If you’ve ever wondered, “Can I afford an Au Pair?” you aren’t alone.
Tiffany is a Host Mom who was weighing the cost of various childcare options. “The idea of my child being one in such a large number of [daycare] children terrified me… [but] I thought, ‘I couldn’t ever afford an au pair.”
Many people wonder if they can afford an Au Pair. If you’re looking for something other than traditional daycare, or even if you’re just looking for affordable childcare that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, you may be skeptical about the affordability of live-in childcare.
“I was pleasantly surprised to see that it would cost me about the same as having both kids in daycare,” Tiffany says. “I have converted several daycare families to being Au Pair families because the value of the experience for our family has been, well, invaluable.”
This article gives an in-depth look at how much it really costs to host an Au Pair.
(Spoiler! Compared to the cost of daycare or a nanny, it becomes apparent that most people can afford an Au Pair).
How Much Does it Cost to Host an Au Pair?
Many parents are surprised to learn that Au Pair childcare runs as low as $ / hour.* This can vary based on the type of Au Pair, but many families find they can afford an Au Pair, and that this price range more comfortable than other childcare options.
Au Pairs can provide up to 45 hours of childcare per week (10 hours per day max). They live in your home, providing the immediate factors of convenience and flexibility that most families don’t have as an option.
Plus, they can assist with child-related chores, meaning they can help minimize the time you spend cleaning when you get home.
Why such a low price for an Au Pair?
Au Pairs are exchange visitors who come to the U.S. on a special visa program. The J-1 Visa allows young adults to visit the U.S. for up to two years, giving them the opportunity to provide childcare in exchange for housing and the chance to live with a U.S. family.
Anyone who’s participated in a study abroad program will tell you how valuable it is to live with a native family, versus living on your own while abroad. Not only do you get authentic exposure to the culture and cuisine, but you have a real home and family to rely on during your stay.
Since this program is open to young students (ages 18-26), Au Pairs are not certified nannies. They don’t have required coursework like a certified nanny, but they do have a minimum childcare experience requirement. Many Au Pairs have college degrees and view this experience as a travel abroad opportunity.
First Aid and CPR certifications are not required to become an Au Pair, but many Au Pairs have these certifications. If it’s important to your family, they can also obtain these certifications through the Red Cross once they arrive in the U.S. (Send your Au Pair to our New York workshop if you want your Au Pair certified before arrival!)
These factors are a large part of the cost of hosting an Au Pair. Because Au Pairs don’t have the same certifications as a nanny, the cost is much lower.
But because they’re likely older than the babysitter down the street, they tend to be as responsible as a certified nanny. With some guidance and clear communication of the family’s expectations and needs, most Host Families are very impressed with their Au Pair.
What you should know about the Au Pair program & its pricing.
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) oversees the Au Pair program in the USA. Go Au Pair is designated by the DOS as an official U.S. agency.
In the U.S., only designated agencies are allowed to sponsor Au Pair visas. The agency also oversees the placement itself, helping provide guidance for a successful year for both the Host Family and the Au Pair.
Because the agency must oversee every placement for which we are a sponsor, the DOS wanted to keep the Au Pair stipend requirements the same throughout every state. This helps ensure the agency can uphold regulations.
As a result, the Au Pair stipend is calculated based on federal minimum wage. At the time of this article’s publication, minimum wage is $7.25/ hour.
Because Au Pairs receive a stipend, their pay is not hourly, and they receive the same stipend regardless of the number of hours worked. Au Pairs can work a maximum of 45 hours/ week or 10 hours/ day.
The DOS also includes a housing allowance in the stipend calculation, deducting 40% of pay for housing. Thus, the stipend is calculated as: ($7.25 * 45 hours) -40% = $195.75/ week. This is the minimum amount an Au Pair can receive each week (though they can be paid more bi-weekly if preferred).
Families are always welcome to pay their Au Pair more than the minimum, particularly if they live in an area with a high cost of living or poor public transportation.
Why Do Families Pay Agency Fees? Are the Fees Expensive?
Each designated Au Pair agency charges operational fees for things such as:
- Your personal Local Area Representative (lives within 1 hour of your home)
- Home interview
- Your dedicated Placement Coordinator
- Flight Coordinator (arranges travel so you don’t have to)
- Covering majority of travel to and from your home
- Travel & accident insurance for your Au Pair
- Sponsoring your Au Pair’s visa
- Visa paperwork fees
- Au Pair recruitment
- Au Pair training
- Host Family + Au Pair orientation (after arrival)
Go Au Pair is committed to keeping our agency fees affordable and competitive. We put high focus on Au Pair recruitment, and we only work with the best partner agencies overseas.
The fees we charge reflect the level of service we provide, as well as our dedication to educating every family and Au Pair about how to be successful in the program.
Value of Au Pair Childcare
Now that you understand the basis of the program, here are some details on the value families actually receive from Au Pair childcare.
On the surface, this program is invaluable, not just for the affordability, but for the flexibility and stress relief it offers.
Families also take comfort in knowing that their childcare provider truly loves and cares about their children. The value of the bond between an Au Pair and their Host Kids cannot be understated.
Also consider the consistency and one-on-one attention an Au Pair can offer your children. Au Pairs often mimic the Host Parents’ parenting style. The fact that they live in your home makes it easy to follow up and discuss disciplinary and emotional needs for your children.
Au Pairs can also:
- Get kids ready for school in the morning
- Drive children to and from school/ activities
- Speak to children in their native language(s)
- Simple tutoring and homework assistance
- Practice reading and math (level varies)
- Help children clean up room & play areas
- Cook children’s meals or prepare lunches for school the next day
- Vacuum kids’ play areas
- Wash kids’ laundry
- Teach children to finish chores
- Supervise children’s’ pet care responsibilities
- Assist with anything childcare-related
Waaaaay more than childcare…
This list in itself is an incredible addition for most families. However, parents often tell us that the value of Au Pair childcare comes from the little surprises they didn’t anticipate before becoming a host.
Families are often pleasantly surprised to find that they’ve adopted a new family member in their Au Pair. Sometimes, the Au Pair’s family also becomes like extended family.
It isn’t unusual for families to plan vacations to their Au Pair’s home country, both during and after a placement has ended.
One family even decided to host Au Pairs from the same city in Colombia, so they could go visit all of their former Au Pairs each summer.
Many parents say their Au Pair has changed their lives for the better. From finding more time to work out to having the occasional girl’s night out, being inspired to travel or explore more often, or becoming more active in their local community, families from all over the U.S. are delighted with their experience and say they wouldn’t change it for the world.
Is the Au Pair Program Really That Affordable?
The short answer is– yes!
Really, affordability is subjective. If you live in a state with low childcare costs, or if you only need childcare for one child, you may find other options are more affordable.
However, if you could use some help with cleaning up after your kids, an Au Pair can help lower or eliminate the cost of cleaning services you might otherwise use.
Many Au Pairs are effective tutors. You may be able to find an Au Pair who can fill that role, instead of hiring a tutor.
If you need childcare for two or more children, Au Pair childcare is less expensive than daycare in most states. And even if you only need childcare for one child, depending on where you live, it can cost less than a daycare center (especially for infant care).
Unlike most daycares, it doesn’t cost more to host an Au Pair who’s infant qualified. It also costs the same regardless of the number of children you have (though if you have six + children, you may want to consider a second Au Pair).
Other cost considerations:
- “Set up” costs such as providing bedroom furniture and bedding, stocking Au Pair’s bathroom, and other amenities.
- If you need a driver, you’ll need to add your Au Pair to your car insurance. Cost varies by provider.
- Depending on where your Au Pair is from, there may be additional flight expenses.
- If you want your Au Pair to take your children to local museums, the zoo, and other fun activities, you’ll need to cover the cost of passes.
- The family is responsible for car and gas expenses for any transportation required in the Au Pair’s childcare duties.
- There will be a slight increase in grocery expenses (it’s a good idea to ask your Au Pair what foods they’re used to having around, though they can buy some specialty foods themselves).
- Potential increase in your electric bill if you aren’t used to having someone home during the day.
Most families find that any additional expenses even themselves out, and that the convenience and flexibility of Au Pair childcare far outweigh the cost.
Ok, so I can afford an Au Pair. But is it right for me?
There’s a lot to think about when deciding whether to host an Au Pair. If you’ve lived with roommates before, you know it can sometimes be challenging to live with someone you just met.
Thinking through your expectations in a living arrangement can help you envision what it will be like to host. Whether your expectations are strict or laid-back, chances are there’s a great match out there for you.
Host Families must provide a private bedroom with a door for their Au Pair. A private bathroom is nice, too, but not required.
So many parents name a lasting relationship as one of the top benefits of hosting. It’s a good idea to think about how you bond with people. Identify which personalities you and your family connect with most easily.
But most importantly, view this as an opportunity to adopt a new family member. Families who are successful in this program name this as a very important factor.
Think of it as having an older niece or nephew stay at your home to watch your children. It can be a great comfort knowing that someone close to your family, who loves your children, is home with the kids when you’re gone.
Call our office to speak with a Placement Coordinator today! 888.AUPAIR.1 (888.287.2471)
* Fees listed as of April 1, 2019. Subject to change over time. For accurate fees, check out our pricing online or shoot us a message.
Our families agree… Au Pair child care is the best! Register for free today and start browsing Au Pair profiles.
“After years of stress and frustration, and many different nannies, we decided to look for an au pair. When Veronika arrived on January 2, 2016 our lives were forever changed. We had no idea that a real life Mary Poppins had just arrived!”
“I can honestly say that bringing her to live with us as our au pair has been the best decision we could possibly have made. She has afforded us so many priceless “intangibles” during her time here that I can’t begin to quantify her contributions to our family.”