HUNTSVILLE Ala. -- For many people, paying the mortgage or college tuition can be some of the biggest checks you write, but a new report shows that childcare can bring an even bigger price tag.
"Yes it was expensive," said Nancy Wolfe, a parent of two kids.
A report from Child Care Aware found that if you have two children in child care, you're likely paying as much or more for their daytime care than you are on a mortgage.
They also found in many states parents are likely to spend as much on childcare for a young child as they would to pay for a year at an in-state university. They found annual childcare costs exceed $20, 000 in 22 states. Parents pay the most for childcare in Massachusetts, paying more than $34,000 annually.
The college board says the average cost of one year at a public university for an in-state student costs around $20,000.
Luckily, Alabama's numbers aren't nearly as high. The average cost of a child care center is around $5,700 annually. But many cost a lot more.
"I couldn't make enough at a job to afford child care," said Jennifer Rice, a parent to four children.
She said she stayed at home to take care of her kids, even working at child care centers part-time, to give her kids activities, and a discount on tuition.
"And what's sad about it is they don't pay those teachers very much money. So they charge a lot, and I know there are food costs and electricity costs and things, but those teachers, barely make minimum wage," Rice said.
Because of the staggering costs that some people are choosing to delay having kids, or not have them at all.
According to a 2018 New York Times survey, the number one reason people say they're waiting to have kids or having fewer than their ideal number of children is they worry that childcare is too expensive.
"The families that have young children are people who are not that far into their career, so they're probably not at the top of their wage earnings. I know that that's a real hardship on a lot of families," said Leigh Ann Brown, a parent to three children.
Experts say to consider asking your employer about flexible working arrangements, where you could work from home a few days so you wouldn't need full-time childcare.
They recommend sharing the costs or hiring a child care professional, or "nanny sharing" might work if you know another family in need of childcare.
They also recommend using a flexible spending account. If your employer offers one, you can add pre-tax wages to it to pay for child care and preschool.
The study found that no matter where you live, childcare is one of the most significant expenses in a family's budget. Exceeding the annual cost of transportation and food combined in every region in the U.S.