There’s no other way to put it…child care in the Washington Metro Area is expensive. Since I’m expecting my own bundle of joy next year, I resolved to be proactive and started looking at all of my options that range from hiring an au pair to checking out conventional day care centers. Imagine my surprise after calling numerous day care and nanny services to find out that in order to watch a newborn, they charge anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 a month! Mind you, we all come into this world unable to move our necks and looking for our next meal, so I cannot imagine how much “trouble” a newborn would be as supposed to a toddler (who would be naturally mischievous and most importantly, mobile)! After looking at all of my options, I started thinking to myself…how does anyone just starting out in life afford child care for one child, let alone multiple children?! Maybe this is the reason women are waiting to start a family since the average family with one child can expect to spend $14,400 to $24,000 a year in child care alone.
Being that I still have a nursery to shop for and other first year necessities to buy, I decided to do more research and here’s what I’ve learned thus far in my effort to save a little coin:
- Au Pairs are domestic child care providers that typically live with a family and perform domestic work, such as cleaning and cooking, and receive a monthly payment for their services. I’ve read that most of the individuals working in this field are foreign, but you can definitely find some American-born au pairs to look after your kiddies.
- Nannies are also domestic child care providers that watch and run errands on behalf of your children. They can live with your family; have their own residences, or some combination of the two. One of the coolest things to come out of the need to save money on child care is nanny sharing which I will talk about next!
- Nanny Sharing – this is a popular option for young families just starting out in life. The basic idea is that two or three families share the same nanny and split the costs amongst themselves. The nanny would perform the same services such as watching the children, preparing lunches, and transporting to and from playdates, but on a part-time basis for each family.
Some of the advantages to this sort of service include the savings and the exposure to other children. The disadvantages include combating parenting philosophies (i.e., you don’t want your kid to eat junk food or watch TV) and negotiating prices taking into account other individuals outside of your family.
For more information on nanny shares, visit Baby Center.
- Day Care Centers are the most expensive options for most families in the Washington Metro Area. You have options such as taking your child to a home-based day care center which could reduce costs, but that was never an option for me. I want my child to be in a facility that is close to hospitals and staffed with people who know CPR and other important skills to potentially save my child’s life until they can get to a hospital. I’m not saying home day care providers don’t have the same credentials, but I have read many horror stories about those who didn’t have a license or certification to operate a day care center or administer CPR, so I am going to be cautious since this is my first child and go the conventional route.
Aside from the basics, day care centers now offer to teach your kids the basics like manners, how to interact with others, and even foreign languages! Of course this all comes with a hefty price tag, so shop around. Unfortunately, most day care centers in the area require a newborn to come all five days of the work week regardless of your work schedule which can be a huge setback and force you to spend more money than you are prepared to, so do your homework and haggle to save a few coins! Also, don’t be afraid to see if your job offers some sort of subsidy for child care as part of their incentive packet!!!
- Consider a Flexible Spending Account. Now this is the most important tip I can pass on, so pay close attention. A dependent care flexible spending account allows your family to set aside $5,000 a year in tax-free money to pay for eligible child care expenses. The money comes out of your paycheck each month and you can essentially be reimbursed for care that you’ve already paid for. That means that instead of having to come out of pocket $14,400 a year for child care (low-end), you will now only be paying $9,400 a year! Not bad, right. For more information on how flexible spending accounts work, visit IRS . If you’re a Fed, visit the FSAFEDS website.
I know this is a lot of information to take in, so I am going to stop here and let it all sink in. Stay tuned for more information on what to look out for when choosing a day care provider coming soon.
Image: Business Week