The average cost of childcare in the U.S. is around $1,230. How much you spend depends heavily on where live, how often you’ll need care, as well as how many kids will be in care. Here are 6 realistic ways to afford the cost of childcare.
While some families can spend up to $500 per week or more, the cost can add up either way. This leaves most parents to consider how to afford the cost of childcare or re-evaluate if being a two-income household will be worth it.
If you’re looking to lower your childcare costs, the good news is that you still have options if you’re willing to get flexible and be creative. Here are 6 realistic ways to afford the cost of childcare.
1. Search For Private Childcare
Daycare centers are convenient, but prices are often the highest at these centers. Also, many are run on a national level so there is little to no room to negotiate pricing. Instead, search for private childcare whether that’s an experienced babysitter or smaller licensed home daycare provider.
You can start by visiting sites like Care.com or SitterCity to find childcare providers near you. The great thing about private childcare options is that you’re working with an individual who sets their own rates and you can narrow down providers in your budget.
This doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your child’s safety or the quality of care either. There are plenty of smaller daycare centers and private providers who are licensed, insured and do an exceptional job so be sure to check reviews.
2. Apply For Scholarships and Discounts
Another way to afford the cost of childcare is to apply for scholarships and discounts when available. If you need seasonal child care or are considering a local park district program, some centers or the YMCA offer scholarships. These scholarship programs may have certain requirements or income levels you’ll need to meet, but if you feel you’d qualify, it’s worth applying.
Other daycare options provide discounts especially if you will be enrolling more than one child. Also, you can see if you can negotiate childcare prices by offering a service or offering to help out with the other kids once or twice a week.
3. Ask Your Employer About a Hybrid Work Schedule
Childcare costs are often high due to state labor laws, real estate expenses, as well as employee sayings and salaries. To help manage these costs some employers may be willing to give you a flexible schedule. You can ask for a hybrid schedule where you come to the office a few days and work from home the other days during the week.
Or, perhaps your job may allow you to work flexible shifts so you and coordinate with your partner. One of my old jobs allowed us to come to work anytime between 8 am and 10 am and leave from 4:30 pm to 6:30 pm depending on the start time.
If you are able to work a hybrid schedule and even work from home 1 to 2 days per week, you can save a significant amount on childcare by avoiding a weekly rate.
4. Ask Family and Friends
If you live near family members who are willing to help watch your kids, definitely take them up on the offer. Your parents or in-laws may not even charge you to watch your child. If a loved one can watch your baby, this could lower your costs since childcare for infants is the most expensive.
You can always offer friends and family members a payment to help you out. Just know that you won’t pay nearly as much as you would have to pay a daycare center.
If you have friends with kids, see if you can swap childcare services and watch each other’s kids regularly to help lower your costs as well.
5. Look into a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA) or Credit
A dependent care flexible spending account or DCFSA is funded with pre-tax payroll deductions. You can use this account to set aside money to pay for the care of your dependents (under the age of 13) for costs such as childcare, nursery school, preschool, and more.
The money in this account is income tax free and if you’re planning to grow your family, this is a great way to start saving for childcare ahead of time.
Another option is the Child and Dependent Care tax credit. If you have a child under 13 and pay for childcare so you can work, you may be eligible for this tax credit. Be sure to speak with a tax professional to see if you qualify. You can always use this credit money to help you afford the cost of childcare and supplement those expenses.
6. Budget For Childcare
Developing a budget for childcare can help you determine how much you can realistically spend. Compare the cost of childcare in your area and talk to your partner about the pros and cons of all your options including a daycare center, licensed home daycare, friends and family, and a babysitter.
See if there’s any regular monthly expenses you can avoid or cut to better afford the cost of childcare. Sometimes, this can involve cutting expenses temporarily and dining out less or canceling subscriptions. Just be realistic about your goals and what you can afford.
Summary: Use These Tips to Afford the Cost of Childcare
Childcare can be expensive no matter what way you dice it. It’s important to thoroughly research all your options and consider cutting expenses and obtaining a more flexible work schedule.
Also, if you know you’re planning on growing your family in the future, it’s important to discuss childcare and start saving money for these expenses.