You can only stretch a dollar so far before something breaks.
For many young families, the rent or mortgage payment is the biggest expense each month, but as childcare costs have climbed in recent years, many parents are finding daycare can cost almost as much the roof over their heads.
That's right. In some cities, daycare costs as much a rent, and may even outrun a mortgage payment for the number one spot in a family's expenses.
It's happening in so many cities, impacting so many families, and while this generation of parents is pretty great at balancing a checkbook (or rather, balancing via a budgeting app), there is no denying that this is a burden and a barrier for working parents.
A look at the numbers
In Detroit, for example, daycare will cost you $9,759 a year according to Care.com. The median rent for a two bedroom apartment in that city? About $890, according to the September 2018 rent report from Apartment List.
And Detroit is significantly less expensive than other cities when it comes to both housing and childcare. In Toronto, you can get a small apartment for $1,851 a month while parents pay around $1,758 a month for childcare. As CTV reports, "a year of childcare can end up costing Toronto families almost as much as four years of university tuition."
Even in notoriously expensive housing markets like New York City, childcare prices aren't too far behind rent prices. In NYC daycare costs $10,519 according to Care.com. That's $549 more than the average cost of tuition and in-state fees at a public four-year college, and a significant burden in a city where the average monthly rent on a two bedroom apartment is $2,509.
Daycare in Boston will set you back $14,960 a year. In San Jose it's $15,177. In Denver you're looking at $11,578. And this is not just a problem in North America. In the UK, Londoners are forking over the equivalent of $9,902 USD for daycare while simultaneously being squeezed by rising rents that see middle-income earners spending "every penny earned...until the first week of May" on their yearly rent, according to the BBC.
What's the solution?
For so many young families, the double whammy of a daycare bill that's nearly as much as rent means one parent will opt to stay home. But it is incredibly difficult to survive on one income in 2018, and in some cases, millennial parents are choosing to leave major cities for smaller, often more rural ones with lower housing and childcare costs.
When you crunch the numbers, it can seem like parents are being pushed out of major cities, but one major North American city seems to have figured out a solution.
In Montreal, where two-thirds of the city's dwellers rent, and where rental prices are up 14.8% year-over year, where a two bedroom's gonna cost you $1,700 a month, daycare costs just $25 a day.
The low-cost daycare solution is a province-wide program in Quebec, and while critics argue the $2.5 billion dollar annual government investment is just too much, paying just $500 a month for daycare does help parents get back into the workforce and relieves some of the financial burden families face.
What we can do now
Short of moving to Montreal or Jonesboro, Arkansas (where daycare will set you back just $5,700), what can parents do when childcare and housing eat up most of your paycheck?
Here are some tips:
- Ask if there are subsidies available: Depending on where you live and how much you make, your daycare may be able to connect you with subsidies or programs that can offset the cost. It never hurts to ask.
- Make the most of any tax credits available to you: Again, this depends of location and income but it's worth investigating. Check if colleges near you offer free tax clinics.
- Unconventional care: Sometimes, sharing a nanny with a friend who works opposite hours or watching a neighbor's children in return for them watching yours may work out to be cheaper than in-center care, especially if you don't work typical hours or only need care for a couple hours a day.
- Flexible work: Investigating flexible work options may be worth it, even if you have to take a pay cut. With the right schedule or an option to work from home, daycare fees may become a non-issue for your family and you'll have more in the bank.
- Write to your representatives: Let lawmakers in your area know that families need affordable daycare.