Fact or Fiction? Au pairs are expensive.

January 10, 2013

One of the most common misconceptions about au pair childcare is that only the wealthy can afford it. In fact, in many communities, hosting an au pair is less expensive than sending kids to day care or hiring a nanny. When families need coverage for more than one child, the cost of an au pair becomes even more attractive because the program cost is per family, not per child.

Actual cost of hosting an au pair
So, what is the actual cost of hosting an au pair? When you add the fees together and divide by 51 weeks (au pairs spend one week at our Au Pair Training School) the result is just $355 per week (no matter how many kids you have). That’s $1,420 per month or less than $8 per hour (assuming your au pair works 45 hours).

Au pair cost compared to daycare or nannies

1Based on 2011 statistics compiled by the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) for families living in major metro regions of the U.S. with two children (one infant and one 4-year-old). 2Average based on a 2012 salary and benefits survey distributed by the International Nanny Association.

When you compare the au pair cost to day care in many areas, the difference is significant. For example, I recently contacted Bright Horizons day care center in my area to find out that full-time care for an infant will run me $2,520 per month—$1,100 more per month than the cost of an au pair. And that is just for one child!

Of course, Massachusetts childcare costs are higher than most states. But according to the 2012 annual report put out by ChildCare Aware (formerly NACCRRA), the cost of daycare for two children (one infant and one 4-year-old) is higher than the cost of an au pair in all of the following 24 states (as well as Washington D.C.): Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington. The costs are about even in Nevada and North Carolina.

The cost of a nanny also varies depending on where you live but are there many  nannies out there who are charging less than $8 per hour? (And if they are, I would wonder why…)

Au pair cost breakdown
If you are wondering how Cultural Care Au Pair arrives at the hourly/weekly/monthly cost of the program, here is a simple breakdown of the fees involved:

$75 registration fee
Payment of the registration fee will allow you to register online, begin our personalized matching process and access our online database of available au pair profiles.

$175 selection fee
Payment of the selection fee will secure your au pair match, allow us to process visa paperwork and reserve flights.

$7,795 program fee
The program fee is paid directly to Cultural Care Au Pair and covers the following:

  • Recruitment and thorough screening of your au pair
  • Your au pair’s training at the Cultural Care Au Pair Training School
  • The matching services of a dedicated placement manager
  • Host family and au pair orientations
  • Round-trip international airfare for your au pair
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Year-long support from Cultural Care Au Pair office staff and your local childcare consultant

Weekly stipend: $195.75
The weekly stipend is paid by you directly to your au pair for 51 weeks, including two weeks of paid vacation. Please note: the weekly stipend is determined by the U.S. Department of Labor using a formula based on the federal minimum wage. Any change in the federal minimum wage will result in an increase in the stipend.

$75 + $175 + $7,795 + ($195.75 x 51 wks) = $18,028.25 ÷ 51 wks = $353.50/wk

Extra costs to consider
Families who host au pairs will incur other costs unrelated to the program fees (just like daycare—think gas to and from, late fees, etc.) The amount of extra money families need to figure into their budget will depend on their specific needs and location.

  • Domestic transportation fee: varies
    Au pairs need to travel from the Au Pair Training School in New York to their host family’s home after their first week in the U.S.; Cultural Care’s domestic transportation fees are listed here
  • Educational Component: up to $500
    Au pairs are required by the U.S. Department of State to fulfill 6 credits at an accredited institution during their year on the program; families are required to pay up to $500 towards this requirement (but could pay less)
  • Driver’s insurance: varies
    Families who require their au pairs to drive must add them to their insurance policy (those near public transportation or who can provide transportation to and from meetings and school might not need a driver)
  • Room and board: varies

Every family’s extra costs will be different but even with these added expenses, hosting an au pair is still a great value in may communities.

Consider the value of the au pair program
Regardless of how the cost of hosting an au pair stacks up to other childcare options nearby, we recommend families also consider some of the unique benefits they get from the program. When you factor in the value of these advantages, a Cultural Care au pair can quickly become the best choice for childcare coverage:

  • No stressful drop-off and pick-up
  • Complete control over when you schedule your au pair’s hours
  • Help with child-related household chores (laundry, meal prep, room pick-up, driving to and back from school, appointments and lessons)
  • One-on-one attention from a caregiver trained in adult and pediatric CPR and First Aid by Red Cross professionals
  • Exposure to a new language and culture

So…are au pairs expensive? We don’t think so. Considering all of the advantages of au pair childcare related to the cost, hosting a Cultural Care au pair is a great value for many families across the U.S.


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