Here’s another expense cash-strapped Americans may need to add to their credit card this summer: childcare.
One in three parents who expect to pay for childcare during summer break will charge some of the fees, according to a new survey from Bankrate.com, a site that offers advice on personal finance.
Child care can be a hit to the household budget. Those paying for it said it will cost them $998 per child on average for the summer, and 19% of that group expects to pay over $2,000 for each child.
That’s a good-sized chunk of the $12,617 spent on average for a year’s worth of childcare, equal to more than $1,000 a month for every kid.
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“When you factor in that about a third of these families are incurring credit card debt as a result, it adds insult to injury,” says Ted Rossman, Bankrate.com credit card analyst, “The average credit card charges a record-high 17.73%.”
Whether parents pay for childcare during the school break may depend on the region of the U.S. in which they live, as well as how much they earn.
More than half of families in the Northeast, for instance, plan to spend on such summertime arrangements, compared with 30% of parents in the Midwest.
Meanwhile, 54% of those with annual earnings of more than $80,000 are likely to pay for summer childcare versus 37% of those earning between $40,000 and $80,000 and 31% of those whose income is less than $40,000.
There are ways to whittle down the expense or avoid it entirely.
“Our survey found just 40% of families with children are paying for summer childcare,” Rossman says. “That suggests to me that a lot of parents are getting creative, like calling in favors from grandparents, friends, neighbors, working part-time, working from home or staggering shifts so parents can trade off with the kids.”
Set aside a reserve
Parents can try to sock away money throughout the year to cover the cost of summer camp. “To save $1,000 by next summer, you only need to put aside about $83 per month,” Rossman says. “That’s much more manageable (than) trying to do it all at once.”
Families can seek out less expensive camp programs, such as those offered by local organizations like the Boys & Girls Clubs or the YMCA. Or they can enlist their children to help pull out outgrown clothes, books and toys that can be sold at a yard sale or on eBay for extra cash, Rossman says.
There’s also the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit that can help cover camp costs, Rossman says. “This is worth up to $3,000 if you have one child and up to $6,000 if you have two or more children,” he said, adding that summer camps, day care and other childcare options count as eligible expenses.
“I don’t think enough people know about this one,” he says, “particularly the angle that summer (day) camps qualify for working parents.”
If families do have to use credit cards to cover childcare, Rossman says they can open a 0% interest card to avoid extra charges as they pay the balance off.
Follow Charisse Jones on Twitter @charissejones