Baby, Budget Buster
In North Carolina, it's a lot cheaper to send an eighteen-year-old to college than to have an infant in child care. According to a recent report by the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies, the average annual tab for enrolling your baby in a child-care center is $7,800. But tuition and fees at UNC-Charlotte would run you about $4,320.
When you consider average child-care costs in other states, however, North Carolina working parents don't seem to have it too bad. In New York, for example, it averages $13,437 a year to have an infant in child care -- 72 percent more than in North Carolina. Still, child care can take up an outsize proportion of a family's budget, even here. One rule of thumb sometimes cited by experts: if you work and have a kid, expect to spend about 10 percent of your family's annual income on child care, or about what you pay for food.
The good news is that child care, unlike eating, is typically a temporary expense, to be borne for four or five years until you can send your child off to free public school. That's when you get a reprieve -- for about twelve years, that is, until it's time to start paying for college.
*All numbers for Mecklenburg County
Number of children age 0-6
Number of children age 0-6 with both parents in the home working
Number of children receiving state subsidies to attend child care
Number of children on waiting list to receive subsidies