For most parents in the U.S., daycare is one of the largest weekly expenses. High daycare costs can add up. For families with more than one kid, the amount is sometimes higher than even the monthly mortgage payment. In 24 states, childcare costs more than tuition.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, daycare costs in the U.S. have nearly doubled in the last 25 years. Policymakers suggest that daycare costs shouldn’t be more than 10% of a household budget — but daycare usually costs parents about 30% of their income.
Why does daycare cost so much? Consider the following factors:
The most important factor is the state and the city in which you live. States with a high cost of living are costly in all aspects, including childcare. Some of the most expensive states are New York, Colorado, Massachusetts, California, and Washington.
Childcare costs for infants and toddlers are the highest as they need constant attention. As a child grows, costs decrease with age. The National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) estimates that for babies and toddlers, the average cost of center-based daycare is $243 weekly. The average cost of daycare for a 4-year-old/preschool child is $183.25 weekly — quite a difference. We’ll get into more numbers down below.
Type of Childcare
The type of daycare is an important factor to consider. For example, licensed daycare centers are generally more expensive than those that are non-licensed, and hiring a nanny is the most costly option. You may also choose to hire an au pair — see our research on how much an au pair costs.
Understandably, the cost of daycare varies almost proportionately to the number of hours you keep your child under the care of others. Some centers do offer discounts on the total daycare cost for full-day care or siblings using the same facility.
Daycare Costs per Week by State and Age Group
The following table shows the average full-time, center-based daycare costs per week in different states for various age groups.
Source: Child Care Aware of America, a non-profit organization based in the United States.
To see an example of one part-time, before- and after-school program’s cost, see our article on The Goddard School’s tuition.
Suggestions for Reducing Weekly Childcare Costs
Daycare costs can be very high in some states. We have several suggestions for saving money on your childcare costs:
- Visit and get quotes from several facilities to shop around for the best option.
- Use a daycare that offers discounts for each additional child, and keep all children at the same center.
- Get a daycare that’s either close to home or en route to work. This will save time and fuel money when picking up and dropping off.
- Find an in-home daycare that is relatively new. The prices will likely be low, and you won’t have to worry about getting all of your children admitted if it’s not yet popular.
- Reach out to family or friends. They may be willing to watch your child for free. You could also exchange childcare; your friend could watch your kids one week, and you could watch them the next.