Daycare is one of the highest expenses related to raising a child. High-quality care in a certified center usually comes at a premium, and the tuition rate is only the beginning of common daycare expenses. Centers tack on extra fees for everything from caring for infants to early drop off and late pick up; parents also sometimes must purchase their child’s supplies. In-home daycare expenses vary depending on the situation, but often include fringe benefits for the provider. There are ways to minimize daycare expenses to make the arrangement more affordable.
Tuition is the most common cost at a daycare center. Rates vary depending on the location, the number of hours the child is at the center, and the skill level of the teachers. Tuition fees usually are higher for younger children who require more supervision. Rates tend to drop with every year or so in age, with preschool-aged children costing the least to enroll in daycare.
Most centers will assess additional fees on top of the flat tuition rate. For example, parents who need to drop their child off early will be charged for the service. Likewise, daycare centers may offer and charge for parents to pick up their children at a later hour.
Daycare expenses extend to supplies for the child. Many centers, for example, require parents to supply their own diapers and wipes. Others ask parents to chip in for art supplies. While these costs are minimal compared to tuition and fees, parents should factor them into their total child care budget.
Opting for in-home care, such as a nanny, brings similar expenses. Parents must pay the caregiver’s salary, instead of tuition, however. Some contracts include a fee structure if the nanny works overtime, much like early drop off and late pick up fees. As the care is provided at home, the parents likewise provide all supplies.
In-home care can add additional daycare expenses through fringe benefits. Some employers provide the caregiver with paid health insurance, for example. Parents also may agree to give the nanny paid time off, which means an additional expense of finding and paying for a fill-in babysitter.
If child care costs are prohibitive, consider strategies to possibly minimize daycare expenses. Join a neighborhood daycare coop, which can provide free child care several days a week because each parent takes turns watching the group. Another option is to arrange with other parents to hire one nanny to watch several children; the per-family cost may be lower. Also consider whether the child can attend half day daycare rather than a full day.