Child care is a huge expense for working parents. A hard look at the costs can make you wonder if it’s really worth going back to work when a good chunk of money is going to daycare. It may seem like an overwhelming problem, but there are a ways to save on childcare costs without sacrificing the level of care.
Flex spending accounts (FSA) can help a family save on childcare costs by taking a set amount of your paycheck (before taxes) each pay period and transferring it into a flexible spending account. You then use these funds to pay for your daycare costs. If you have an employer that offers a FSA, the funds can be used for daycare, preschool, or day camps. And because the money is taken out before taxes you are not paying federal, state, social security, or Medicare taxes on this money. Make sure to think carefully about how much money to earmark for your FSA, though, because you forfeit any amount that isn’t used during the calendar year. For example, if you sign up to have $3,000 put in your FSA and you only spend $2,000 on childcare that year, you’ll lose $1,000. For regular daycare expenses, it is typically simple to calculate how much you will need to set aside monthly in an account.
It may not seem like it helps you save on childcare costs on a weekly or monthly basis, but it’s important to remember to claim any applicable tax credits when filing your taxes. That tax savings can make a big difference, and a refund can be set aside to help pay for upcoming care costs. A professional tax professional can give you detailed guidelines about all tax laws and what credits your family qualifies for. Under the current tax reform, the Child Tax Credit may be worth as much as $2,000 per qualifying child depending upon your income -- that’s twice as much as before.
Some families are able to navigate the high cost of childcare by working opposite shifts as your partner or another household member so that one of you can watch the children while the other one is working. For some families, another option may be working from home, especially if you have children that are old enough to not need hands-on care during working hours and can entertain themselves while you work. Talk to your boss to see if working remotely is an option.
If you don’t work full-time, or are just looking to be able to go out for a date night with your spouse, talk to friends about swapping care. The fix to this is simple: offer to watch your friend’s kids while they go out or work part-time, and then have them watch your kids while you go out or work part-time. It’s a win, win for both parties.
We all want to save on childcare costs, but care for your children is not an area you want to bargain shop. That doesn’t mean you have to go broke paying for daycare, however. Make a budget and figure out how much you can afford, then get to work thinking creativity. Planning ahead and flexibility will help you get the peace of mind you need when finding someone to care for your child.
If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, non-profit credit counseling can help you make sense of all your options. Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.
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