I grew up in the 80s, and I can count on one hand the number of mothers I knew who stayed home with their kids, even part time. Now that I’m a mother myself, it seems as though the majority of the families I know have at least one parent who stays home at least part time.
The difference? According to a Pew Research Center report, the reason for the increase in stay-at-home parents is the rising cost of childcare. Weekly costs for daycare and other types of childcare have risen 70% since 1986, the first year these numbers were tracked.
Anecdotally, I know of zero parents with a daycare bill that’s lower than their mortgage bill. Crazy right?! It’s an incredibly frustrating Catch-22, especially for working mothers, since taking time away from a career can hurt your lifelong income but continuing to work can cost more than you bring in.
So how can you mitigate these overwhelming costs without completely restructuring your life? Here are four options for minimizing your childcare bill without having to change jobs or schedules.
Use a Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account
If your employer offers a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) program, you can have up to $5,000 deducted from your paycheck pre-taxed and placed in your FSA to use for dependent care costs. If you fall within the 35% tax bracket and max out your FSA, you’ll be able to save $1,750 on your taxes each year. This can offset the average cost of about seven weeks of a center-based daycare, which is $972 per month.
There are some caveats to using a dependent care FSA, however. First, all FSAs are set…
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