Does your childcare cost more than your mortgage?

Yesterday is was all of the news that people were paying more on the cost of childcare than they pay on their mortgage and there were various threads on mumsnet and Facebook groups basically slating childcare providers and what they charge.

I have written about this before but I was comparing Nursery costs versus Nanny versus childminder.

If you don’t know, I am a childminder and I have to admit I do get incensed by people complaining about the cost of childcare. We generally charge less than minimum wage per hour, yet we are trained to professionally look after the most precious thing ever – human life, children – we nurture, care, protect and help develop.

I do understand where people are coming from – I left my job in an Investment Bank as I could not afford childcare for two children and they were not prepared to be flexible with my hours.  Yes is was heartbreaking at the time but as a manager I understood that they were bound by the needs of the business and flexible working cannot be accommodated by everyone, especially the team I was in.

Because of the area I live, I charge less than £4 per hour but I know that people nearer London charge more.  I get no subsidies and out of this I have to provide:

  • Equipment (safety and educational toys)
  • Entry to local attractions / soft play
  • Insurances (Liability / Car)
  • Food
  • Travel
  • First Aid Course
  • Annual Ofsted renewal fees
  • Stationery (Record books for children as well as financial paperwork)
  • NCMA annual membership

None of this comes cheap and is not provided and to add insult to injury, this year they have started to charge for courses that were initially free.  These courses are compulsory to ensure our safeguarding training etc is up together.  In my first year as a childminder I made a loss – people certainly are not in this for the money and we have a mortgage and a family to feed too.

My Aunt runs a nursery and she certainly isn’t rolling in money either – in fact she used to run three but closed two as she couldn’t financially keep them open.  On top of all that I have to fork out for, they have overheads and wages to pay too.

Childcare costs isn’t a new phenomenon either – when my eldest three were young I had to fork out for nursery /after school clubs too.  I used to dread the summer holidays and hubby and I barely saw each other as we tried to work our shifts around childcare to reduce the amount we were paying.  However, we saw it as an investment in our careers.

There wasn’t the funding / help there is now either.  Now you can claim 2 year funding (if you earn under £16,190) plus Childcare vouchers are a real saving too.  Many lower earners are also entitled to 70% of their childcare costs covered by Child Tax Credit too.

I am not sure how the government could help.  I would like to see two year funding extended to help higher earners who are probably the most squeezed at the moment or the return of Child Tax Credit in the higher earners band – this is certainly what made me give up work.

Do you have any ideas or solutions that you think would work?

Ultimately you need to decide whether you can afford childcare costs before you have a child or are willing to take a career break!


42 thoughts on “Does your childcare cost more than your mortgage?”

    • That’s why I chose to set up as a childminder – I thought any income would be better than none and that it would keep my brain ticking over. I have chosen to do an NVQ3 course to better my skills and my plan is to become a teaching assistant when the youngest goes to school. This certainly isn’t my chosen career and although I get satisfaction from it I do hanker after adult company from time to time!

  1. I can see it from both views. I had to give up work because even with a childminders the cost for two full time children was more than my wages – was costing us over £1200 a month. However I do know what a good job most childminders do (unfortunately ours wasn’t very good but I know she was an anomaly!) And how much of their money gets plowed into resources, playgroups etc, and how many hours are put in so you deserve the wage. Its just a shame so many parents struggle still

    • It is nothing new that childcare is expensive, it always has been and we have been on the struggling end too. I just get frustrated that the industry is vilified when we have to make a living too and this is our wage

  2. I think it is a difficult one isn’t it. Our problem isn’t really the cost of childcare for our youngest, we could cope with nursery fees if I was working. The problem we find is that during school holidays we would have to find somewhere for my son to go! Not many places take older children. I think when I was a child it perhaps wasn’t so much of an issue as most women would have taken a career break to look after their children, however, now more women have good jobs that they don’t want to leave. Having children has to be a financial decision as well, unfortunately.

  3. I think it’s such a tricky subject. My friend lives in Denmark and their childcare is so heavily subsidised it makes ours look like daylight robbery. It’s hard to go to work knowing most of what I earn goes on childcare but I try to have a longer term view of it.

    • Not looked into Denmark. My friend is in Germany and they pay a lot less for childcare but have to pay a much higher tax rate……I guess its all swings and roundabouts. People would complain about paying higher tax, especially if they didn’t have kids

  4. It is hard on both sides. Before I had the twins I worked for a childrens centre which had a nursery. I did the finances for the nursery and I know what a tight budget they run to. Unfortunately the nursery had to close as it was running at a loss mainly due to staffing costs and day to day running. However as a parent, we couldn’t afford for me to return to work after having the twins. Childcare for the three children would have taken all of my salary plus some of the hubbys! In the school holidays it would have crippled us by costing £96 per day for all three children! We are better off me being at home and luckily I love being a sahm!

  5. It would be nice if those earning slightly higher where given help with childcare costs, I find that both me and my hubby work full time but we are no better off, in fact worse off then people who don’t work or earn less as they have a much better contribution towards childcare costs.

    It’s soul destroying, I feel guilty for working full time, but I know we can’t afford for me to drop my salary so we are in a stalemate situation. It is crazy 🙁

  6. Luckily I worked in school so I had the holidays and I juggled things so I didn’t have to put my son in holiday club and after school. But other people I know were not so lucky.

  7. So glad I have not got this dilemm, I was a stay at home Mum, I am glad I did as the childcare costs I see my family and friends having to find, seems to swallow their wages, never mind helping with bills.

  8. I can see this from both sides – clearly you (and other childminders) should be paid an hourly rate that reflects the importance of the job you do. But I understand the frustration of people who are working only to see the majority of their money go on childcare.

    It’s a difficult one x

  9. It’s hard either way isn’t it. If you can’t afford your mortgage without working you have to somehow find a childcare solution to be able to afford to pay for it, but then the childcare costs come into it and flips everything again. Hubby and I work around each other a lot and it’s not ideal, but it’s the way we’re doing it at the moment

  10. I don’t think childminders are expensive…it’s the cheapest childcare. I have more found that childminders are hard to find, especially if wanting school drop offs and pick ups or in my case childcare for an older SN child. Nurseries are very much more expensive and I think that is a problem if parents want that childcare setting. But I guess their overheads are higher. The problem is low wages, not high childcare costs. Who knows…maybe children will become a commodity that only the rich and high paid can afford eventually.

    • I do cater for older children (after all I have them myself) but I understand where you are coming from.
      Low wages are an issue, although those on a low income do get far more help with costs than those earning of 16k which I don’t think is particularly high in itself

  11. I was pretty shocked to hear on the news about childcare can cost more than a mortgage – but this could be a sensationalised headline couldn’t it? It will depend on one’s mortgage per month, location etc.

    I stayed at home to bring up my son whilst my partner went to work. After we split up, I had to claim benefit, because it just wasn’t going to work out well for me to pay for him to be minded from my salary as well as all the bills. So, instead, I started my own business and have the luxury of working from home and am there during holidays, sick days etc.

    Every situation is different, and if childcare in some regions are causing people to have to pay out above and beyond, then the government is going to have to step in somewhere to subsidise…money makes the world go around sadly.

    Thank you for sharing your side of things. x

    • I think that the headline was sensationalist but the cost is crippling many families. I thought working from home would be a breeze but I do really kiss the adult company of a job in an office / shop

  12. my goodness, things are so expensive these days! i guess in some ways you’re slightly better off if you’re renting (providing you aren’t paying a ridiculous amount) but then you don’t have your ‘own’ home. there’s always something isn’t there 🙁

  13. Oh dear it is an ongoing problem for so many families isn’t it. My youngest is disabled and this makes after or before school childcare a right old obstacle. I am very lucky that I have my mum around to help out every now and again.

  14. There are some brilliant childminders near me – I think you do a marvellous job. I agree that childcare is extortionate. I think the government needs to subsidise it, as it’s ridiculous that you can go out to work and only break even or even lose money once childcare is paid for.

  15. we are lucky/unlucky enough that because of low income we get just over half paid for us which allows me to have two days working on my blog and shop! I wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise for sure x

  16. It is such a difficult area, I would want the person I trusted with my child to be well paid, after all, they are looking after the most important thing in my life, but equally I didn’t return to work after having Syd because my childcare costs were higher than my earnings (a result of only being a part time worker in a low paid job because of trading down when having my older two). Equally in some ways things are better now than when I had my first- I had a well paid job and was part way through a course to be a legal executive when my marriage broke down- in those days there was no tax credits system to reclaim 70% of the cost, leaving me no option but to quit my job and look after my then 3 year old- if that was now I would have been able to stay and continue training thanks to that reimbursement, improving our long term position no end. There is no perfect answer if you want to maintain your career after having kids, and I know we will still find it hard even when Syd starts school- although I intend to return to work then as I do miss it, and the financial independence it provides.

  17. I find it amazing that people are surprised at childcare costs. Don’t they think to look at what it is going to cost them when they find out they are having a child or planning to have a child? Anyone who works with children does an incredible and amazing job – they are an important part of another human’s life but they are not treated like that in society. As a teacher I know this only too well!

  18. Our childcare costs are phenomenal, but I’ve never questioned why – I can see the resources my daughter has access to, and I also know that the lovely people that care for her are not rolling in it (if jobs were paid according to how much you deserved it, they’d be millionaires!). I could not have returned to work if she had to go full time into paid childcare, but I am incredibly lucky to have able and willing grandparents nearby.

    The only solution I can see to this is to put the onus on (large) employers to make it easier for parents to go back to work. This means on-site creches and childcare which earn them tax breaks or other incentives, and really properly considering flexible working practices instead of paying lip service to it. Some jobs can’t be done part time, in a job share or out of ‘working hours’ but lots can if only people are willing to see it.

  19. Wow £4 an hour is crazy. I might actually be able to afford childcare if they charged that here. The cheapest I could find nearly five years ago was £5.50 an hour, £5 for additional siblings. Considering I work a 13 hour day with 3 hour commute even i I found a childminder to accommodate those hours it would be over £2.5k a month for both my boys. And as I earn less than 1k a month and our mortgage and council tax come to just under 1k a month without the other bills… I would have been 30k in debt in one year just from childcare. I’ve wanted to be a childminder for ages, but after a lot of research and chatting to others who do it I decided not to, seems like extremely hard work for very little return x


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