How much does child care cost?

Girl Ninja and I just got back from a glorious 10 day San Diego / Palm Desert vacation. I ate many a California Burritos (9 total), Baby Ninja ate a gratuitous amount of sand at the beach, and Girl Ninja consumed her body weight in Starbucks. We spent time with old friends, visited our Alma Mater’s campus, and reminisced on all the memories Girl Ninja and I have from our time living there.

While Girl Ninja and I made the 2.5 hour car trip from San Diego to Palm Desert we talked about a whole slew of things, one of which was her role as a stay at home mom.

We’re fortunate to be in a position where Girl Ninja can stay at home with Baby Ninja full-time and even more-so because my job allows me to spend about half of my work day at home (I’m out in the field the other half). Baby Ninja is kind of growing up with two stay-at-home parents.

Leaving teaching was hard for Girl Ninja. She loved her job and loved the school she worked at. About twice a month, Girl Ninja’s mom will babysit and GN will take a substitute job at a local school. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

  • Girl Ninja’s mom gets quality time with her grandson.
  • Girl Ninja gets to relieve herself of her motherly duties for a day
  • She still gets to dabble in the profession that she loves
  • She makes $150 each day she subs.
  • The school she teaches at gets a Substitute that legitimately loves teaching.

Next fall year, Baby Ninja will be 15 months old. Which also means he will be significantly less dependent on “mom”. If GN isn’t pregnant by summer (we aren’t trying, but we’re not preventing… was that too much information?), we started toying with the idea of her working more consistently next school year.

I doubt that would mean her taking a full-time teaching position, but she could start subbing two to four days per week instead of once every two weeks like she has been. If she substitute taught three days per week next school year, she would make $16,200 in additional income for our family. It’s nowhere near the $45,000 she would make if she took a full-time job, but every little bit helps.

The only problem with this idea is we have no clue how much child care costs. Sure Girl Ninja might make $16,000 more next year, but if it costs us $10,000 to put Baby Ninja in to child care during the school year is it really worth it?

No way. 

From what I’ve learned from friends is it seems full-time childcare runs about $1,200-ish per month. If we used child care three days per week, I’m guesstimating it would cost about $600 to $800 per month. She would be earning about $2,000/mo subbing at this rate.

The way I see it there are two ways to look at this…

Extra money is extra money

Sweet! We net a little over $1,000/mo in additional income. This could be used to further advance our taxable investment account. Perhaps open a college savings plan for Baby Ninja. Or allow us the freedom to spend a little more frivolously (meaning travel a bit more, or do some work on the house. not meaning buy a new tv just for the sake of buying a new tv). It would be a welcome addition in deed.

Extra money is extra money, but at what cost

Sure we would bring home $1,000 a month more than we do now, but Girl Ninja would also be away from Baby Ninja much more than she is now. Is $1,000 really worth missing out on some significant milestones or entrusting a large chunk of our child’s development to a stranger? I’m not too sure.

I guess what I’m really getting at is I would love to hear from a few of you who have dealt with a similar decision.

  • Did you pay for childcare (if so, how often and how much)?
  • Did you forfeit an income so one parent could stay at home (if so how much did you give up)?
  • How does one have their cake and eat it too (get to be with their child while make a ton of money) 🙂 ?

20 thoughts on “How much does child care cost?

  1. We have pretty cheap child care where I am, $69 a week for four days. (it does jump to $115 for five days because the government subsidy ends). That includes diapers for those still in them and two snacks and lunch.

    One other thing to consider with child care is a lot of kids, mine included, love it. We picked a daycare primarily based on fun (my husband and I are both educators and side eye child care that promises to school little kids, pfffft to that we say) and being social. Because my son is the youngest and he frankly doesn’t have a lot of kids in his age in our family it was more important to us that he had little kid play time than him learning, French or early reading (pfffft we say) or something like that.

    Lots of mothers, this one included love it. Especially if it is not all day every day. We started my son off small, two days a week then three then four. Much like your family we have rigged our lives to spend time at home with him.

    Don’t let GN think that every second not with him MUST BE WORKING either. There is something to be said for a morning off to play catch up with everything that needs to be done so you aren’t constantly feeling like you are giving your kid half your attention because you are also cleaning or shopping or cooking dinner.

    When my kiddo hit 2 years, two and a half, he turned into the stereotype of a little boy, energeriser bunny activity levels and all. It was nice to get him back exhausted and babbling about his friends a couple of days a week.

  2. I am going to throw another thought out there….illness.

    Most parents that utilize daycare will send their child in with every cold, virus, and bug out there. They do it because they will miss work if they don’t. And while daycares have policies that SICK kids can’t come, they mostly do allow “sick” kids.

    So…Baby is going to be exposed to a zillion germs (which isn’t a bad thing….it will help build his immune system). But typically in the first year, he is going to be be sick….alot. If he is sick, GN is less likely to send him to daycare….so she won’t be working….but daycare is probably still going to charge you. Now you are paying for childcare and not earning the money from the work day.

    If Grandma is willing to do it once a week….maybe increase to that level, instead of 2-4 days a week like you are thinking. Or Grandma once a week….and maybe you have a friend/neighbor that you can pay once a week?

  3. Childcare is too expensive for most people. What’s even worse is that it’s still so hard to find people who you can trust with your most prized possessions, your kids. My child is now 8 and we live Japan on a Naval base so she is living in a very safe environment. Yes I realize that this is a unique situation, but, instead of after school care where she was getting bullied on a regular, I sign her up for after school extracurricular activities to keep her busy until I get home. I spend about $400 a month, but its so worth it for she is well rounded in art and music.

  4. My wife has a Bachelor’s Degree in Math. She could make as much as I make as a Programmer (decent wage). But from the day she graduated, we chose to have her practice her profession at home. She’s a great teacher, example, chef, chauffeur, cheerleader, tutor, drill sergeant, nurse, maid, gopher, etc. And she loves it all. She does it because our family comes first. We will not outsource our responsibilities to raise and teach our children to anyone else. Especially not to some entity that we have to PAY. Lose money AND lose blessings? No way.

    They go to public school, but we are responsible for their learning. School provides them with the things we can’t: bullies, aggravating people, peer pressure, fancy microscopes, demanding teachers, class projects, mass socialization, etc.

  5. We’re planning on having kids soon, so this is a topic that’s top of mind for us right now. We’ll be early retired in a few years, but, there’ll likely be an interim phase before early retirement where we’ll have to make the daycare/salary comparison and decision. This is good food for thought for me–thank you!

  6. I use daycare for my first and second child but am planning on staying home once the third comes. Daycare for us runs along a similar cost to yours, although it does differ if you choose a stay at home provider or a center. Financially it makes more sense for me to be working – I bring home about twice as much as daycare costs and will be clocking in my hours so that I will qualify for EI on my third maternity leave. Disclosure – I am in Canada so our system is different than yours – we will receive EI (assuming you’ve logged enough hours to qualify) for 50 weeks of leave (15 weeks has to be taken by the mom and the remaining 35 can be mom or dad). Anyhow, back to the daycare question financially it makes a lot more sense for me to work, bring home the extra money right now to slay our mortgage (2 years to go) and leave us in a strong financial situation for me to stop work for the remainder of our young kids’ lives. Plus collect EI on my next mat leave!

  7. I’m not sure how it works in the teaching profession – but for me; even if we were breaking even with my income and childcare, I would want to spend some time in the workplace.

    Things change so fast in the professional workspace, and for me it’s important to stay connected to work, those changes, my colleagues and my profession. Working even part time, would allow a person to continue to accrue seniority and help to ensure they if they ever chose to go back to work full time – an employer wouldn’t dismiss the resume because they’ve been out of the workforce for 2, 5, 10 years.

    Since this is a blog about $$ though, I’ll comment on that front too. Right now, GN earns the least she’s ever going to in her profession ($45,000). Over time, with seniority her wage will increase as per her contract/union/negotiations.

    So maybe her first year back she takes home as little as $1,000/month – or even breaks even….over time, her wages will increase, she will contribute more $$ to the family. I see a lot of women check-out of their professions – which is 100% okay if that is what they want to do for their families – if that’s how they want to contribute. BUT if they want to work – they should; regardless of the $$ – because that will change.

  8. I struggled a lot with this question right before the birth of my son. If I left the workplace at that time, I would have had to reenter at a much lower position and I was not interested in that. However, the thought of putting my baby in a traditional day care was very difficult as well. But I also wasn’t ready to be done working forever (yes I love what I do also). And luckily God provided a fantastic solution. There is a woman we go to church with who homeschools her three daughters and was willing to become the nanny to our son. We did a trial period and it works wonderfully for us. He considers her his aunt, he is an only child with three older sisters, and we have become family…all because we followed God’s plan. Two years later we are still thrilled. Take a look at your non-traditional options as well and pray about it.

  9. We live in Chicago, and currently pay just over $2k a month for 5 days a week of daycare for our 6-month old (with the days covering from 7 am – 6 pm, although we’re normally dropping him off at 8:30 am and picking him up by 5:45 pm).

    Now, included in that is all his diapers (they use cloth diapers at day care), and he has great teachers. And my wife makes almost double that after taxes each month (and I make double HER salary), and we both love our jobs (although my wife is now down to four days a week; we still have to pay for 5 days of daycare, even though the kiddo spends Friday with mom…which will work out as my wife will occasionally drop him off at day care on her “day off” to run errands, etc.)

    When you factor in tax breaks for day care (not huge, but a factor — I wish either of us had a Flexible Spending Account we could use for day care), the fact that my wife is continuing to get 401k matches/contributions and healthcare for her and the baby (her healthcare at work is much cheaper than adding them to my policy), continuing to have income factored in for Social Security (meaning a potentially larger payout for her down the line, as they look at your highest 35 years of earnings), and the professional benefits she gets in terms of maintaining a career/interacting with adults, it really works well for her. And the baby LOVES daycare so far (and has great teachers who do cool things like post Instagram photos of the kids in class during the day, so we get to see what he’s up to)….

    The one thing I’d warn you is to start looking at daycares VERY early….they fill up quick. And look to see what options they have in terms of number of days — your wife may want to work 2 days a week, but if the daycares only offer 3 or 5 day plans, you could be stuck paying for days you don’t use, etc. (And some that offer 3 days only allow you to use 3 SPECIFIC days, like M/W/F, rather than a more flexible “any 3 days of the week” option).

    As for the final question, I’d say the way we’re working on it right now is to save up as much money as possible so that my wife can stay home when/if we have baby number 2….and that her taking Fridays off work for time with the baby (and to do errands/chores) means that we have more time as a family on weekends to do fun things (rather than running those errands/doing those chores then). But it’s a tough road to get there….

  10. We are a graduate student family in the Midwest with two small children. We’ve done it all: full-time care ($800-1100/month), part-time care ($400-600/month), and stay-at-home parenting (with both kids for the first 1-2 years).

    Another alternative is to join a parent-led preschool co-op. Parents volunteer in the room, say, one or two times mornings per month, and have the other mornings free. This give the kiddo a preschool experience and the parent has a bit of free time yet is actively involved in care. This clearly doesn’t solve GN’s dilemma, but something to think about if you (or someone reading this) is looking for a good preschool experience on the cheap.

    Is the salary gain/loss to a childcare provider worth it? Yes and no, it depends. Personally, it is satisfying to see monthly decreases in student loan debt even while my husband is still writing his dissertation (thank heavens), yet there are days I dearly miss stay-at-home parenting. Then again, when I was at home, there were days where I wanted to pull my hair out and thought it would be rad to have something going on outside the house.

    So my advice with this whole business would be: trust your gut and remember that if something isn’t working out you can always change course. Find the right provider, try it for a month or two, and see how you feel. Kids are resilient creatures and you have to work pretty hard to mess them up. 😉 If you do send BN to part-time care, I bet he’ll do great! If BN stays with grandma, then hot dog! – that’s totally cool too! Good luck!

  11. Something else to keep in mind with the childcare debate is that even though it may be close to a wash if GN works and BN is in childcare, it will probably set GN up for an easier transition to full time whenever she isn’t staying at home. She will keep her skills active and won’t have the large resume gap if she is working part time. Obviously the family can afford to have her stay at home full time, so at the end of the day money is not the deciding factor. The stay at home time gap can be a real killer, and keeping her skills fresh makes a big difference from a career standpoint.

  12. We live outside Boston and pay 1600 per month for two kids, two DAYS per week. We are seriously considering relocating to a lower coat of living area.

    It’s hard to leave the babies in daycare, but once they get older thy really do have fun. They do arts/crafts, projects, and learn about things that I would not honk of right now. For us, two days per week works really well.

  13. Oh this hits too close to home…we had our first 5 days ago and had started looking at multiple places MONTHS prior. In addition to costing between 15k-16k per year, many had a waiting list of over a year long; meaning we would have had to get on it before the little one was even conceived.

    We have a #1 that we want, but won’t be able to get in until December – even though we put a deposit down in September of last year. So we will have to send ’em to our second choice which hopefully has room, or else who knows what we are going to do. The wife’s salary is too large to give up, but childcare costs are ridiculous and the wait lists are even more so. best of luck!

  14. The daycare center that we send our daughter to costs $1200 monthly. This covers 5 days a week from 6:00 am to 6:30 pm with breakfast, lunch and two snacks included. The cost for the three day a week full time coverage isn’t much cheaper. The savings in cost kicks in when you sign up for half day coverage – up to 6 hours a day max.

    My wife was stay at home for a while, but decided to reenter the workforce due to both wanting to have more stimulating conversation than a two year old can manage and to maintain and improve the skillsets she had. She is in the medical field, so the pay does cover the cost of childcare and then some.

    Even if my wife wasn’t going back to work we were thinking about the part time daycare option. This would be to allow my wife some time alone without our daughter and to seek out social interactions for her sanity and to introduce my daughter to mass socialization and the consequences thereof. It didn’t help that we just recently moved halfway across the country to an area where we have no local family for support so our social lives are the interactions between the three of us only as we find new friends.

  15. We had our kid in daycare for most of his preschool years, and we started at $750/mo, which went up 5% EVERY YEAR. The fees are structured in a way that younger ones (under 2) cost more and gets somewhat cheaper (by maybe $100 or so) as they age. In the daycare/ECE place we took our kid to, there were teachers there that had kids and part of the package was that they didn’t pay for their kids. I’m not sure if other places offer a similar package or if GN would consider teaching preschoolers, but thought I could put it out there. As for me, as a parent back then, I couldn’t count the moments that I wish I could stay home with our kid. Maybe not everyday when he was older, but definitely wish I had spent less than 40 hours/week working. I earn more than my husband and we couldn’t live on just his salary, and the type of work he does doesn’t come by often. 🙁 The socialization aspect of daycare has its positives, as I probably wouldn’t have been able to keep up with his play needs all day. But there’s joy in not rushing in the morning, eating breakfasts and playing with under-5 kids, enjoying a beautiful day without strict structure. It seemed that when he started kindergarten, my kid just grew up.

  16. This is super relevant for me because I just started work this week after four months of maternity leave. We found an in-home day care near our house that’s costing us $145/week for three full days. In four weeks, I’m going to start working five days again but the cost will only increase to $175. She’s doing great at daycare and they have no problems feeding her my pumped breastmilk.

    I’m coming back to work a month earlier than I had originally planned. I really missed the intellectual stimulation of my engineering job. We could survive on my husband’s income but we wouldn’t be living comfortably and saving as much as we’d like for retirement and college.

  17. My oldest son who is 11 was in daycare since he was 3 weeks old. His father wanted me to go back to work right away and I always regretted it. I am now married to my current husband and we have a 3 year old. We decided for him to stay home with the children and live off my income. I couldn’t be happier that my oldest did not have to go to daycare any longer. On the plus side I have been getting promoted and high raises because I have the time to work long hours and do a bit of traveling for work. My husband loves staying home with the boys so its a win-win situation for us. There was nothing wrong with daycare but if I had the option I would not put them in daycare until they reach preschool age. However if going back to worknis a priority for girl ninja then you should put baby ninja in daycare for girl ninja’s happiness. Do whatever works best for your family.

  18. This is a tough decision. It’s great that GN has a profession that she can resume once your kids are older. That’s what my SIL and BFF did. My profession would not have fallen into that category.
    Does GN enjoy subbing? I’m with the other poster that she should try one day per week at first to see how that works out–provided grandma is willing to have the baby 1x week. Knowing most grandmas, I don’t think that would be a problem.
    In the meantime, if GN really wants to do more subbing, you should look into daycares in your area. At one time, there was always contentious debate about stay at home vs daycare, but I think that has died down a bit???? One can hope. My kids were in daycare and turned out just fine. Like the other poster, they loved being around the other kids.
    Perhaps GN could start her own little daycare???

  19. You are very lucky that you both get so much QT with BN! My son is a 3x a week day-carer and we couldn’t be happier. His first year, he got the other days with his grandmas and now my wife is home as she took a reduced workload (works in a school).

    The cost still makes sense and we keep him in daycare during her summer off because of the following:
    1. Our son maintains a consistent schedule. We believe in maintaining a consistent daily schedule for infants/toddlers. So, keeping him in day care ensures this.
    2. Socialization. Our son is very talkative and energetic and have discussed social skills with parents who didn’t day care and those that did. If GN is at home, developing activities and games outside the home is important.
    3. Wife’s sanity. She enjoys talking to adults every now and then. (Go figure). Plus, it stimulates her mentally.

  20. I have been both the stay at home Mom and now the stay at home Grammie. (I also worked when my children went to school.) I currently watch my 3 granddaughters(aged 5 months to almost 3) each day, M-F, although not all 3 every day. I could not imagine putting my children in daycare as babies( and not judging those who do-just not for me) and was more than happy to offer the help to my children. Not only does it help them financially, I love having them here! They are only this age for so short of a time and I want to experience as much with them as possible. They keep me young!

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