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Making Child Care More Affordable

While the cost of child care continues to take more and more share of families’ budgets, finding an affordable solution is possible. Here are some tips to consider when searching for the most cost-effective child care option for your family.

Mother spending time with child

For many families, the growing cost of child care has been a struggle to manage. In fact, according to Child Care Aware, in all regions of the United States the average cost for an infant in a child care center exceeds the average amount that families spend on food and transportation combined. But finding an affordable solution is possible–here are some tips to consider.

To start, take a look at both your budget and your schedule to determine exactly when you’ll need child care and how much you’ll be able to afford each month. Do you have an opportunity for flexibility in your work schedule to work from home or to coordinate coverage with a partner? Once you know more about your family’s specific needs, it will make it much easier to evaluate what solution works best for you.

Know your child care options
There are a number of different types of child care, so understanding each is a great place to start your search. These options are listed from more affordable to more expensive, but rates differ by region:

  • Babysitter: Part-time care provided by a babysitter, usually by the hour.
  • Center-based child care: Care provided for a larger group of children in a facility that is outside a private home.
  • Family child care: Care provided in a home setting for a smaller group of children.
  • Nanny Share: Care provided for children of multiple families by a nanny whose salary cost is shared by all families.
  • Nanny: Care provided by a household employee whose primary job is taking care of the family’s children–can be part-time, full-time, live-in or live-out.

Know your benefits
While your monthly budget is a starting place to determine how much you are able to invest in child care, you’ll want to research additional benefits and credits available to have the full picture:

  • Dependent Care Account: If your employer offers this type of Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you could set aside up to $5,000 tax-free for child care, preschool and summer day camps. There are other elements to consider, such as reimbursement requests and expiration dates, so be sure to research all the details before signing up.
  • Child care tax credit: This credit allows you to itemize up to $3,000 per year ($6,000 cap per family annually) for child care expenses, a percentage of which can apply to a tax credit. The average savings is about 20% per family. This tax credit does change if you have an FSA, so review both options to determine what the most effective choice is for you.
  • Employment benefits: Not all employers offer benefits for families, but a conversation with your HR rep could be money-saving. Companies are adding more family benefits, from flexibility with schedules, to child care reimbursements and even on-site day care.

Lean on your community
From family and friends to neighbors and non-profits, reaching out to those around you can provide more creative solutions to saving money on child care.

  • Trade babysitting services: Depending on your schedule, trading child care services is one way to avoid rising costs. Instead of paying a salary to a sitter, each family takes turns watching the children.
  • Local clubs & non-profits: Organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, YMCA, teen centers and churches may offer more affordable part-time care. Many offer a sliding-scale fee based on income, or low membership costs compared to other services.
  • Local universities: Consider reaching out to universities with nursing or early education programs. Many of these students may be looking for part-time work, and often have a network of contacts for consistent coverage.