplify your search for a babysitter. Many of them (including those mentioned on this list of the best babysitting websites and apps) offer a private network of parents and certified sitters. You can narrow down your search according to location, skills, and budget.

Finding a responsible sitter you like for the hourly rate your budget can tolerate takes work. Keep these money-saving tips in mind to make your job easier.