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Mr. Maroon

December 9, 2014

Toddler Tuition

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With the arrival of Mini #2 in September, we have been preparing ourselves for the additional effort, stress, and expense of another bundle of joy. Without a doubt, the most daunting of these is the price of daycare. We’ve been paying approximately $1,000 a month for Mini #1, and mostly had little difficulty stomaching the cost. Suddenly, the thought of doubling that – to the tune of about $25,000 a year – made us cringe. So, we did what any optimizer would do. We sold the country club daycare membership and opted for a more affordable solution – in-home daycare!

 

In our not-so-humble opinion, Mini #1 is pretty advanced. As the son of two engineers, he was barraged with encouragement from the beginning to count, learn and recognize the alphabet, learn and sing songs, read lots of books, learn and recognize shapes, learn and recognize colors, learn logic, and most important of all, learn to effectively communicate. Mini #1 thrived in the academic-type daycare, with its various learning and artwork stations, educational curriculum, and discipline. I’m sorry to say that the babysitter-type daycare, which offers only toys and television, has really affected his behavior. It was most noticeable this weekend on a father/son trip to our farm, where most of the conversation between us was about the television shows he watches – of which he has an almost autistic memory – and him questioning every instruction I gave him with this most annoying jingle:

 

Why, Daddy, Why? Why? Why? Why? Why? WHY?!?!

 

As I was constantly befuddled by his lack of understanding of the concept that “I’m the father and that’s why” (we often mistake intelligence for maturity), I found myself wishing we hadn’t made the daycare change. Of course, maybe it’s just simply his age, or the new sibling, or the simple fact that we have decorated for Christmas so our house isn’t “toddler-normal” right now. But what stands out to me most is his response to me asking where he learned that “Why” song: On TV!

 

So, Mrs. Maroon and I are at a crossroads. Daycare, the daycare we’d rather send the Minis to, is expensive. Like college tuition expensive! But, we’re starting to believe, like with many other things in life, that you get what you pay for. The difficulty is that a $25,000 a year daycare budget sure has a huge effect on our endowment. The further difficulty is that one of the biggest reasons for wanting to retire early is so that we can be stay-at-home parents. So, Option 1 is to pay less now for what we perceive to be sub-standard daycare so that we can retire sooner and Option 2 is to pay more now for more desirable daycare but work longer to reach our endowment goal.  Of course, we don’t want to just be misers.  The question becomes which option is most valuable to us.

 

I’ve made a lot of financial mistakes in my past. I wasted a lot of money. But today I’m feeling like my biggest financial regret is not discovering financial independence sooner.

 

How do the rest of the young parents seeking financial independence do it? Do you let costs dictate your childcare? Do you optimize? Or is childcare one area where you won’t budge, even for budget?

 

~Mr. Maroon

November 2014 Update
Bah Humbug!
  1. Comment by Mrs. SSC — December 9, 2014 @ 12:35 PM

    I feel your pain. Two kids in daycare is beyond painful. We pay $465 a week for our two combined. Luckily, the place we go to offers 10% off the 2nd child! So, we skirt in at just under $25k a year. But – I wouldn’t change it. I love our daycare and am very comfortable with it. They have a more academic style for my preschooler, which is wonderful, because we have learned that he needs that structure. We’ve had our eldest at a daycare while back that was less structured and it we completely noticed it in his behavior (even though that daycare cost more than the current one!)

    One thing you could do – is send Mini #1 to the more structured daycare, and Mini #2 to a in-home daycare for a year or two, until she gets to a more teachable age. That has worked for some of my friends, who hated paying the designer price for someone to watch their infant eat and sleep.
    Mrs. SSC recently posted…Hurry up retirement!My Profile

    Mr. Maroon Reply:

    That’s a great compromise and one we are currently pursuing.

    I certainly don’t believe that Mini #2 needs the formative education and structure that Mini #1 does. As long as she is fed, well rested, happy, and safe – I’m good.

  2. Comment by Chela — December 9, 2014 @ 5:03 PM

    I don’t want to have children until I’m “financially ready” but the older I get the more I realize I don’t know what that means… I can’t wrap my head around paying more for daycare than college! Is there maybe a better home daycare you can find that doesn’t involve so much TV?
    Chela recently posted…My Favorite Gift to GiveMy Profile

    Mr. Maroon Reply:

    “I’m ready” is definitely something I’ve learned to say without 100% certainty. As an engineer, that’s difficult for me.

    Quite frankly, children are not economically feasible. They’re totally worth it, though!

  3. Comment by Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life — December 9, 2014 @ 8:20 PM

    Ouch, that is A LOT of money. Reason fifty zillion I’m not having children anytime soon 😉
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted…Rejection Isn’t FailureMy Profile

  4. Comment by Kirsten — December 10, 2014 @ 4:56 AM

    I vote for quality daycare, sacrificing at all costs.

    Back on my maternity leave this spring, our daycare was threatening to kick out my oldest. She was having too many accidents a day but had been diagnosed with a medical issue that we were treating, which was the source of the problem. My doctor called them and talked to them and begged for more time. Meanwhile, I went looking at in-home care nearby the school…

    Yeah, the problem is they have too many ages at one time, so it takes a very dedicated person to give the same amounto finstruction as your child gets in a center setting. They are also then influenced by children of other ages – watching how babies “work the system” and how older kids’ bad behavior is probably not addressed immediately.

    We had also previously used a sitter and she was all about using the TV, never took our girl outside, and never did any projects with her. Sure, I was teaching our girl at home, but not the same amount of instruction she was getting berrie where I was teaching her AND so was school.
    Kirsten recently posted…Why It Might Be Good to Separate Your Career from Your SpouseMy Profile

    Mr. Maroon Reply:

    Great response. I do get frustrated with the academic daycares because they operate as a business and can lack human emotion and understanding. I’m happy it worked for your oldest.

    I do believe there is more to education than just academics, so some of the in-home care approaches have merit. It’s just such a trial and error filled experience finding the right fit.

  5. Comment by Brian @ Debtless in Texas — February 11, 2015 @ 8:51 AM

    This is something that we had no idea about until we got pregnant, it is INSANE how much daycare costs. Until early retirement, I guess it is just one of those things we have to deal with. Losing a full time income IOT save on the daycare costs just isnt worth it. Plus the kiddos get to interact with other kids – which is valuable too.
    Brian @ Debtless in Texas recently posted…Preparing for a Baby Without Breaking the BankMy Profile

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