Understanding The Cost of Childcare and Ways to Budget Daycare Costs

Budgeting as the average cost of daycare is a challenge for many families, but you’re not alone. Wonderschool is here to guide your child care program choices in your price range

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What Is the Average Cost of Daycare in 2024?

The average cost of child care for your family depends on where you live. Here’s how your location impacts the cost of child care.

Regional Average Daycare Costs

  • East Coast. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), child care on the East Coast can range between $905 to $2,020 per month. The latter figure represents the average costs in Washington, D.C., and the former in New Jersey. In fact, EPI data shows that Washington, D.C., has the highest child care costs in the U.S.

  • Midwest. Average daycare costs in the Midwest vary quite a bit by state. For example, according to EPI data, infant daycare in South Dakota averages $543 per month. In contrast, Minnesota ranks as the fourth-most expensive state, with infant care averaging $1,341 per month.

  • West Coast. California ranks as the third-most expensive state for infant care, as per EPI data. Oregon and Washington average under $1,000 per month for four-year-olds.

National Average Daycare Costs

The Department of Health and Human Services considers child care affordable if it costs seven percent or less of a family’s household income. According to the Department of Labor, though, the average cost of child care is between eight and 19.3 percent of median household income per child. The DOL has also found that, in the United States, center-based infant care costs families more than $17,000 annually per child.


Breaking Down the Cost of Child Care


If a daycare center is in a location where property values are high, that usually means more expensive enrollment costs. Daycare providers are often renting their space, and that, plus any other facility maintenance costs, will impact registration fees.


The number of hours and days per week for which you enroll your children can affect how much you pay for child care. Part-time enrollment typically costs less than full-time enrollment of five days per week or if you need any specialized care such as weekend or overnight.

Daycare Type

Center-based daycare usually costs more than family child care centers or preschools. At-home care options such as nannies are often the most expensive choice.

Child's Age

The cost of child care varies among different age groups. The cost of infant care is more expensive than child care for toddlers or preschoolers.

Other Fees and Costs

In addition to registration fees, some child care centers charge extra for meals or field trips. You may also be required to purchase supplies such as cleaning wipes or diapers.


Creating a Daycare Budget

Figuring out how much of your income to spend on child care is easier when you have a clear picture of the numbers. Here’s how to create a daycare budget that works for you.

Review Current Expenses

First, take a look at your total monthly spending before factoring in child care. This will make it much easier to identify any areas in which you can save a few dollars. Note which expenses are non-negotiable and where there might be some potential wiggle room. If your essential payments seem high, such as your monthly internet bill, it’s worth contacting your provider to see if any special deals exist to negotiate these costs down.

Use Tools for Budget Planning

When it’s time to add daycare costs to your budget, premade templates can help. Child Care Aware, an organization dedicated to helping parents find affordable child care options, offers a downloadable family monthly budget template. Add your monthly costs across spending categories to this template to calculate your remaining income after all expenses.

Plan for Long-Term Daycare Costs

Finding ways to save money within your budget isn’t a one-time task. As your family’s needs change throughout your child’s development, your expenses can change, too. For example, infant diapers may not be a lifetime expense, but food and clothing are continuing expenses as they grow. Review your budget every month — you may see potential cost-cutting areas that weren’t feasible the previous month. Incorporate a savings fund into your budget too. Setting aside a little bit every month gives you a fallback in case of child care emergencies.


Ways To Make Daycare More Affordable

Continue to prioritize quality care for your child as you pursue less costly options.

1. Child Care Subsidies
2. Other Government Programs
3. Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP)
4. Tax Credits
5. Employer Child Care Benefits

Explore Local Child Care Resources and Support Options with Wonderschool

Finding affordable child care is a common challenge among many families just like yours, but you don’t have to sacrifice quality for affordability.

Wonderschool is here to help you build a smart budget and find high-quality daycare for your child. Founded with the mission of helping all families access affordable child care, Wonderschool offers extensive search tools. Customize your research by price, location, and program type, including those that accept subsidies. Wonderschool can help your family find a daycare solution that meets all your needs — financial and otherwise.

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