The cost of childcare

Childcare cost accounts for one our biggest monthly outgoings.

The cost of childcare is high on every Mum’s list of priorities. Childcare for our eldest cost more than our mortgage. Fast forward to having childcare costs for three and it feels like I only work to pay the childcare bill.

If you have started to think about returning to work you are probably wondering what your childcare options are.  In many cases some families would take one look at the schedule of cost for their chosen nursery and think that is is cost prohibitive.

Childcare options vary in the UK. Each scenario is different and there are savings to be had, depending on your circumstances.

There are many things to consider when making your choice and the financial element is only one part of it . This post will cover finances in more detail but you should always consider the complete picture. Distance from your home, OFSTED ratings, facilities offered, and recommendations from family and friends should all be considered.

Private day nursery cost

A private day nursery might be part of a group of nurseries or owned separately.

The options for private day nurseries will vary from place to place including the cost, opening times and what is included. Costs should not be the only factor influencing your decision but they should not be forgotten about either.

The key questions to you need to think about include:

  • what meals are included?
  • are nappies/wipes included?
  • are there additional charges for early drop-off or late pickup?
  • is the nursery open the days I need childcare for?

It is a good idea to factor in any travel costs to and from home to nursery – our eldest went to a nursery which was a 10 mile round trip each morning and then again in the afternoon. Unbelievably it was the closest nursery to our house which ticked the boxes.

The reason why I encourage you to think about what is included is to get the complete cost. When you are comparing rates between providers think about any extra things you have to supply. These extras can soon make your ‘cheap’ option much more expensive (think the difference between flying RyanAir and BA). If you have to supply extras, this adds extra time and cost onto your weekly shop. You will have the cost of getting the food and nappies and also the stress of remembering them each day.

Expect to pay at least £45 per day for a private nursery in a regional area for an under two. Costs in cities are generally higher. Day rates usually decrease once the child turns two as the level of staffing required is also reduced.

School run nursery cost

These might be attached to a school and again the charges and offering will vary from place to place. You need to be mindful of their opening hours and days because you might find them closed in the school holidays.

Childminder cost

Childminders generally work from their home and they have a small group of children to care for. This makes a great alternative to a busy nursery environment.

Expect a childminder to be cheaper than a nursery but you may have to supply more such as food and nappies. Childminders can also offer greater flexibility – often I have to call on a childminder and we only pay for the hours we have used whereas often with a nursery you pay for the day even if you do not use it.

The main disadvantage of a childminder is that they may not be able to look after your children if the childminder or their own children are unwell. At least with a nursery there will always be enough staff to accommodate the number of children expected on the day.

Childminders may also close during school holidays if they have their own children who are school age.

Expect to pay around £4 an hour plus extras for a childminder in a regional area.

Private Nanny Cost

Think a Nanny is just for the rich and famous? Think again.

A private nanny is a great option for a large family. The cost of a nursery or childminder for two or more children is comparable to the cost of a private nanny.

It is possible to share a nanny with another family helping to reduce your costs further.

You have to be a big picture thinker if you are considering a nanny. The reason being you should look at all of the childcare costs you expect across the year. Only when you do this you can compare your options. When I returned to work this was my childcare scenario:

  • Twins x 5 days per week 7.30-6 at nursery
  • Eldest x 5 days per week before and after school club
  • Eldest needing holiday care 12 weeks a year
  • 20 miles a day x 5 days per week dropping off/picking up at different times
  • Emergency cover if I was needing to get to work early or home late

Taking all these things into account a private nanny was the answer for us. If you have a stressful job (which I did at the time) with lots of pressure to never be late and stay in the office late then this was the best option. The costs of the nanny were very similar to paying for all of the costs I listed above. A nanny will typically prepare and serve meals for the children, take them to appointments, do some basic cleaning (like change the children’s beds and do their washing), and run basic errands like a small shop or go to the post office. A bonus for us was that she was OFSTED registered so we could pay her via tax free childcare.

Expect to pay a private Nanny about £10 an hour plus Employers NI and Pension in a rural area. Rates in cities start from around £12 per hour plus Employers NI and Pension.

A specialist nanny payroll agency can help you if are considering this as an option.

Tax Free Childcare – Help reduce the cost of childcare

Never heard of it? Do not worry most people haven’t!

Tax Free Childcare is a great way to save money when you pay your OFSTED registered childcare provider including an OFSTED registered Nanny.

There are a few qualifying criteria but most working people should qualify. More information can be found on the HMRC website.

Family Leave Provisions

Check your employers policy on family leave. You might be entitled to a period of unpaid leave before your child turns five in which you can use to retain your employment but carry on at home with your child. This is a useful provision if you think that you are not quite ready to return to work (and are happy to be unpaid for a period of time) but would be in a year or two. This can be a useful bridge between childcare for under threes which is usually unfunded and pre school childcare where you could get up to 30 hours per week funded.

Emergency Childcare Cost and options

Need to do a big presentation at work and your usual childcare has fallen through? What do you do?

Assuming you have exhausted all friends and family to provide last minute cover it is useful to maintain a relationship with your local childminder, nursery or baby sitter. When our nanny was unwell I was able to call our childminder to provide cover on many occassions.

Specialist childcare agencies can often supply emergency nannies. It is best to make contact when you go back to work so you can get a relationship established and therefore it will not be so overwhelming if you have to call on them in an emergency.

It is also worth checking what your employer provides. My current employer now supplies up to three days of emergency childcare included in my benefits.

Think about the costs for all of your children across the year

Once you have made your decision on which childcare option will work for you, it is often the costs of childcare for older children which you might forget about. A bit like the scenario I mentioned when I went back to work after having the twins, we had to think about the total cost across the year when choosing the option which worked for us.

Finally make sure you subscribe below to get future updates when I will cover the childcare options available for children who are over the age of two.

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