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A job you can do from home will not automatically save you child care costs.


Key points

  • More and more people are working remotely as a result of the pandemic.
  • While you might assume this will save you the cost of childcare, it’s a dangerous assumption to make.

A friend of mine who has been working remotely since the pandemic began had her first baby earlier this year. After too short parental leave, she resumed working from home, while trying to juggle her full-time job and her newborn baby.

Unsurprisingly, she realized early on that this arrangement simply wouldn’t work. And now she drops her baby off at daycare in the morning, does her homework, then picks her baby up when the day is done.

If you’re working remotely and expecting a baby, you can assume you’re going to make big savings on childcare. But even if you do manage to make some savings, you shouldn’t expect those savings to be substantial.

An unavoidable expense

Working remotely certainly has its perks. Not having to go to the office means not having to pay a huge credit card bill at the pump. And it can also contribute to a better work-life balance.

But if you’re expecting a baby, don’t make the mistake of assuming you’ll be able to do your job and still manage to meet your baby’s needs. It’s just not realistic.

Similarly, suppose you have young children who aren’t babies, but aren’t old enough to go to elementary school. If you get a fully remote job, you might assume you won’t have to pay for childcare. But chances are your 2, 3, or 4 year old won’t let you work alone when you need to. On the contrary, your child might constantly interrupt, asking for everything from meals to dressings to attention. And this could, in turn, impact your work performance and jeopardize your professional status.

A better bet? Plan to pay for childcare for young children or a baby, even if you work from home full-time. You could save a little money by needing fewer hours of childcare when there is no commuting. But you definitely need to factor the cost of childcare into your budget.

A great way to save on childcare

It’s no secret that childcare is expensive. But if you have to pay for it, be sure to sign up for your company’s flexible spending account for dependents (FSA).

Many people are familiar with healthcare FSAs, where you set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for things like drugs and co-payments. Well, there is a child care version of this, and it pays to take advantage of it if you need to spend money on having someone take care of your kids.

Similarly, there is a tax credit called the child care and dependent care credit, and its purpose is to put money back in the pockets of taxpayers who pay for child care so that they can work. Be sure to consider these options if childcare is an expense you are forced to grapple with. But just as important, be realistic about your childcare needs if you’re working remotely so you don’t put your job on the line or stress yourself to unhealthy extremes trying to get it all done.

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