In the first annual Cost of Care report, Care.com reveals just how surprised families are by the high cost of child care, what their care options are, and how to both budget and save.
$245,340. That's how much you'll spend on your child from birth to age 17, according to the USDA. From food to clothes to health care to education. But there's one more expense that's a part of this number that families often forget about or downplay: Its the cost of child care.
Did you know that child care is the biggest annual expense for most families? The average family spends about $18,000 a year on it. Yet 42 percent don't budget for it.
At Care.com, we collected information on the cost of child care, how it varies across the United States and how it fits into the average family's finances -- whether you have 1, 2 or 3 kids. We surveyed Care.com families, researched internal data and looked at national, state and city statistics. [Note: This is the 2014 report. To see the most up-to-date infographic, go to Care.com/costofcare]
So, what did we discover? Check out our infographic and scroll down to the bottom of the page to learn more about how to start fitting care into your budget.
Begin With a Budget
The average family spends about 18 percent of its budget on child care. As that is such a large chunk, you need to figure out your budget before exploring your child care options. What can you afford? You know how much you spend on your monthly mortgage, electric and cable bills. How much is left over for child care? Can you juggle things around? Forgoing that daily $3 latte means an extra $1,000 a year that you can put towards child care -- and your own Keurig machine!
Learn more about How to Create a Child Care Budget.
Review Your Options
Once you know how much you can spend, you can start pinpointing the most feasible child care choices. Research the going rate for a nanny in your neighborhood, visit local day cares and talk to local families about their decisions. Do you know the differences between a nanny, day care and au pair? Which one works for your lifestyle?
And know that costs vary greatly, depending on where you live, how many kids you have, their ages, the experience level of the child care providers, how many hours you need, etc.
You will also want to consider if convenience is worth an added cost. A local family child care program (which is a day care in someone's home), is often the least expensive option -- the average family will only spend about $127 per week for infant care. But if you have several kids, hiring a nanny to watch all of them at once may actually be more practical.
Read about the 67 Reasons to Hire a Nanny.
Find Ways to Save
But if you're looking over your bank account and groaning over costs, don't lose hope. There are options out there that can save you money. For example, did you know that if you participate in your employer's FSA program, you could save up to $2,000 on child care expenses every year? Or you could qualify for up to $1,200 in child care tax breaks.
And talking to your HR department may make you realize some child care benefits you didn't know you had. Some companies provide services like backup child care as a work benefit, such as through Care.com’s Care@Work program. This program offers employees of participating companies access to child care either at home or at a nearby child care facility. If your company doesn't offer this benefit, ask Human Resources to consider it. These types of programs could help your finances and make your life much easier.
To learn more about these options and get other cost-saving advice, read these 14 Ways to Save Money on Child Care.
For more information about the sources we used for the infographic, click here.
Tiffany Smith was the senior associate editor here at Care.com. She has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. And as a former babysitter, she knows a lot about fun games to play with kids. Getting them to eat their veggies -- thats a different story! Follow her on Twitter at @tiffanyiswrite.