Childcare Costs Too High? It Could Pay to Go Part-Time

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KEY POINTS

  • The cost of childcare has increased a lot since the pandemic began.
  • If your childcare expenses are eating up most of your income, it pays to run the numbers and see if part-time work is a better option for you.


It could make sense to work less but spend less.

Childcare costs were a huge burden for parents before the pandemic. But in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, they've soared exponentially, and many families are struggling to keep up.

The average weekly cost of a nanny is $694 for one child and $715 for two children, according to recent data from Care.com. Meanwhile, the average weekly cost of a childcare center is $226 for a single child and $429 for two. At these price points, it's easy to see why so many minimum wage earners have no choice but to leave the workforce.

But even moderate earners may be questioning the value of bringing home a paycheck given the expenses involved. For a working parent earning $40,000 a year, or $769 a week, spending $429 a week to enroll two kids into childcare may not make sense. By the time we factor in taxes and commuting costs, that's a very small amount of money actually going into that person's bank account.

If you're struggling with childcare costs, you may be wondering if it pays to just quit your job and cut back on other expenses. But there may be another solution to look at -- part-time work.

Does part-time work make sense for you?

These days, jobs are generally more flexible than they were in the past. That's because the pandemic spurred employers to let workers do their jobs remotely, and the labor shortages many industries have grappled with over the past year have taught companies to be more accommodating in terms of scheduling.

If you're tired of spending a fortune on childcare costs, part-time work could be a solution that lets you avoid them entirely. Let's say you're married with two kids and your spouse has a typical 9-to-5 job. If your spouse is home by 5:30 p.m., it may be possible for you to pick up several evening shifts a week at a local store or restaurant, thereby avoiding the need to spend money on childcare.

Or, depending on your skills, it may be possible to find a job you can do remotely at your own pace. Say you're able to do data entry or medical billing from home for 20 hours a week. If you have young kids at home, you can work a couple of hours a day while they're napping and then resume your work in the evening once they've gone to bed.

Will scaling down to part-time work mean taking a pay cut? Sure. But when you factor in the money you're not spending on childcare, you might actually come out ahead financially by virtue of working part-time.

A tough choice

Shifting over to part-time work may not only mean slashing your earnings temporarily. It could also mean taking a step back in your career. That's something that could impact you for a long time, so you'll need to factor it into your decision.

But if you're currently spending the bulk of your earnings on childcare, it may be time to consider finding a part-time arrangement that helps you avoid paying for childcare, or has you spending a lot less for it. It could end up being a more financially beneficial solution for your family.

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