USDA: Child care third largest expense for families

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The cost of child care is the third largest expense among married, middle-income families, after housing of food, according to the US Department of Agriculture. The USDA estimates that number is increasing at about $100 per year.

In Minnesota, costs vary drastically depending on location, as reported on by non-profit Child Care Aware. Metro-area preschools cost, on average, $13,000 a year, while infant care costs $17,000 on average.

It’s a bit cheaper outside of the Twin Cities, where preschool costs about $9,400 and infant care comes in at $11,000.

Care.com broke down costs by the type of caregiver and found nannies cost the most, at $565 per week, followed by after-school sitters at $232 a week, day cares at $211 a week and family care centers at $195 per week.

In 2017, caregiving website Care.com ranked North Dakota as the state with the most affordable child care centers, based on the average cost of care for one child in relation to the state median family income among households with children. You can read that survey here.

One cost-saving option for families: A flexible spending account. It allows families to set up to $5,000 aside per year for child care expenses, pre-tax.

Care.com estimates only 55% of families actually use an FSA, which means several things, including that it might not be right for everyone. Families need to decide during enrollment how much money they’ll set aside, as they can’t change it once the year begins, and in many cases, the account is on a use-it-or-lose-it basis.

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