Thursday 6 March 2014

Putting a price on the care of your child

The cost for childcare is a much talked about, often heated debate that's never far from the headlines and it's been in the news again this week.

The Family and Childcare Trust has issued its annual report and has found that many parents pay more for childcare each year than the average British mortgage bill.

I'm sorry, but was that headline supposed to shock us?

If you have a child and you need to work, the options available, and the associated costs, aren't a mystery to you. Every penny of your monthly income is accounted for and childcare is a huge percentage of most family's outgoings.

Some mums are fortunate to have family who live close by and who can help provide childcare whilst they go to work. This is a great resource if you have it, but comes with its own considerations and complications, with many family members providing this support free of charge due to circumstance.

However, if you have to work and you don't have a support network in place, you need to rely on a childminder or a nursery and neither option is cheap when you look at the grand total.

But to be fair, you need to think about how much this annual childcare figure works out on a monthly, weekly and daily basis, and understand what's included that can be given a monetary figure (nappies, wipes, food and milk throughout the day), and that which can't be costed in financial terms (education, entertainment and care for a child you are responsible for).

The Family and Childcare Trust's report says that the average family with one child in part-time nursery and another in an after-school club incurs £7,549 in fees per year. Full-time childcare costs for a family with a two year old and a five year old come to an estimated total of £11,700 per year. These costs represent a rise of an incredible 27% in just five years, whilst the average wage has remained relatively unchanged during this time.

For us, we have Ethan in for four full days per week and our childcare bill comes to just over £800. And yes, this is bigger than our mortgage, by quite some way. And yes, this has a big impact on our family finances.

But it's money well spent.

Unfortunately we do not have the choice when it comes to work - we both need to bring home the bacon in order to cover our bills and do what we need to do. In an ideal world. things would be different, but I do the best I can to focus on the positives.

Hubs and I both have our own careers and independence. Ethan has the best of both worlds - three days with me, enjoying quality family time, and four days at nursery learning new things and developing so fast.

When you break down the cost of childcare, it actually makes you feel a lot better. For just under £50 a day, Ethan is looked after for an average of 10 hours, has two milk feeds, three meals which are freshly made and nutritionally balanced (two of which come with dessert!), nappies, wipes and cream are included, then add in the non-stop playing, learning, cuddling and sleeping whilst being looked after by a friendly team who treat him as one of their own. That's such a lot to provide and I can see the savings in my weekly shop as four days a week, I don't need to give him more than a bottle of milk and a couple of nappy changes.

This isn't even taking into account the wages of the nursery staff who, when you do this calculation, can't be earning very much at all.

But it is what it is. When you are leaving the most precious thing in the world to you in someone else's care, no figure sounds quite right.

It's hard for me to leave him at nursery each morning but seeing how happy he is and the warm welcome he receives makes it so much easier.

I'm in the position where I need to work and that by doing so, I'm not just working to cover my childcare costs, but I know that for many people, it just doesn't pay to go back to work so I fully agree more support needs to be given to parents who are struggling to work and do the best they can for their children.

Childcare is such a big proportion of my monthly salary but it is an investment. An investment in Ethan, his development and our future.

Read more on the Family and Childcare Trust's report here.


  1. As a mum of two under preschool age, I can't afford TO work, I would lose money if I put them both in childcare. But that's what we chose to do, have a small age gap, and I chose not to work for a few years. I wanted to be a SAHM and look after them full time. We have to budget, and recently we've moved back nearer family to a place with cheaper living than where we were, but this is our choice and I would rather it this way than any other. But this is my personal preference, and I have no problem with others having difference preferences and different careers - I love how we are all different and have different ways that work for us as families.

    1. I completely agree, we all need to be supportive of people in different positions. It's a shame when there's no real choice for some people, like I HAVE to work, but childcare should be accessible for everyone

  2. Dear Kelly

    Thank you so much for recognising the "value" of what you are receiving in childcare, and also that staff wages are not high.


    1. I thought it was important to consider the actual details of childcare rather than just focus on the cost. If you work out the fee we pay on wages alone, it's just £5 an hour which isn't very much at all.

    2. Anonymous8.3.14

      It's so rare for someone to do this - I mean focus on the long list of what's included in the cost of registered childcare. Bravo. In many ways the general lack of understanding - and the misleading way in which this debate tends to be presented is sadly because we've undervalued what mums themselves (or dads if they are main carers) actually do at home when they themselves are providing the 'childcare'. We've undervalued the time and energy, love and patience, skill and imagination that it takes to care for little ones, not to mention the food, nappies, day trips, entrance fees to playgroups etc And because of that we feel paid care ought to be cheaper. The truth is that if it were cheaper taxation levels would have to go up quite significantly to pay for it - and at the end of the day politicians don't ever like to be honest about that and would never include it in their manifestos. There is no easy answer but people have to consider that a parent at home also bears costs that are equal to the salary he or she has given up to be there for the children. Thank you Kelly.

  3. We definitely couldn't afford to pay for childcare so I guess I'm lucky that having my own business means I can work very flexible hours, great post :) xx

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    1. Thank you for your comment Emma! I do think people are on one side of the fence or another - they either can't afford to go to work and pay for childcare or they can't afford not to go to work.

      Working for yourself must give you some freedom, I envy you!

  4. I am in complete agreement with you here although I am very lucky that my mum looks after my little one three days a week so we currently only have to pay two days of nursery fees. We recently had the letter to say our fees are going up slightly and the other half was a bit miffed but when I think about what you put in terms of the hours they have him and the care that they give him, really that is priceless. I love his nursery and he loves his nursery. If I could afford to send him more then I would because he learns so much there but right now, with my mum helping out, saving money is just a little bit more important. Before we had Zach, I knew exactly how much nursery is and I know that I cannot have another child until Zach is approaching school age because I simply cannot afford two lots of nursery fees, my mum quite rightly won’t look after two and we can’t afford for me not to work!!!


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