How Much Does Child Care Cost?
From nanny to au pair to day care. Learn about your different care options, what they mean for your wallet and how you can save money.
Tiffany Smith, Associate Editor
Articles> How Much Does Child Care Cost?


That's how much you'll spend on your child from birth to age 17, according to the USDA. From food to clothes to health care to education. But there's one more expense that's a part of this number that families often forget about or downplay: child care.

Did you know that child care is the biggest annual expense for most families? The average family spends about $18,000 a year on it. Yet 42 percent don't budget for it.

Here at, we want to help you figure out your child care options and what makes sense for your needs and bank account. With that in mind, we collected information on the cost of child care, how it varies across the United States and how it fits into the average family's finances -- whether you have 1, 2 or 3 kids. We surveyed families, researched internal data and looked at national, state and city statistics.

So, what did we discover? Check out our infographic and scroll down to the bottom of the page to learn more about how to start fitting care into your budget.

cost of child care infographic
Begin With a Budget

The average family spends about 18 percent of its budget on child care. As that is such a large chunk, you need to figure out your budget before exploring your child care options. What can you afford? You know how much you spend on your monthly mortgage, electric and cable bills. How much is left over for child care? Can you juggle things around? Forgoing that daily $3 latte means an extra $1,000 a year that you can put towards child care -- and your own Keurig machine!

Learn more about How to Create a Child Care Budget.

Review Your Options
Once you know how much you can spend, you can start pinpointing the most feasible child care choices. Research the going rate for a nanny in your neighborhood, visit local day cares and talk to local families about their decisions. Do you know the differences between a nanny, day care and au pair? Which one works for your lifestyle?

And know that costs vary greatly, depending on where you live, how many kids you have, their ages, the experience level of the child care providers, how many hours you need, etc.

You will also want to consider if convenience is worth an added cost. A local family child care program (which is a day care in someone's home), is often the least expensive option -- the average family will only spend about $127 per week for infant care. But if you have several kids, hiring a nanny to watch all of them at once may actually be more practical.

Read about the 67 Reasons to Hire a Nanny.

Find Ways to Save
But if you're looking over your bank account and groaning over costs, don't lose hope. There are options out there that can save you money. For example, did you know that if you participate in your employer's FSA program, you could save up to $2,000 on child care expenses every year? Or you could qualify for up to $1,200 in child care tax breaks. And talking to your HR department may make you realize some child care benefits you didn’t know you had. Some companies offer things like on-site day care or access to backup care that could help your finances and make your life much easier.

To learn more about these options and get other cost-saving advice, read these 14 Ways to Save Money on Child Care.

For more information about the sources we used for the infographic, click here.

Tiffany Smith is the senior associate editor here at She has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. And as a former babysitter, she knows a lot about fun games to play with kids. Getting them to eat their veggies -- that’s a different story! Follow her on Twitter at @tiffanyiswrite

Check out child care near you:
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Or take a look at some other care options:
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(7) Comments
Siobhan N.
Siobhan N.
As a care provider and a mother of two my spouse and I have two different perspectives . When we hire a sitter for our girls (for date nights only ) we pay a different rate than would be asked of during the day . Now as a sitter myself I suggest a contract ..!!! 10000 I feel like words on paper open communication and relief . If you are hiring a care provider keep things in perspective have a list of your expectations and don't beat your self up when you decide that person is not right for your child or your family . I so suggest as a parent and also as a care provider that you talk about vacations , weddings, babies and any other wonderful life moment you would like to attend . It has been in our experience that parents go away and do not consider about the sitters finances when they are away a lot . Your sitter is going to be a big part of your life and putting all of these things on paper will make your structure as a well rounded employee and employer relationship you can renew the contract every 3 - 6months if you choose . I suggest from being on both ends that you discuss what is expected on daily schedules each week and grow with it. Life is fast paced and forever changing and why not make it easy on yourself chatting with your cafe provided once a week . You have enough stress ! Lastly enjoy the journey and communication is so important . Remember this is all in our perspective and none of my advice or all of my advice is going to work for you . Keep and open mind and make a wise choice for your needs. Best wishes . From our family to yours
May 7, 2015 at 11:34 AM
Childcare Solutions
Childcare Solutions
I would like to see the cost per spent on Day Care & nanny (in-home) care broken down by Household Income, not the average by location. I think it would tell an entirely different story.
September 27, 2014 at 1:42 PM
I like this information very good.
September 25, 2014 at 4:52 PM
Mary's House
Mary's House
I have a degree in elementary education and have been a child care provider in my home for the last 20 years. I make only an average of 25K a year, and I live in Oregon, which is on your list as one of the most expensive states for child care! Please remember that although costs seem high, self employed family providers are barely getting by, especially if they are the sole earners for their families.
September 25, 2014 at 1:24 PM
Ann D.
Ann D.
This is great information for parents, and I would like to add one more point which to consider. When hiring a care provider for your child it is important to offer an appropriate wage for all the task you want done as well as including a minimum of 1.00 per hour per additional child per hour.

I realize all parents want the very best care for their children. There are Nannies that have been caring for children professionally for many years. As well there are others who are doing this because it sounds easy and it will do until they find something better.

When hiring either of the two mentioned, please be fair. If you have multiple children, especially infants and toddlers, that require being cared for and kept safe, and entertained, and having them involved in all sorts of activities, and want you house cleaned and laundry for everyone including mom and dad, and you want meals prepared for the family, and pets cared for, and you want this Nanny to use her personal vehicle to transport you children you will have to offer more than 11.00 per hour. What you never want is someone resenting you because they are not able to pay their rent, or have their vehicle maintained or even buy groceries. I realize that many people will say they are single moms and can only afford 8.00 per hour, that is minimum wage and for quality child care, a housekeeper, a dog walker, and the use of a vehicle that is not a fair wage. There are people that do each of those tasks listed as a job. If you had to hire each one individually you would be paying a great deal more. I do realize that the economy has been slow but doesn't everyone deserve to be paid for what they do? The yearly costs for CPR/First aid certification, background check, and additional courses that a good Nanny will take all costs money, as does vehicle maintenance and insurance, and then the wear and tear on their vehicle. Every wants those things for their children because it sounds like a great deal to you. It shouldn't cost a Nanny money to go to work. Not taking all of these things into consideration will have you ending up with someone who will be resentful and I for one would never want a resentful person caring for my baby.

Think about it.....would you do it?
June 30, 2014 at 11:59 PM
I guess I'm moving to Maryland so I can hire a nanny!
June 20, 2014 at 11:23 AM
This is really helpful! Now I know where to start
June 19, 2014 at 11:00 AM

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