Why Don’t Daycares Just List Their Prices Online?!

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Parents in search of daycare for their kids don’t have a lot of time to shop around.

By definition, they’re already torn in a few different directions and not viewing the search as a leisure activity.

Why then, do daycare websites tell you everything about their centers except the cost? Talk about piling on stress!

Why don’t daycares list their prices online?

Photo by Taber Andrew Bain/Flickr

I just did a search of ten daycare facilities in my city, and only one posted a schedule of fees. (It was at a university, so maybe they have to!) The others invited parents on a tour, suggested they call and chat, or posted vague amounts like, “$175 to $900 a month”. So much for comparison shopping.

Let’s explore why this happens and why it can make sense from the provider-standpoint, and what you as a parent can do about it.

So Why Don’t Daycares Just List Their Fees?

Scan a few chat sites like Winnie.com and Reddit, and you meet a chorus of fed-up parents discussing this question.

Their speculations range from changing prices based on personal preference to wanting to get you attached to them and their facility before revealing the shocking bottom line.

The frustration of parents is understandable, especially given the sleep deprivation that goes with the territory!

From the Providers’ Perspective

On the other hand, providers have some legitimate explanations. They include:

  • Being too busy finding staff and keeping up with cleaning to keep tuition tables updated everywhere they advertise.
  • Having complex schedule options that offer a lot of different tuition amounts.
  • Being open to negotiation for parents who are reliable and available to help out the daycare in various ways.
  • Offering sibling discounts that make amounts different for different families.
  • Needing to adjust for inflation.
  • Wanting to help parents understand all the options for assistance from federal, state, and local tuition assistance programs.

So we might not like it, but keeping their tuition costs close to the vest makes a lot of senes for daycare owners and administrators.

How To Find Out How Much a Daycare Costs? Try Calling and Asking

Some parents find out fees fairly quickly just by calling and asking.

Some report continued efforts to set up a tour before disclosing, but a blunt statement that they don’t have time for that often gets them the information they need.

How cooperative and easy to communicate with a director is on the phone can be a pretty good indication of what they’ll be like to work with ongoing, so phone calls asking the price could be helpful in getting a feel for that too.

If someone’s really dodgy, you probably don’t want them taking care of your baby all day!

(Ever wondered what the age limit for daycare is? Read here.)

How Much Should You Expect to Pay for Daycare?

Knowing the averages for licensed daycare centers in your state can help you figure out which daycares are offering competitive pricing.

According to the Economics and Policy Institute, the average amount for full-time infant daycare in the United States is $1,230 per month, or $14,760 a year.

However, amounts vary a lot from state to state. Consider these averages from the Economics and Policy Institute:

  • California: $16,945 per year
  • Texas: $9,324
  • Ohio: $9,697
  • Mississippi: $5,436
  • Florida: $9,324
  • Washington DC: $24,243 (wow!)
  • New York: $15,394

The EPI site offers updated information on averages for all states, so you can decide whether a daycare center is feasible for your family.

Most American Families Struggle With the Cost of Daycare

If these amounts alarm you, you’re not alone. 

ChildCare Aware of America released a 2021 report revealing that childcare expenses exceeded college tuition in some states.

Paying for daycare took up to 14% of the family income for married families, and up to 49% in single-parent households. Half of all households surveyed claimed that paying basic household expenses was a struggle.

These realities, added to problems with staffing daycare centers and paying adequate wages, have put the childcare industry in crisis.

Getting the Best Deal & Negotiating Daycare Prices

Given the daycare shortage, most centers don’t invite parents to negotiate rates.

That said, there might be a few ways to squeeze out some savings.

Start by asking your employer if they provide any subsidies for childcare – some companies do. This isn’t common yet, but is becoming more so.

Another idea is to ask for a contract promising that rates won’t rise for a specific amount of time, say a year. That way you won’t have to deal with surprise increases.

When a rise does take place, this often motivates parents to shop around for daycares with lower fees. If you find one with openings, try asking the current director if they’ll match that lower fee.

Some directors will match lower fees of nearby facilities even though they may not advertise this. It’s inconvenient for them to lose a good family and have to onboard someone new, so you may get the lower fee without having to move.

There’s sometimes room for trading services with your child’s daycare – offering to do anything from cleaning to marketing services for a lower rate.

Also, be aware of extra fees and avoid them whenever possible. If the daycare charges extra for snacks, you could prepare food for your child at less cost.

If there are late fees for coming past closing time, which there usually are, you can set reminders on your phone about when you have to leave work, or even share permission with another parent you trust and pick up one another’s kids when one of you is running late.

Think Cooperatively to Find the Best Solution for your Family

When you join a daycare, you’re joining a community of families that have some of the same needs you do.

Parents are often too busy to get to know one another, but starting a group chat or some other means of communicating can be helpful for everyone.

It could be that you can help one another trade childcare occasionally outside of the daycare’s operating hours.

You might benefit from others’ experience about where to find products and services in your area.

And if there are problems with financial transparency at your daycare, it can really help for parents to share information and express any shared concerns as a group.

(If you’re able to get in touch with anyone that sends their child to that daycare, it may be a good way to sneakily find out the prices before taking a tour!)

Wrapping Up

With the stresses caused by the lack of affordable childcare, it’s more important than ever for businesses and families to work together for the best solutions.

That includes:

  • Shopping carefully for the right daycare and insisting on clarity about fees.
  • Knowing average daycare costs in your area so you’re an informed shopper.
  • Being aware of any extra fees and how you might avoid them.
  • Supporting other families.
  • Supporting the workers who spend so much time with your children, by communicating clearly, honoring rules, and expressing appreciation.

Finding the right childcare may not be easy, but it’s one of the most important decisions parents make.

Taking the time to research average fees in your area, talking to directors at reputable centers to learn their fees, then visiting your shortlist of affordable places will give you the best chance of finding what you need.

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Hope this helps!