Daycare Costs vs. In-State College Tuition

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There are many articles about rising college tuitions and how to best save for college. But according a recent study, in 31 states the annual cost of day care for an infant exceeds the average cost of in-state tuition and fees at public colleges. From this WaPo article:

We accept that it typically takes 18 years to sock away a sizeable-enough college nest egg. Considering that child care is an equivalent, if not greater, expense and that the average maternal age at first child birth is 26, this suggests that we should similarly start putting money away for day-care expenses when we’re roughly 8 years old.

Here’s the state-by-state breakdown:


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  1. This is kind of a non-story because the main reason that people put their kids in daycare is so that they can make more money. Like the article says, if the costs of daycare outweigh the costs of staying home with the kids, then parents will just stay home with the kids.

    The article also makes the assumption that parents have to pay for their kids to go to college. That is definitely an option, but what parent has to put their kids in college so that they don’t have to stay home and take care of them? College is an investment for the kids future while daycare could be viewed as an investment for the parents’ future.

  2. Ouch! I live in MD and that is just brutal!! No kids, yet, but I’ve heard how expensive it is and I’m not looking forward to that expense…

  3. Daycare cost is one thing that hit us like a brick after our son was born. We decided that if we have another kid my wife will quit and stay home. Its not worth it to pay for 2 kids in daycare and it makes for a lot easier life at home. Two parents working full time with young kids is not something we want to do. We are paying off our mortgage which should make this transition a lot easier.

  4. Rdigglesworth says

    My parents had me start saving for my children’s child care when I was born. Doesn’t everyone do that?!?!?! (Sarcasm)

  5. Alexandria says

    Um, yeah. In my state, the cost of daycare is infinitely more expensive than the cost of college. Plus, spouse can more easily work to help pay for college. I figure we will have “3 incomes per child” – ours and theirs – to help with college. Babies can’t work to help pay for their daycare. Having kids in our 20s, we didn’t have many years to save up for daycare.

    In our case, spouse just stayed home. High cost area with crazy insane daycare costs. College is heavily government-subsidized and kind of a *shrug* as far as our own financial worries. Today you can buy a very solid education for $20,000, and we will have 18 years to save up for that. Daycare runs at minimum $1k per month, per child. Anyone I know with 2+ kids hires a nanny because it is cheaper. Not a “lifestyles of the rich” nanny, buy a “will work for room and board and small stipend” or a “college kid” nanny. If you have 3 or 4 kids, is the only way to afford daycare.

  6. Man, paying $5.00/hour to have someone take care of the most important part of your life is crazy.

  7. Both my wife and I love working, so with 2 pre-school age kids daycare is usually the single largest expense in our budget. We live in a high COL area (Chicago suburbs) and the cost of daycare far exceeds our mortgage payment… And we have a 15 year mortgage at that… It is ridiculous…

    IMHO if both you and your spouse have a stable career it is poor foresight for one spouse to quit and be a stay at home mom/dad (Unless you are like Jonathan and make 250k+/yr, that is). At least the way I see it after 5+ years the daycare expense will be gone, but not your salary. Once you quit working is really, really hard to get back on your career track.

  8. My dad who never made more than USD$4K managed to send 3 kids overseas to study, which cost a LOT more than even out of state. Prioritize my American friends! College is CHEAP!!

  9. This is awesome 🙂

    I shouldn’t have bought that candy when I was 9 years old.

  10. We’re in SoCal and even with a grandparent watching our two little ones 2 days a week we’re spending $16-17k a year on childcare. That does exceed their college savings per year but not by much. By the time the kids are full-time in school we’ll feel crazy flush with cash!

    And our goal with college savings is really quite simple by the time they leave they’re ideally sitting on about 250-300k for college. The argument could be made we should pay off our home first but I want to hand them their 529/college accounts at age and say “I’m here for advice and help, but financially you’re set…” By the time the kids leave for college our home loan will be almost nothing so we’ll be on the cusp of being nearly 100% free of all expenses, both kids and home.

  11. Very interesting article…sounds like those of us in the red or pink states need a daycare savings fund the moment we find out we are expecting. Many think about saving for their kids college but few (including our family) ever factor in daycare. The reality is we have a much shorter time to save for day care too!

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