Before I became a mom, I knew next to nothing about the price of child care aside from what I got paid as a babysitter in high school. But once I got pregnant with my daughter, I started looking into day cares in my area — and the sticker shock gave me heart palpitations. Granted, I was living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. at the time, which has some of the highest child care prices in the country; but no matter where you live you'll likely have to shell out a decent chunk of change to cover the fees. So how much does day care cost exactly and how much should you set aside? The answer depends on a few different factors, like where you live and the age of your child.
Hands down, your location will be the biggest determining factor in how much you pay for day care. On average, the yearly price of a center-based day care is $11,666 in the United States, according to the non-profit group Child Care Aware of America, but this number swings wildly depending on your state. Parents in Massachusetts, for example, can pay over $17,000 in annual day care costs for an infant, whereas parents in Mississippi typically pay about $5,000 for the same kind of care. To find out the average cost in your state, be sure to check out the data collected by Child Care Aware of America, which breaks down pricing state by state along with center-based versus in-home care.
Your child's age will also play a big factor in how much you should budget for day care. If you have a baby or toddler, be prepared to pay more because children at these ages need more hands-on attention, noted Baby Center. Fortunately, these prices dip downward when your toddler becomes a preschooler, but the average cost still varies a lot on where you live. The Economic Policy Institute concluded that if you live in a state like Nebraska you can expect to pay $7,926 per year for infant care versus $6,843 for a 4-year-old. But if you're a resident of California, these numbers jump to $11,817 for infant care and $8,230 for a 4-year-old. Basically, no matter where you call home, day care costs can take a big bite out of your monthly paycheck.
Here in the United States, child care costs can rack up fast, especially once you add a second or third kid into the mix. In my own life, I've used a decent amount of my salary to cover child care fees, but it has been money well spent because my daughter has thrived at her day care centers and I've been able to continue in a career that I love. Still, the high cost of care remains an issue that needs to be addressed, especially because the price of a day care now rivals the price of college. Until these costs go down, however, you should compare costs at your local child care centers and set up a few on-site visits — and soon you'll be able to choose the best day care option for you and your family.