As parents, we all want the best possible care for our kids. We also want to be able to afford Maslow’s basic needs. You know food, water, shelter, and maybe a pair of adorable overalls that fit for more than a week.
For a lot of us, budgeting for these wants (needs, in some cases) is becoming increasingly challenging. And the price of daycare may be a contributing factor.
Daycare vs. college
Researchers at the Economic Policy Institute looked at average childcare costs across the nation. They found that in 33 states and the District of Columbia, the average annual cost of daycare is more expensive than the average cost of in-state college tuition. That’s a lot of money for a degree in potty training. To see where your state landed on the list, check out the EPI’s interactive fact sheets.
If you’re looking for ways to manage or offset the big cost of care for the little ones in your life, here are a few things to consider:
The Child and Dependent Care Credit lets you claim up to $3,000 for one child and up to $6,000 for two or more children on tax returns. Talk with a licensed tax professional to make sure you’re taking advantage of this credit.
Find out if your employer offers access to a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA). This lets you save pretax dollars to be spent on eligible dependent care services. The IRS currently allows up to $5,000 a year in payroll deductions for individuals or married couples filing jointly.
Alternative childcare options
Depending on where you live, you’ll likely find no shortage of high-end childcare choices. But if you’re willing to forego the private infant yoga instructor and farm-to-table snacks, you might discover some more affordable options. (Of course, “more affordable” is relative.) Care.com offered a few ideas to consider.
Sharing is caring Hiring a dedicated nanny can be expensive. If you have friends or neighbors looking for care, think about a nanny share. An experienced nanny may be able to care for two (or more) children without doubling the price.
Family childcare centers Different from a typical daycare arrangement, a family childcare center is hosted in a caregiver’s home. You’ll likely pay less – but you’ll also get less in the way of amenities. Make sure the facility is licensed by the state.
Split duties with another parent If your work schedule allows, consider sharing responsibilities with another parent or family. You watch their kids (and yours) a certain number of days a week and then switch duties to evenly distribute the load.
Finding affordable, reliable, and trustworthy care that doesn’t break the bank is a challenge facing many families today. What are childcare costs like in your area? Have you found ways to save or are you resigned to paying a premium?