Having a baby comes with a hefty price tag. Parents shell out a good deal of money, from a newborn’s big-ticket essentials like a stroller, car seat, crib, and baby monitor, to the endless boxes of diapers that first year. And don’t get us started on the spike in formula prices in recent years. But of all the expenses that cost moms and dads a pretty penny, there’s one that stands out: Childcare.
According to a recent report from Commoncentsmom.com, U.S. women spend at least one-eighth of their wages on early child care. The report also shows the U.S. as the only developed country not offering mothers paid maternity leave.1
Childcare Costs Match College Tuition
Childcare is expensive. In 2022, more than half of U.S. families planned to spend over $10,000 on child care, topping the average cost of in-state college tuition at $9,377. While parents in the U.S. may assume that being in a developed country would provide a slew of benefits, moms are thinking again.2,3
The report compared and analyzed the money spent on early childhood care across 40 countries, the amount of time off mothers are given, and how much financial support they receive in full-rate paid weeks.1
They found that the U.S. is the only developed country worldwide to provide zero paid maternity leave. Switzerland is second-worst, providing 14 weeks of maternity paid leave at a little over half of full-wage pay.1
In comparison, the Slovak Republic is first in family leave support, as they offer moms 164 weeks of maternity, parental, and home care leave.1
The report also reviewed the cost of early childcare after paid support ends for the first two years of a child’s life. Denmark is first, where women only spend 0.45% of their wages on childcare, whereas the U.S. took the eighth spot, with moms using 12.67% of their pay. On the other hand, Poland had the most unbalanced system, where women spend 36.17 % of their wages on childcare.1
Factors Affecting Childcare Costs
The list of factors affecting childcare costs can go on and on, but here are a few:
The Ratio of Caregivers to Children
While the number of staff members to children at daycares depends on a child’s age and state regulations, having one trained adult per small group of infants is typical. As a result, childcare centers must hire (and pay!) a substantial number of caregivers to keep up with demand, which accounts for most of the parents’ costs.4
Location, Location, Location
When searching for a daycare, parents want to ensure the facility is clean, appealing, and up to date and it’s in a safe, low-traffic area. Also, consider the cost of living where you live, which can impact your annual total.
Due to the high liability of childcare, daycare centers must have insurance that can cover physical injuries, personal injury claims, and sometimes, property damage.
In 2021, Child Care Aware of America data revealed that childcare prices rose by an average of 5% when compared to 2020 prices, making it higher than the average annual inflation rate of 4.7%. The report also found that the average price of childcare surpassed all other household expenses.5
The COVID-19 Pandemic
Between December 2019 and March 2021, close to 16,000 childcare centers shut their doors permanently because of rising operation costs, poor profit margins, and lack of attendance during the pandemic. Facilities also faced difficulties in hiring workers and keeping programs open.6
Tips to Lower Your Childcare Costs
Currently, 40% of U.S. households with children greatly depend on a mother’s income. With a lack of financial support from employers, inflation, and rising childcare costs, finding ways to cut costs is needed more than ever.7
Here are six ways you can curb expenses without sacrificing quality care for your little one:
1. Research Your Options
Gather a list of daycare facilities, then call or check online for pricing if you can’t tour in person. Compare your options based on your family’s needs and how much it will cost you weekly. If you need help finding childcare centers in your area, you could use Care.com’s cost calculator here. Enter where you live, the number of children, and the time you need care for, to find options near you.
2. Explore Nonprofit Organizations
If child care is out of your budget and you’re short on help, turn to nonprofit services to help your baby get the high-quality care they need. Start by checking to see if your community has any available centers and ask about their requirements for enrollment.
3. Try Adjusting Your Work Schedule
Is it possible to work three days in the office and two days at home to help lessen the number of days your infant must attend a childcare center? Or maybe you can modify your working hours to allow you to go to work earlier or later until someone else can stay home with your little one.
4. Share a Nanny with Other Parents
On average, hiring a nanny can cost up to $694 a week, a steep price for many households. See if any friends or families in the neighborhood can share the cost of a full- or part-time nanny. Your infant will get to socialize with other babies and receive one-on-one attention while providing you the flexibility of in-home care.2
5. Seek Family Help
If grandma or another family member has a light schedule or can help, ask if they’re open to caring for your children. Be sure to agree on the number of days and times and if you’ll include compensation to ensure a smooth and bump-free process.
6. Explore Other Ways to Cut Back
According to the Care.com 2022 Cost of Care Survey, some parents have taken on a second job, reduced their hours at work, changed companies, or left the workforce to afford the costly bill.2
No matter which option you choose, remember that only you know what works best for you and your family. You can always adjust your plan to help your family and combat the rising costs of childcare.