When planning for a baby, there are a number of costs that parents should take into consideration before their bundle of joy arrives. Child care is often the most expensive line item.

Access to reliable child care is essential for families who rely on this support in order to be able to work full-time jobs, attend school or fulfill their other responsibilities. This need was especially evident throughout the pandemic when parents, predominantly mothers, left the workforce in droves as schools, daycares and child care centers shut down or transitioned to remote models. Many women are still recovering from the financial impact.

Despite the need for child care, costs continue to rise for families across the country. In fact, a recent report by the organization ChildCare Aware of America found that child care costs are outpacing inflation by more than 3 percent. This, paired with higher costs of everyday goods like groceries, gas and housing, is making child care significantly less accessible, particularly for lower-earning families.

Bankrate insight
  • The average weekly cost of a nanny for one child in 2021: $694 (Care.com)
  • The average weekly cost of a child care or daycare center for one child in 2021: $226 (Care.com)
  • The average weekly cost of a family care center for one child in 2021: $221 (Care.com)
  • The average weekly cost of an after-school sitter for one child in 2021: $261 (Care.com)
  • Most expensive state for hiring a nanny: Washington, D.C.: $855 per week (Care.com)
  • The average weekly daycare cost in Washington, D.C. (the most expensive state for daycare): $419 (Care.com)
  • Percentage of parents who cite rising child care costs as their reason for adjusting their family plans: 43 percent (Care.com)
  • Percentage of parents who spend more than 10 percent of their annual income on child care: 72 percent (Care.com)
  • Percentage of parents who spend more than 20 percent of their annual income on child care: 51 percent (Care.com)
  • The average amount spent on child care per month: $850 (Babycenter)
  • The average amount spent on a nanny per month: $2,450 (Babycenter)

The cost of child care in various settings

The amount you can expect to pay for child care will vary greatly depending on the setting. Some parents might prefer to keep their child at home with a nanny, while others may want to take their child to a daycare center. Some parents may not need full-time care and opt for an after-school care program that gives them the extra time they need to get through their work day.

Here’s a look at the average cost of child care depending on the type of care you seek. These figures are based on the 2021 costs for infant children (with the exception of after-school care costs):

Number of children Average cost, child care center Average cost, nanny/sitter Average cost, home child care (family care) Average cost, after-school care
1 $226 $694 $221 $261
2 $429 $715 $420 $269

It’s also important to note that the amount you pay will also change depending on the number of children you have, as well as their ages. In most cases, you can expect to pay more for a delicate infant who requires more hands-on attention than you would for an elementary-aged child who is more independent.

With such a wide range of costs, it’s important to weigh your options and determine which environment will best meet you and your family’s needs.

Child care/daycare centers

Pros Cons
Often more affordable than a private nanny Often a lengthy waiting list
Reliable care and regular hours Caregivers caring for multiple children at the same time
Opportunity for children to socialize with other children in the same age group Exposure to more illnesses in a group setting
Staff members often trained in early childhood education Often strict pick-up and drop-off times that may not work with your work schedule
Daycare centers are licensed and regulated, ensuring ample supervision and quality care Typically closed during major holidays

Home/family care

Pros Cons
Usually less expensive than other child care options Can be unreliable if the caretaker gets sick or takes time off
Often a more comforting and nurturing environment Your child may be exposed to more illnesses in a group setting
Typically smaller groups of children Potential lack of formal childhood education background among home daycare providers
Opportunity for children to socialize with other children in the same age group Fewer licensing requirements
Often more flexible pick-up and drop-off times Many closed for holidays and vacations


Pros Cons
More personalized care for your child Typically the most expensive child care option
No need to commute to a daycare center Zero supervision
Flexible hours Need for planned activities so your child can socialize with others in their age group
A setting more familiar to your child Can be unreliable if your nanny becomes sick, goes on vacation or quits unexpectedly
Child care available if your child gets sick Can involve a great deal of legal paperwork

After-school care

Pros Cons
Defined curriculums and planned enrichment activities for your children Only open during the school year, for school-aged children
Often an affordable option Possibly overwhelming number of hours for your child to spend at school
Boosts social skills Interrupts unstructured play time
Licensed and regulated Can blur lines for parents and make it harder to establish a hard stop time at work
On school property, meaning you can skip a commute May not be an option for all of your children if they vary in age

The most (and least) affordable states for child care

Several factors will impact how much you can cover in terms of child care costs, including your location. Here’s a look at the five most affordable and least affordable states for child care, as well as the percentage of your annual income that you can expect to pay for child care, according to 2021 data from ChildCare Aware.

This data — as well as the table below showing the average cost of child care by state — is based on annual care costs for a four-year-old child in a center-based environment, taking into consideration the percentage of the state’s median income needed to pay the costs.

State Average annual child care costs Percentage of a single parent’s income Percentage of a couple’s income
South Dakota $6,677 22.1% 7.0%
Arkansas $6,014 23.6% 7.3%
Mississippi $6,500 30.2% 7.7%
Missouri $7,465 25.7% 7.8%
Ohio $7,966 29.8% 7.9%
State Average annual child care costs Percentage of a single parent’s income Percentage of a married couple’s income
Nebraska $14,560 46.9% 14.7%
Vermont $14,300 44.0% 13.8%
New York $15,371 47.7% 13.4%
Washington $14,844 42.1% 13.1%
Nevada $11,090 33.0% 12.4%
  • State Full-time, center-based care (4-year-old child)
    Alabama $7,280
    Alaska $9,600
    Arizona $9,129
    Arkansas $6,014
    California $12,740
    Colorado Data not reported
    Connecticut $13,416
    Delaware $10,634
    District of Columbia $20,117
    Florida $7,907
    Georgia $7,899
    Hawaii $11,058
    Idaho $7,817
    Illinois $11,440
    Indiana $8,748
    Iowa $9,356
    Kansas $9,518
    Kentucky $8,525
    Louisiana $7,800
    Maine $8,580
    Maryland $12,437
    Massachusetts $15,768
    Michigan $11,315
    Minnesota $13,416
    Mississippi $6,500
    Missouri $7,465
    Montana $10,400
    Nebraska $14,560
    Nevada $11,090
    New Hampshire $11,487
    New Jersey $15,120
    New Mexico $8,436
    New York $15,371
    North Carolina $9,359
    North Dakota $8,952
    Ohio $7,966
    Oklahoma $9,396
    Oregon $10,800
    Pennsylvania $10,150
    Rhode Island $11,700
    South Carolina $9,941
    South Dakota $6,677
    Tennessee $8,759
    Texas $9,880
    Utah $8,268
    Vermont $14,300
    Virginia $11,804
    Washington $14,844
    West Virginia $9,100
    Wisconsin $10,972
    Wyoming $8,623

The state of child care today

Child care costs have been on the rise for decades. This is due, in part, to facility closures that occurred during the pandemic. Nearly 9,000 daycares closed in 37 states between December 2019 and March 2021, according to findings from a 2022 survey by ChildCare Aware.

Even more pressing these days is the impact of inflation. As noted above, child care costs are outpacing inflation by several percentage points. At the same time, families’ wallets are being squeezed by higher costs for everyday expenses like groceries, gas and housing. Especially for lower-earning families, a lack of wiggle room in household budgets is making child care significantly less accessible than before.

How parents and guardians are managing the costs

For many parents, coping with rising costs has been challenging. As a result, many have considered alternative options or made bigger lifestyle changes to make ends meet. According to a survey by Care.com, 31 percent of parents say they have considered taking on a second job, while 26 percent say they will reduce their work hours. Further, roughly one-quarter of respondents are changing jobs to better support their childcare needs, and more than 20 percent say they plan to leave the workforce altogether.

If you’re looking for a starting point to help you determine how much you can expect to pay for child care in your area, Care.com and CostofChildCare.org both provide useful calculators that can crunch the numbers for you based on your preferences and needs.

6 ways to lower the costs of child care

If you’re struggling to meet your child care costs, consider the following options for reducing your financial burden.

  • Reach out to your employer: Some employers offer child care assistance as an added benefit for their employees. Revisit your employee benefits package, or contact your HR representative to see if this is an option for you.
  • See if you qualify for a tax break: Per the IRS, you may be able to claim the child and dependent care credit if you paid expenses for the care of a qualifying individual to enable you (and your spouse, if filing a joint return) to work or actively look for work. This could help offset your care costs for this year or next.
  • Check your flexible-spending account (FSA): FSAs are sometimes a part of an employee’s benefits package, and certain types can be used to offset child care expenses. You or your spouse can fund a dependent care flex spending account (DCFSA or FSA) and use those funds to reimburse your child care costs.
  • Ask about a sibling discount: Many child care providers will offer a discount for additional children after your first. Taking all of your little ones to the same daycare or sitter can help you cut down on your commute and could score you a discount.
  • Consider using a credit card: If you’re in a pinch, a credit card could help you cover the cost of child care, but this should be done cautiously. Aim to make at least the minimum payment each month, and pay your balance in full if possible. You may also want to look at whether paying your child care costs with a credit card can help you take advantage of your credit card rewards.
  • Coordinate a nanny share with other parents: Sharing one care provider may be less costly than hiring a private nanny to watch over your children. Ask friends, family or neighbors if they’re open to splitting the costs of a shared nanny.

The bottom line

Child care costs can put a significant financial strain on a family — especially for today’s parents, who are up against a staggering inflation rate and are still battling the economic aftermath of the pandemic.

The exact amount you can expect to pay will vary greatly depending on your location, the number of children you have, their ages and the kind of care you seek. Still, there are plenty of ways you can reduce the cost of child care and make it manageable for you and your wallet.