Considering all the expenses involved, hiring an au pair can initially seem overwhelming. But are they worth it?
Parents often save money by choosing au pairs over live-in nannies and babysitters. Here’s a breakdown of the upfront fees, average cost per year, and weekly stipend you will pay for your au pair.
In addition to a stipend, au pairs are expected to pay fees associated with the program. These upfront costs can vary from agency to agency. According to experts, some agencies require an initial placement fee that covers criminal background checks, employment verifications, and fees (including au pairs’ international airfare and immigration processing).
When families consider childcare options, factors such as the average cost of au pair in the United States become essential data points, influencing decisions about balancing quality care with budget considerations.
Other au pair program fees may cover childcare training, such as CPR and First Aid, or other educational courses required by the State Department to complete their au pair year. As a bonus, these course expenses can sometimes be reimbursed through the child and dependent care tax credit, a federal income tax deduction.
Aside from fees associated with the au pair program, families are responsible for their au pair’s private room, entire board, and additional household insurance. This can add up quickly, mainly if your family uses the au pair for more than childcare. For example, you’ll need to provide your au pair with a home computer and internet, and you’ll likely see a spike in utility usage with an extra person living in the house.
Additionally, if your au pair is driving for work or fun, you must provide her with a personal cell phone and possibly add her to your car insurance policy. You can also expect to pay for any entertainment or family outings your au pair participates in.
As with any employment relationship, au pairs aren’t immune from problems and bad apples. However, if you take your time and carefully interview au pairs, you’ll likely find some fantastic gems. Au pairs are also more affordable than daycare or nannies because they only charge per child.
Your average au pair’s stipend is more than just a paycheck. Still, it also covers room and board, a health insurance fee (if you don’t offer au pairs your healthcare plan), an educational stipend, transportation expenses, and other miscellaneous costs. In addition, you’ll likely pay a one-time match processing fee to your agency, plus program fees and international travel expenses for the au pair’s arrival.
Other au pair-related expenses include cell phone or internet access, clothing for climate differences, and toiletries. Some host families also cover au pairs’ travel or public transport costs to education classes, au pair gatherings, and social outings. Many agencies offer payment plans that allow you to spread payments throughout a six or 12-month period. And, if you decide to provide an au pair with a vehicle, you’ll need to cover car maintenance, insurance, and any other associated fees. Lastly, some au pairs require additional expenses like a gym membership or a personal bank account.
While au pairs are typically less expensive than nannies, they carry some specific costs. These include up-front fees to the agency that matches them, a weekly childcare stipend, and some additional travel expenses. Depending on your family’s needs, these may be significant or minimal, but it is essential to consider them before making any final decisions.
One of the biggest misunderstandings between Host Families and Au Pairs concerns who pays for the Au Pair’s return home ticket. Some families believe that an Au Pair should be able to pay for her/her trip home alone, but that isn’t always possible, especially for au pairs from more remote countries where monthly incomes are low.
It is also common for au pairs to pay for language courses they attend as part of the au pair program, which can add up to a considerable amount of monthly money. In some cases, au pairs can find a way to cut down on these costs by taking advantage of public transportation options or by attending classes at night or on weekends.
When hiring an au pair, it’s essential to consider all the costs involved. Many expenses can affect your family’s overall cost, from the fees for an international au pair program to the additional cost of adding your au pair to your car insurance policy. It would help if you discussed these things with your au pair before they arrive to set expectations and avoid misunderstandings.
One significant expense that is often overlooked is the educational stipend. Every au pair must take six credits of college classes, and host families are responsible for covering that cost. These courses can be anything from linear algebra to French cooking, and some au pairs take free classes at local universities.
Other expenses include personal items such as bath products, cosmetics, and clothing. You can also expect your au pair to incur extra travel costs if they live far away from you, and some families choose to cover the cost of au pair airfare when traveling together. It’s also important to discuss with your au pair what expenses you’re willing to pay for — this will help them save money and reinforce that they’re an essential family member and not just another temporary nanny.