Congratulations, Louisiana parents with a kid in daycare: You’re paying the least for childcare in the nation, according to Care.com, which gave Yahoo Parenting an exclusive first look at its second annual Cost of Care Survey. (Photo: Getty Images)
As we all know from the staggering statistic that it costs an estimated average of $245,000 to raise a child to age 18, having kids is expensive.
But not all expenses are equal when it comes to childcare. If you’re a parent in New Mexico, Arkansas, Idaho, Mississippi, or Arizona, you are in the top five most-expensive states to employ a nanny, all of which pay well above the national average of $488 a week for two kids, according to Care.com. The most affordable states? The District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.
And the difference between each end of the price range is pretty big. Childcare in New Mexico (where it costs a married couple 36 percent of their median income) costs a full 16 percent more than what a married couple in D.C. pays: just 20 percent of their median income.
When it comes to daycare centers, there’s also a significant disparity between the states that charge the most and the least. New York carries the biggest price tag (at 13 percent of a married couple’s income) followed by Vermont, Oregon, Nevada, and Minnesota. The states that charge the least are Louisiana (a comparative bargain at just 6 percent of a married couple’s income) followed by Tennessee, South Dakota, Mississippi, and South Carolina.
Overall, Care.com reports that daycare is a better deal than the cost of a nanny, with a national average cost of $341.21 a week for two kids ($146 less than the average cost of a nanny). No matter what state you call home, though, the cost of childcare is an undeniably big chunk of parents’ budgets.
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In an exclusive first look at Care.com’s 2015 Cost of Care Survey, of 700 U.S. parents during the month of May, the results reveal that 89 percent of parents feel stressed out just thinking about the cost of childcare. That anxiety takes a toll on parents’ relationships, too. Nearly 1 in 4 couples admit that they fight about childcare costs. And no wonder. According to the survey, 28 percent of mothers and fathers spend more than $20,000 on childcare — 13 percent even spend more than $30,000.
“It’s a hardship,” Donna Levin, Care.com cofounder, tells Yahoo Parenting. “As a parent myself, I know that when you write that check, there can be a moment of, ‘Ugh, it’s so expensive!’ until you get that first update or photo of your child from a caregiver and you know that it’s worth it. It’s all about parents wanting the best for their child.”
These days, Levin says that “best” nanny qualifications include CPR/first aid certification (55 percent of parents are willing to pay for a nanny with that training), having a degree in early childhood education (54 percent will pay for that expertise), and the ability to teach their children a different language (43 percent). The most in-demand amenities at daycare centers: activity classes such as baby yoga and baby sign language (55 percent of parents will pay more for them) and a video camera for remote check-ins (52 percent).
One in 4 parents are even willing to go into debt, or further debt, to pay for childcare. Then there’s the cost to their lifestyle. Nearly 70 percent of mothers and fathers surveyed said that the cost of childcare has influenced their career decisions, and 35 percent resorted to changing jobs to increase their income (24 percent even took on another job to help make the money required for childcare).
There is a bright spot in all of the financial fracas. More parents report that they are budgeting for childcare now, compared with last year’s respondents (62 percent versus 58 percent). And Levin sees this as a good sign, considering that “parents love to think that you only have to think about the cost of care until kindergarten, but the reality is you’re going to be thinking about different types of care well into the start of college, between the cost of aftercare in schools and camps, not to mention lessons and tutoring.”
And there are many measures that can help, she adds, noting that 36 percent of respondents in Care.com’s survey didn’t even realize that families can potentially save thousands a year using their employer’s Flexible Spending Accounts on childcare. “Reach out to your company’s Human Resources department,” she urges. “Ask about tax credit benefits and talk with other parents about the rates in your community to figure out what you can afford. There are a number of resources out there.” Pursuing every possibility to save, after all, just makes good cents.