Cost of Running Child Care?

Updated on September 07, 2011
M.T. asks from Saint Paul, MN
16 answers

Hi, I hope I won't offend any child care providers by asking this question. I was telling my friend (who's single, no kids) the cost of our child care (we pay 150/week=about 600/month for a family child care provider, which I think is typical in our area). Our family child care provider can take up to 12 kids (by herself), and she's always full or close to full. That's income of 7200/month.

My friend asked me why it had to be so expensive. Especially since we hear about child care providers not being paid enough despite it being a very important job in the society (as well as teachers) - but that income didn't sound too bad.

I guess one thing is that no one can guarantee that a child care will be full all the time, so you have to prepare for the time of low enrollment. Also if you're single, you have to pay for your health insurance, etc., but most of the child care providers we interviewed were married and their husband worked, so they could get health insurance through their husband's insurance. In my state, the food and formula cost is covered by the food program by the state. I don't think my provider spends even $100/month in new toys, although start-up cost on toys may have been significant (she has tons of toys but not new ones). We bring diapers (she provides wipes).

So I am not complaining about the cost (although of course it would be nice for our budget if child care cost was lower), but I am just curious since I could not answer my friend's question about why child care had to be so expensive. If you are a child care provider (especially family child care provider) or others who are knowledgeable and let me know that would be great. Thank you!

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answers from Philadelphia on

I am not a day care provider but in my opinion they are not getting paid nearly enough. $150/40 hours per week = $3.75 per hour. That assumes your kids are there only 40 hours a week. My girls piano teacher charges $45 for 45 minutes. The child care provider is arguably doing a much more important job. Would you work for $3.75 / hour?

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

I think you've gotten some great answers,

It is expensive, but i also think $60 for a thirty minute haircut is ridiculous, and $20 per 5 mins to have your eyebrows waxes.whoa! And don't get me started on Plumbers and how much they cost to come fix your toilet.

I also don't like the comments that because most are married and have husbands that they shouldn't have to worry about being compensated for the cost of insurance. So an married female news reporter shouldn't be paid as much as someone else because she has a husband who can put her on his insurance?? Did i misunderstand that???

what about the lower class of parents that don't pay. I've heard that can be a real hassel. they are short one month and promise to pay next week or they owe for the month and pull out and go somewhere else.

I think maybe the problem is that care providers aren't veiwed as being valuable, But that job is not for everyone. I think most people do it because they enjoy it, 12 kids running around Is ALOT!! 9hrs a day. It deserves a decent paycheck.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

It may very well be that others can run things cheaper. But I make no apologies that I like things to be clean and like new as often as possible. I don't think keeping a couch for 5 years in a daycare full of children is taking advantage or that I should make it last longer and I don't keep toys if they have he tiniest crack in them. No one can keep a child from ripping a book if they have unlimited access to them and I absolutely teach my kids how to take care of things. Nothing lasts forever. I am open 7 days per week, 24 hours per day. So perhaps my things get MORE wear and tear than average. I would NEVER do carpet because carpet is gross. I'll take my dull floors that I can clean everyday over carpet that harbors all kinds of germs. And really, 1000-2000 for toys is too much? When ONE toy story character toy is often 50 dollars and I buy QUALITY cars that don't crack and the wheels don't fall off, it's not much to spend. I only have to get one big ticket item that's 300-400 dollars to have much of that budget gone. I buy cars that were mad in the 70's and 80's that I get on Ebay because the metal was solid and the wheels simply don't fall off. I understand quality and I know that I can NOT afford the 5000 dollar play structure in the backyard. So instead I buy more in electronics, computer games, etc. We have to visit a park for a nice structure.

I have been adding to this over time and may continue if this thread continues to be popular.

I just remembered the cost of my water filters and air filters. In this day and age too many kids have allergies and keeping the water and air clean helps.

I just keep adding... to those that think we don't need help...There's no way I get through a year without getting some kind of help. Even if it's just bringing in someone to help organize or clean or mow the lawn. My focus is on the kids all the time and my husband can't bail me out all the time. Most people do not have a home large enough for the husbands to have any privacy. So they stay gone a lot LOL! We finally have a home that is large enough for him to get away. In most cases with most providers I've talked to, the real question is whether or not there is ANYTHING left over at the end of the day.

Many of us choose to be small for the sake of the kids. I care for 4 on days, 4 on nights, and 4 days and nights all weekend. Add in a few on call type situations for when I have parents on vaca, deduct for when people are gone and I need to replace them.. 120 per week full-time but several situations are only part-time at 75... I bring in around 48,000 per year and only end up keeping about 20,000 and my final taxable amount is usually only around 10,000-12,000. I'm also open 7 days per week, 24 hours per day. I love what I do. But it's not a get rich quick scheme.

It's also more costly to get out and buy groceries and items the family needs because there's no time for bargain shopping. No one is going to work 13+ hours per day and then clean for another few hours and THEN, clip coupons and go to more than one store. Sometimes we need to buy convenience foods just to get through the week and then there's having to buy Almond milk and soy products and gluten free products for children that need them.

Adding to this list.. Organizers.. My shelves, buckets, rolling toy carts, and wicker baskets take a beating. I carry them everywhere, the kids often climb in them, and I must be able to organize my house or I'd live in a zoo. I buy some kinds of organizers at least twice per year.

Adding also movie rentals, websites for preschool that I pay for, computers that I have to keep running, replacing computer peripherals when they get old, paper, ink, and supplies for printing and record keeping, flashlights, wickless candles, and other things to get us through power outages, buying bottled water for when the water mains break which happens 2-3 times yearly in my city... Just a few more things to think about.

1) I'm quite certain you are so wrong about toys. I've never had a year where I didn't spend 1000-2000 per year. For one thing my toys disappear. It's just too easy to slip cars and building toys and little characters into bags and pockets and I can't search them daily as they come and go. Things get broken and need replaced.

2) BATTERIES... This is an expense most would not think of. But my battery operated toys eat at least 20-30 per month.

3) Utilities- We can not conserve energy. We are always home. We have large amounts of blankets, wash clothes, and rugs that need washed and the cost is high. That alone puts wear and tear on the machines and then there's laundry soap, fabric softener and the cost of heating the water and the water. My water bill alone is 130 per month.

4) Cleaning supplies, toilet paper, wet ones for when parents forget, extra diapers, diaper creams and all kinds of small miscellaneous expenses.

5) Cribs, high chairs, wear and tear on our furniture, kitchen tables and chairs that get scratched and dinged and chairs that fall apart. I buy at least 1000-2000 per year in replacement furniture.

6) Painting of walls, plumbing bills if someone puts something in the toilet or crams too much paper in it, replacement of window screens if someone pokes on them too often when we can open windows...

7) Trash haul away-- I have to pay extra because I have so much. Probably many providers do.

8) The cost of doing our taxes is higher whether or not we get help or use turbo tax. It's expensive.

9) Extra costs in building projects.. We can't just build a deck or fence to any specifications. There are other things to consider.

10) Changes in equipment.. The state often comes up with new rules about the kinds of fire extinguishers or emergency lighting or the types of beds we can have.

11) Advertising.. Staying full is no small feat with people losing jobs, getting laid off, moving away, kids going to school..

12) Bad checks.. Our banks will charge us when they go bad.

13) Personal items lost or broken and even stolen.. My mother laid her glasses down for 30 seconds the other day to wipe her face and a child grabbed them and bent them instantly. I've had all kinds of things stolen through the years from watches to phones to my sony digital reader and my daughters purses, billfolds, etc. I've learned to keep things like fort knox. But I can't hide everything all the time.

14) Social Security expenses. If you work outside the home your employer pays half the cost. We pay 15% off the top and that's on top of other taxes paid.

15) Health insurance through our husbands jobs are not cheap or free. My husband pays 500 per month. I still can't afford to take a day off or pay a co-payment.

16) paper, crayons, pencils, glue, and all kinds of small items...

17) BOOKS... This is actually one of my largest expenses. Babies chew the board books and rip the regular ones. I refuse to hover and put them all up all the time. They need to have access to them all the time. The other day I had a girl pee all over 6 books. I had to throw them away. There simply is no way to clean paper books.

18) There is no way that the food program covers all the costs. I haven't done that in years and there is no way the reimbursement is big enough to make me go through that red tape. Besides I honestly believe parents need to feed their own kids. It's built into my weekly fees.

And 12 kids?! REALLY... I so don't want my kids to be lost in the shuffle. I used to do that and did it for 6.5 years. That many kids only means that more things will be broken and treated badly. It's hard enough to watch them all every minute now. Last week a little girl was trying to figure out the woody hat on my grandsons woody doll. She broke the head off. She didn't mean to. 50 bucks down the drain.

Then there are those of us that do more things like taking them on field trips at our own expense and buy big ticket items like moonwalks. I've gone through an enormous amount of cribs through the years. The mesh gets ripped and there's no doubt that after awhile they look bad even with vigilant washing.

I need a new couch in a desperate way and it will be my 5th in 25 years. My desk is pot marked and looks horrible and my kitchen table looks bad and I just paid it off. The chairs are getting loose and my husband can only re-glue them so many times. My floors are dull and I can't resurface my wood floors because I'm always open and can't afford to close. But some day I'll have to.

Goodness gracious... This is just off the top of my head! I could get out my tax return and show you line by line why I keep very little of what I take in.

I am NOT saying I don't have loads and loads of benefits. The benefits simply don't include a great financial life. But then again, maybe that's because I believe that if the profession could pay us for the years of experience that we have, then we'd be CLEARING 100,000 per year by the time we've dedicated 25 years to the business. In any other profession we would have a combined income of very close to that when we consider the matching 401 k, vacations, profit sharing, at least our own insurance provided at a lower cost than what we can get it on our own and the list goes on.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

It's a business. Think of all the expense of a business, and add on top of that extra food (seriously doubt the state provides enough food!), toys, curriculum (if used), taxes, child proofing, hiring help if needed, books, cribs (if they are young), furniture, licensing, rider to the home insurance (my friend said it's VERY expensive here), additional utilities, improvements to the home so it can pass inspection, etc. She might be on her husband's insurance, but it still costs MONEY.

Oh...$600 a month for full-time child care, is REALLY cheap, compared to what it would cost here.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Youngstown on

12 kids? And one adult? Crazy! I would be worried that my child would get lost in the shuffle there.

I actually pay less than you do (I live in Ohio) for full time daycare. I figure watching children all day is a very very hard job (I wouldn't want to do it!). For good childcare, its worth every penny. And a good daycare provider dederves to make a great salary because they have a tough job!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

Did you take into account that most in home daycare providers work a 12 hour day, and that's JUST the time the kids are actually there? There's food prep time, cleaning time, shopping for supplies, organizing, etc., etc. It's not so cut & dry.

The income looks good on paper, but in reality, it's a different story.

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answers from Dallas on

I am not really qualified to give an answer because I'm not a provider and don't use child care, but I thought I'd share my opinion! Watching several kids is HARD WORK. To think of having 12 kids to watch every day is a huge task. It's very involved and a really big responsibility. I wouldn't do it unless the income was worth all the effort. I think it's much easier to watch your own kids than it is to watch someone else's kids. Anyway, don't know if that helped, but I definitely think they should be making a large income for all the work they do. I think it's more work than many people do for their jobs...and one of the most important. They are helping raise the next generation:-)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Omaha on

Here we go ladies...probably not going to be popular, but I shoot from the hip and am honest about it.

I earn roughly 60K a year through childcare/USDA Food Program (reimbursement for Tier 2 which is a joke and another post entirely!) In Nebraska, I am allowed 8 children, plus two "overlapping school-aged children" which I don't do. I try to keep a full house as things just seem to run better here if we are full (not to mention my checkbook!)

I run a top-notch childcare. I base my opinion on this: In 22 years, I have only had to advertise 5 times, my childcare stays full on referrals. I have an area that is solely dedicated to my childcare (roughly 1000 sq. feet) with a full kitchen, 3/4 bath and walk-out to a backyard with a play structure and a 20' x 30' sandbox. I have plenty of books, toys, educational toys, comfy furniture, individual sleepmats and blankets, cribs to house 8 children. I love my children up one side and down the other. I play with them, I hold them when someone needs arms, I watch to make sure that they are hitting all the milestones, I guide them when necessary. My parents schedule their next baby around when I will have an opening.

I make plenty of money. The poster who claims that she spends $1000-$2000 yearly on toys and an additional $1000-$2000 on replacement furniture is either taking care of monsters or not teaching her children how to care for things properly. I have used the same cribs for many years with no holes, no tears. I simply take care of my equipment. Also, replacing toys from loss? I don't understand that. $1000 is a lot of money for matchbox cars. I teach my kids that "we don't step on our toys, we don't throw our toys, we don't chew on books", ect. Yes, there is wear and tear on my house, but I have commercial grade carpeting in the daycare and have had it for the past 15 years. It still looks nice and when cleaned, looks brand-new. I update my equipment and toys and buy quality products so that they don't wear out.

Yes, we have continuing education requirements, but even attending Applebaum trainings twice yearly, my CE costs do not exceed $150 a year. There are also a lot of free CE classes we can take.

There are costs associated with childcare indeed, but if you run your daycare like a business, and understand it is not all dollars, but about teaching your children to take care of their possessions, you will have much less wear and tear, much less replacement costs.

I do carry liability insurance to the tune of $1,000,000, I feed my children very well (lots of fresh fruits, veggies, lean meats, whole grains), I keep it plenty cool in the summer time and cozy in the winter. I host two parties a year (Christmas, Easter Egg Hunt) and last year did not take a pay raise as my own utilities went down (installed a new heat pump and furnace to the tune of $13K) and I felt that my parents could use the financial break.

Daycare is expensive. There are a lot of tax breaks we get (any business owner who works from home) and I do get tired of people saying that we don't make enough money. The work is hard, not everyone is cut out for it. the rewards are out of this world.

*EDIT* Yes, we pay state, federal and SS taxes on the money AFTER we take out all of our costs and time/square foot percentage on our homes. We are also allowed by federal law to claim part of our utilities, phone bills, cable, laundry costs, milage, continuing education costs, parties, maintenance, replacement toys/equipment. There are a lot of grants available to childcare providers just waiting to be assigned. There are a lot of costs involved in childcare, but there are also tax breaks.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

Just some other thoughts (call your local Child Care Resource and Referral for more about licensing and your area's costs), but many states require ongoing training for child care providers as well, and that can add up for them.

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answers from Orlando on

They have to pay for licensing. They have to carry some sort of liability insurance. They have to pay taxes. There's lots of expensises that come with owning a childcare center.It's a business. One thing that makes me curious though is the ages of the children in her care? Most states to have 12 children by your self they can't be younger then 3.

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answers from Des Moines on

Your daycare provider is getting paid $3.75 per hr. to watch your ONE child for 40 hrs. per week. You can't even hire someone to come in to clean your house for that small amount per hr. Just because your daycare provider is making good money because she is taking in a large number of children, doesn't mean you get a volume discount. When we pay $3.50 per gallon for gas for our cars and the gas station has 100 or more cars that day who pay that amount, it doesn't mean the gas station will charge us less because they had a large volume of business. Daycare is a business like any other, and it is a VERY hard business. They should be getting paid much more than they do for the care they give our children while we are at work all day. Imagine if you were getting paid $3.75 hr. to watch someone elses child for 2 eight hr. days every single weekend with no breaks. Multiply those 2 days by 12 children, times 5 days per week. By the way I'm NOT a daycare provider, never have been, never will be, but I have 5 grandchildren and am in my 60's.

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answers from Milwaukee on

They still have other costs. They should have special insurance and they have to still pay taxes out of that money (state, federal, social security, etc). Have you thought of the care involved taking care of 12 kids. Some people have a hard time handling 1. They also will have extras costs for utilities and other supplies.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

In most states a person cannot have more than 6 kids at a time in their home day cares. They can apply to be a large child care home and have more but end up hiring a second staff person staff to help out. I think if you take into consideration that they are paying someone to work for them then their profit margin goes way down.

In a home care setting they also get to claim a percentage of their phone, house payment, wear and tear on home and contents, utilities, wear and tear on their car if it is used to transport the kids, etc...almost everything can be used as a deduction on their taxes. About 20% of what the take is goes to that.

Then if you count the food not included on the food programs you are still paying out a lot. They have to serve either breakfast, lunch, and an afternoon snack or a morning snack, lunch, and afternoon snack to each child that is there more than 4 hours. I used the state food program and I spent hundreds of dollars each month on food. They did reimburse a lot but not even close to half. If you don't have at least a certain percentage of your kids that can be counted as low income then you can't even qualify to get reimbursed either. My parents had to all fill out income forms and give proof of it just for me to file for it. If I lost kids and the ones coming in make the percentages different then I got even less.

A lone worker in child care has to work days even when they are sick and keep kids late time and time again. Each day they take a risk of being sued for any number of silly things so they have to carry extra insurance on their homes, vehicles, personal liability on themselves, if they have any staff, even an occasional substitute they have to carry workers compensation. These are all hidden costs that most people don't think about.

They have to have an attorney file their paperwork for being a LLC so they can't lose everything if they are sued, an accountant to help them set up their federal id numbers and tax paperwork done right, any number of other professionals to help them do the back stuff.

They have to meet minimum standards for licensing for each and every age child they are getting their license for. If they are going to take newborns, toddlers, and three year olds then they have to have the minimum toys for 6children in each and every one of those age groups. That means sometimes the toys get switched out because they have a toddlers and babies or all babies and three year olds.

They have to buy things to support a curriculum, it may just be as simple as writing down a daily schedule that has different activities but they still need books and other support materials. I had a daily, weekly, and monthly schedule out for my parents.

Most home providers charge similar fees to the centers in their area. That way they are not overcharging therefore able to stay in business, and then not undercharging and paying for a lot out of pocket.

This link is for Oklahoma but it's a good idea of what goes in to opening a fully functioning licensed child care center but it can easily be a good resource for someone wanting to cover all their bases and not miss a step for any state.

Here is a link to the MN state regulations if you want it from the horses mouth.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

One other thing to think of... they may have to pay increased home owner's insurance or, if they are smart, they have an umbrella policy to cover a home-based daycare business.

Many insurance companies will not cover a home-based daycare unless you purchase extra insurance specifically for that.

Sure, she can HAVE 12 kids... but does she? (I see your post says she is always full or near full.... whew!) If I were looking at a home child care provider, I wouldn't want one that had that many children all by herself.

She may be doing before and after school care for school-age children, which brings in much less money, also, so I doubt that she is making that much money.

My daughter is paying $25 a day (4 days a week, not needing her on Friday), for a child-care provider that has 3 other children she is providing care for. (I believe she has 2 children of her own, also? I'm not sure how old they are, though.)

She is very pleased with her daycare provider, since the provider takes the kids to the local story hour, other fun activities, and things like that. She also provides a "curriculum" and a schedule of their daily activities.



answers from Minneapolis on

Depending on the provider you also have to consider other things.
1. Liability Insurance.
2. Education Costs for the provider (required to keep her license)
3. Wear and tear on her home.
4. Pre-school materials.
5. Self-employment taxes
6. Books, story tellers...



answers from Oklahoma City on

I dont have any answers but i am curious to this as well. Daycare can be expensive and i think the price is outrageous I am not sure why it has to be so much especially if its not the only income in the household. They get toys at shops for cheap thats why they are not new bc they buy used and maybe spend 700 on all toys sleep areas and learning tools and that is easlily paid back in a week with some pricings. ANd most are always full, they dont have to staff and pay staff to help care for the kids and can set there own times and days off. Its crazy.

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