How to Reduce the Costs of Having an Au Pair

by cv harquail on July 23, 2016

Parents who are researching childcare options for the first time invariably experience “sticker shock”. Who knew that a year of childcare in America could cost as much as a year at a good instate university?

Whether childcare is provided by a retail day care center, a someone-else’s-home-based childcare center, a nanny, or an au pair, good childcare costs money.

506171455_f95e668148_mIt’s not surprising, then, that we often get emails from parents asking if there are ways to reduce the costs of hiring an au pair. Just recently, a new mom wrote:

My head is spinning… Why does it cost $7,500 – 9,000 to bring an au pair here?

Are there any resources where there are au pairs currently in the US looking for work or to extend a J-1 that i could use to cut down on the costs?

Are there other options for reducing the costs?

Yes there are some options for reducing the costs of hosting an Au Pair, and we’ll address these, below. But first we need to consider:

What *Should* Childcare Cost?

For perspective, consider the appropriate cost of childcare, as a standard against which to evaluate how much you feel you can/should spend.  

Any qualified childcare provider should be paid at least the minimum wage. At least. So if you’re aiming for a full week of childcare, think “$8.00/hr times 40 hrs/week”. Your baseline is $320.00 per week.

If you can get 40 hours a week of care for slightly less than $320 week, terrific.

But don’t expect to get too much lower than this. In fact, don’t even look for childcare that costs you less than $280/week … because if you find it, someone’s being exploited and underpaid.

What does hosting an Au Pair actually cost?

Agencies suggest that, all told, the cost is about $350/week… just slightly more than if you hired someone yourself, didn’t train them, didn’t pay for a bit of education, didn’t pay their vacation, didn’t screen them much, and paid them minimum wage.

Years ago, I aimed to break down and add up all the costs of hosting an au pair, and concluded that the hourly cost was about $12.75 and the monthly cost was $510— and while this was in 2008, my numbers were on the high side since we spent so much on car insurance, telephone, and cable. (For us, all those costs are lower now.) And, we had two kids so it was still less than using a childcare center.

How can you lower the costs of hosting an Au Pair?

1. Comparison shop the Au Pair Agencies — they often have special “sign up” deals. If you have a choice of agencies, sometimes (and only sometimes) cost is a sensible deciding factor.

2. Negotiate with the Au Pair Agency — sometimes an agency is seeking to build up a cluster in a new area and they will be amenable to accepting a slightly lower fee (e.g., $350 less) in exchange for a new family.

3. Negotiate on car insurance.  See the chart we started that helped us get a sense of what a ‘good’ insurance rate is for an Au Pair driver. Also, use ‘good student’, ‘clean record’ programs that your insurance company might provide. if you have an old car and are willing to consider driving around with some dents, raise the deductible to cut out-of-pocket costs.

4. Watch the out-of-pocket household expenses that are Au Pair-related.  For example, offer an old model cellphone with a limited data plan. Don’t go buy new sheets, towels, and hairdryers if you already have some in perfectly good condition that are serviceable if not fashionable.

5. Share your car instead of having a separate Au Pair car. And, if you have a separate Au Pair car, make it an older, more affordable model.

6. Earn some money back by referring new families to your Au Pair Agency. (Of course, only if you link your agency and only if these families seem like good people.)

7. Use your Flexible Spending Account and/or Childcare Tax Credit to reduce pre-tax costs.

7. Refrain from taking your Au Pair along with you on family vacations where an additional adult becomes expensive. (E.g., where you let him use the mini-bar, or get her a private hotel room.) Talk with your Au Pair before making vacation decisions to see if s/he will make some compromises on luxury in order to make the trip affordable for you.

8. Ask your Au Pair to pay for her/his own extra media use (e.g., PayPerView movies, library fines, Apple music). These are small cost savings for a host family, but they do reinforce the idea of trying to be frugal, fairly.

9. Have another child, so that you’re now getting childcare for two kids for the price of one.  Just kidding. No, actually, not kidding.

Do not try to lower Au Pair costs by:

  • Thinking you can split the cost of the Au Pair with some other family.
  • Thinking you can have the Au Pair eat less, or lower quality food, than the other adults in the household. (Wine, chocolate, and fancy steaks for data night, excluded. Host Parents can enjoy these without supplying same for the Au Pair.)
  • Thinking you can make your Au Pair pay for things like going out to dinner when your family goes out to dinner, paying her own movie ticket when she takes the kids to the movies, or making him count that 45 minutes between piano lesson drop off and pick up as “off duty time”.

Keep in mind:

Your au pair is the person who, next to you, your child(ren) depend on for safety, comfort, and guidance.

If you need to cut costs somewhere, there are other places to do it.

For me, I stopped shopping so often at Target (where, for some inexplicable reason, I never get out of there for less than $200 per visit). And I started buying used books from Amazon instead of new ones. When we got a new Au Pair car, we got one that was safe but not new and definitely not fancy.

I don’t mean to be insensitive to the costs of childcare. Quality childcare costs money, and when you’re writing checks to an Au Pair Agency and directly depositing cash every week into an Au Pair’s account, you can see that money going out.  But remember– it’s going where it should be going — towards something your family makes a priority.

Parents, other suggestions for either cutting costs OR remembering how much value you get from an Au Pair relationship?  Chime in, below.

 

Image by .niCKy. on Flickr

{ 69 comments }

HRHM July 23, 2016 at 11:38 am

Au Pair hosting is never going to be a cheap option for those with one child, especially one near-typical school aged child. Daycare for a toddler averages 10K in the Denver metro area. So even if you have two kids, it’s probably cheaper to send them to daycare.

However, think about what you are getting for the money. In my case it was 1) kids that can sleep until 7am on the weekdays while I leave for work at 6, the corollary to this being that they sleep until at least 7 on the weekends.(priceless) 2) I don’t pay a housecleaner ($120 per week)because my AP cleans the kids rooms and bathroom plus her own room plus does their laundry and also keeps the kitchen pretty clean since she’s cooking for them daily during the week. The remaining stuff that needs to be done is minimal and I can mange it without paying for additional help. 3) Date night twice a month – when I pay a babysitter it is usually about 50-60 bucks for the evening.
4) Sanity (again priceless) not trying to be 2 places at once or having to tell one kid they can’t do something because I have to drive sibling someplace else.

There aren’t a lot of ways to make hosting cheaper but there are a ton of ways to really get your money’s worth from hosting. And certainly there are always going to be folks who actually just can’t afford it.

cv harquail July 23, 2016 at 12:35 pm

Amazing how much lower the cost is of using a childcare center outside of the NY/NJ/CT area. !!

ChiHostMom July 23, 2016 at 8:44 pm

Also cheaper than Chicago…

WarmStateMomma July 24, 2016 at 4:21 pm

The better daycares are about $10k/yr for my city, too. I have a theory that it’s not the size of the city but the climate since all the cold cities are expensive and most warm cities are not.

Mimi July 24, 2016 at 5:05 pm

I think you also have to take into account supply and demand. We have two small daycare centers in a town of 6200 where most people work locally (30 min commute max). Waiting lists are common for both places and they can charge what they want because there is no other place to go that isn’t 20-30 minutes away (often in the wrong direction from work). Maybe that’s more of a geographic anomaly?

Now that HK#4 will be two, she’s in a less expensive bracket because of child to caregiver ratios. I’m not sure if they have that issue in other states, so it could also be a contributing factor to cost and availability.

WarmStateMomma July 24, 2016 at 5:38 pm

My city is flooded with day care centers. There are 8 within a mile of my house in the burbs but probably fewer in the city limits where the popular ones often have wait lists. We also have very cheap labor and a nanny would cost me around the same as an AP.

I hate the idea of waking up early to pack my kids up for daycare and then driving them to live by someone else’s rules and values, when they could spend the day with someone amazing doing what I want them to be doing. They are usually asleep when I leave for work and the AP whips up a quick homemade breakfast for them and packs a bag for them to go to the park/zoo/library before they wake up. Priceless!

Dorsi July 28, 2016 at 12:59 pm

You must be on the East Coast. There are all kinds of expensive warm cities (LA?) and cheap cold cities (Salt Lake City, Omaha, St. Louis, Rochester).

WarmStateMomma July 31, 2016 at 9:20 pm

When I said “cities”, I was thinking large cities. Like top 10-20 cities, not Omaha. In the largest cities in Florida and Texas, day care for infants runs about $10k/yr for full time at the mainstream choices. NY, Chicago, Seattle, San Fran – all cold and all expensive! Outside of California, I don’t think many warm cities are expensive.

Meg July 28, 2016 at 11:35 am

I’m sorry, but I have to totally disagree with your numbers. I live in Denver and have had kids in Daycare for the most of the past 7 years. It might be $10k if you include unlicensed or if you average together school age with kids with infants/toddlers. But, that’s pretty misleading considering that school age kids are only in care for one to 3 hours a day. I think that the numbers you get on google may well do those things. But, I’ve looked at many, many daycares and I can say with no question in my mind that there is no decent daycare in Denver charging 10k for an infant or toddler or preschooler who is there full time. If you only look at younger kids who are truly in childcare for close to 45 hours a week, you’re looking at around $300 to $350 a week. Just like the OP says. And that is more like $15-18k.

Mimi July 23, 2016 at 1:43 pm

When we started hosting it was childcare for twins (8-5 M-F) and a five y/o for a few months so having an AP was half what we would pay (about$17k versus $30k per year before other costs). Now it’s a toddler 8-5 M-F and maybe an hour on those days for the twins (HK#1 might get a ride here and there but is independently home on the rare occasion that he doesn’t have activities after school) so the cost savings isn’t really there any more. The indirect costs creep up (car insurance, phone charges, etc.) and we live in an area where a car is a must and sharing won’t work. The repeat discounts and referrals aren’t much so we are considering leaving the program after our current AP is done, especially if my mother retires. It’s heartbreaking for me because hosting is way more than childcare for us, but the numbers are hard to dispute.

Multitasking Host Mom July 24, 2016 at 12:47 pm

We have also decided for this to be our last au pair, but I am morning the loss of no longer being a part of the au pair program. We really enjoyed welcoming these young people into our family, with most child care options you don’t get to have that close connection.
In our city, the cost of paying for an au pair was about the same as paying for preschool along with before and after care. Even when my kids were in school full time (and we needed less hours of child care), it was worth it to pay a little more to really get to know the person taking care of my kids. Plus, I liked the flexibility when school was closed for a random teacher in service day or I needed to leave early in the morning for work.
Now though with my kids in middle school, we could get a college student to drive them around to activities for a few hours after school for a lot less money than what we pay an au pair, and it is just getting too hard to justify all the extra expenses.
But I will miss being a host mom and my kids will miss having that extra (cool/fun) member of the family around. My husband has made comments that we should now host exchange students!

Taking a Computer Lunch July 24, 2016 at 1:01 pm

Hosting an exchange student now – and it’s nothing like having an AP! For example, for two summers in a row we’ve hosted students who do not eat vegetables – at all. I can’t say to them “I need you to model proper diet and nutrition in front of my children.” I do make it clear, as a vegetarian, that I won’t be cooking around their preferences. Like my APs, when an exchange student clearly enjoys eating a dish, we make it again. Neither student really became “part of the family.” Last summer’s student was an extrovert only a few months older than child #2. They wanted nothing to do with each other – the student was out all hours – pushing up against the curfew all the time. This summer, we’re hosting a student the same age as The Camel (again, clearly different worlds). She hasn’t left her room except to go to class and eat. She hardly talks to us, even when we’ve made it clear she needs to let us know when she’s entering or exiting the house. Both students have joined us for family outings and we’ve tried to encourage the same member-of-the-family attitude as we have with our APs. It hasn’t worked.

WarmStateMomma July 24, 2016 at 4:28 pm

Hosting exchange students is amazing!! We hosted two before becoming parents and are still quite close to both of them. One is an extrovert and the other an introvert but they spoke of each other as brothers by the end of the year. The one kid spends his college winter breaks with us instead of his roommates. They were both shocked at how little AP#1 pitched in as they routinely did the dinner dishes after HD or I cooked, took out the trash, etc. We hosted from Japan and Vietnam and didn’t have the cultural conflicts that the other host families did who hosted kids from Western Europe (where kids seem to have a lot more freedom).

If you can afford to feed an exchange student (ours ate like NFL players but weighed about 100 pounds), it’s a wonderful experience and they haven’t had enough host families for all the kids in recent years. We met lots of host families (some great and some horrible) and great kids.

Hostmom (now LCC) DP July 26, 2016 at 12:23 pm

This (missing being a HM) is exactly why I became an LCC! It’s not quite the same as hosting our own APs, but I do love the relationships I have with the APs in my group. (And I also really like having the opportunity to introduce new families to the program and to help them be successful!)

Brooklyn_HP July 23, 2016 at 9:39 pm

I live in NYC. Before my kids were going to school FT, we paid a nanny $18/hour which was a hard pill to swallow (and not unusual cost for our area). Now that kids are in school we could get a PT nanny but I’ve been told by nearly all my friends that keeping a PT nanny is really very difficult. They either need FT and will work PT till something better comes along, or they are students etc who eventually have to bail and move on. Having an AP is an incredible deal for families in our area.
Oh – and the flexibility is great. Random school holidays are no problem when you have an aupair.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 23, 2016 at 10:24 pm

Child #1 is a teenager – and medically fragile. She is on a special Medicaid waiver program to help defray the costs of her care because it is cheaper for the State to keep her out of an institution. We are currently hosting AP #12 (who wants to extend for another year – huzzah!)

Medicaid will only give us 5 hours of paid care a week (if you don’t think you can keep a PT nanny – try keeping a nurse that works 25 hours a week!). In one year we went through 25 nurses, including 5 who failed to show up for shift – leaving the bus driver knocking on neighbor’s doors trying to find someone to take our non-verbal, infantile child. Our APs have always, always, always, been there.

So while the financial costs are enormous, the benefits of having someone care for The Camel before and after school, plus being able to take child #2 to special events or to have date night – are priceless. I am not looking forward to the time, and it’s coming quickly, when no AP will match with us and we’re done.

Now child #2 is old enough to compete for “the AP car” – but he also can use public transportation to get where he wants to go when he cannot have the car. He often cooks the AP dinner when we go out (he’s a more confident cook than she). He does his own laundry, and cleans his own room. We’re working on cleaning up his mess in the kitchen. We worked hard to get him to this place because AP #8 had never done a load of laundry or cooked a nutritious meal (warming up frozen pizza does not count!)

Sometimes the benefits outweigh the financial costs. Neither DH nor I have to argue about who’s going to stay home from work when The Camel is ill. Almost all of our APs have been more affectionate and cuddly with her than any nurse we hired. But even so, I would like to be able to afford a vacation (but if I didn’t have an AP I’d use all my vacation time caring for The Camel…) If you only pay attention to the financial costs of hosting, then you obviously haven’t made that golden match that makes every penny worth it!

CO Host Mom July 24, 2016 at 12:08 am

I so appreciate this topic as we will be welcoming our first AP in less than a month. Our LLC recommended this site and I’ve been learning a ton.

We have 3 and 4 year old boys and also live in Denver. We paid $31K for full time daycare for the two of them last year. Once a week, we had a sitter pick them up from school and watch them for 3 hours – $50. Once a month date night $80 to $100.

Our oldest will be starting kindergarten in Aug. Our youngest will stay in full-time daycare. I just didn’t feel good about being able to do two different pick ups and drop offs by myself. HD travels every week Mon to Thurs and we have no family in the state.

Our analysis is that the flexibility and having a dedicated person become part of our parenting team – it was worth the cost. I learned long ago, that taking time for myself and hubby makes me a better mom.

I am struggling with what we should pay for vs what we are asking the AP to pay for. As with the original post, it makes total sense that we would pay when we do a family activity but what about if just the AP and I go out? Do we each pay our own way? Do I still pay for everything?

2 kids and a cat July 24, 2016 at 6:57 am

We’re welcoming our 2nd AP in 2 weeks because of a similar set-up – what I previously paid for flexibility was pricey, and it all adds up.
We decide on a case-by-case basis: DH took the kids skiing on a bank holiday, where I still had to work and she was scheduled for our youngest. We offered her the extra day off (keeping our child in aftercare), but she had to pay for her tickets, etc. Another time they all went tubing, and we invited and paid for her.
She invited us to brunch (a peace-offering for breaking a major rule) – we let her pay but picked up the tip. Otherwise for restaurants we paid.

Former AP Now HM July 24, 2016 at 7:54 am

We do it like this:

If she’s working (and therefore required to be there), we pay. This includes things like theatre tickets, and we make it clear on her schedule and verbally that she’s on the clock, she’s in charge of the children and she’s responsible for them if they need to be taken out in the middle of the performance.

If we invite her, we pay. Our au pairs are family. If we go swimming as a family, or out to a restaurant, or to the beach, we invite her and we pay.

If we invite her to something expensive, we discuss who pays. One of our au pairs was desperate to go to the Spanish Riding School of Vienna to see the Lipizzaner Stallions. I was near Vienna anyway for work, so we sat down and had a chat. She could either have that week off, or she could come to Vienna with me on holiday, provide a couple of hours of childcare, and I would pay for the travel and hotel room if she payed for everything else (for herself, not for me). She came with me and had a wonderful time. With most of our au pairs we’ve given them the choice of having their holiday entirely free, and paying for everything themselves, or coming with us, doing a couple of nights of babysitting and paying only what we think is fair. We discuss this up front and make it clear that it’s entirely their choice, and that we’ll help them reduce costs if they decide they want to travel on their own instead.

If she invites us, she pays for it. If we’re at the beach and she buys everyone an ice cream, we’re very pleased and grateful (and usually take pictures of her with the children and their ice creams), but it’s her treat and it’s her money. Our current au pair often takes the children to the cinema on her day off, and she pays for that as well.

I think who pays depends a bit on the circumstances. I try to make it clear what the expectation is. For example, a few weeks ago my AP and I went out to a restaurant together. We took price into account when we were booking, and it gave me a chance to say ‘AP, this restaurant is excellent but it’ll probably cost you about 30 euros. If you prefer to save that for another day, I’d recommend this restaurant, which is cheaper’. Easy way of hinting that she needs to pay her way. Conversely, with my last AP she and I worked a few really awful, long days, and at the end of the week I took her out for a meal – my treat. So I paid.

WarmStateMomma July 24, 2016 at 4:45 pm

I tell our APs up front that if I invite them to do something and don’t mention the cost, I’m paying. I will usually ask by email if it’s something she would need to pay for, so she has time to come up with an excuse if she doesn’t want to do it. I always pay if we go out to eat or she comes with us for the kind of thing where the cost can’t really be avoided.

I don’t think there are many opportunities for cutting the cost of hosting an AP, although there are loads of benefits. My 3yo speaks fluent Mandarin! The AP stays home with a kid who is “a little sick” and wouldn’t be able to go to day care but doesn’t need medical care. My kids are cared for by someone brilliant and compassionate who makes vegetables taste good and reads endless stories.

The costs are fixed and even switching agencies doesn’t save much because they make up the fees by charging more for your city, etc. They all cost about the same. But the benefits of hosting are just amazing. Even our AP who was a lousy fit for our family took incredibly loving, patient, devoted care of my baby.

Shop around for the stuff like car insurance (we pay $43/mo. to add the AP to our cheap but safe car) that can vary wildly but don’t compromise on treating your AP as a member of the family. When you have the right fit, it’s worth much more than the costs.

Families that can’t offer expensive perks sometimes offer extra time off or other kinds of flexibility to reward APs who go the extra mile. Be creative but treat the AP as you would want a host family to treat your child and you’re probably on the right track.

WarmStateMomma July 24, 2016 at 5:27 pm

I tell our APs up front that if I invite them to do something and don’t mention the cost, I’m paying. I will usually ask by email if it’s something she would need to pay for, so she has time to come up with an excuse if she doesn’t want to do it. I always pay if we go out to eat or she comes with us for the kind of thing where the cost can’t really be avoided.

I don’t think there are many opportunities for cutting the cost of hosting an AP, although there are loads of benefits. My 3yo speaks fluent Mandarin! The AP stays home with a kid who is “a little sick” and wouldn’t be able to go to day care but doesn’t need medical care. My kids are cared for by someone brilliant and compassionate who makes vegetables taste good and reads endless stories.

The costs are fixed and even switching agencies doesn’t save much because they make up the fees by charging more for your city, etc. They all cost about the same. But the benefits of hosting are just amazing. Even our AP who was a lousy fit for our family took incredibly loving, patient, devoted care of my baby.

Shop around for the stuff like car insurance (we pay $43/mo. to add the AP to our cheap but safe car) that can vary wildly but don’t compromise on treating your AP as a member of the family. When you have the right fit, it’s worth much more than the costs.

Families that can’t offer expensive perks sometimes offer extra time off or other kinds of flexibility to reward APs who go the extra mile. Be creative but treat the AP as you would want a host family to treat your child and you’re probably on the right track.

One way to save is to have the AP’s vacation fall at a time when you won’t need to pay for other childcare. Like when you’re off work or the kids are in school and the parents can take turns leaving work early to pick them up. Just give the AP notice before matching of any vacation preferences and it should be fine.

Au Pair in NZ July 25, 2016 at 10:56 pm

When it’s a family activity, my HM will pay (although if it’s something somewhat expensive like ice skating, I’ll usually buy the kids a snack or something there). If just the two of us go out to dinner, we’ll pay separately. :) I think it really depends if you see your au pair more as part of the family or more as an employee!

West Mom July 24, 2016 at 6:43 am

My take away after our 7th a final year in the program? Don’t get an Au Pair for the cost savings. Yes, there are some cost savings, especially for a family with 1+ children (we have 3). Our last year with a nanny 8 years ago cost us $840 per week for 52hrs of work. BUT… it came with stability, love, experience, incredible work ethics, housekeeping, cooking, the ability to retain my privacy and my car, and no drama. The difference in cost doesn’t come for free. But yes, in exchange I get terrific flexibility that support my kids’ school schedule.

By my own calculation and we spend at least 24k on our au pair (I did not estimate less tangible things… like increase in utilities- heat, AC, hot water in the basement for example). We don’t bring AP on fancy vacations, offer a dedicated car, or treat our AP to lavish gifts like laptops. At less than 30 hrs per week for us, it now compares to getting a part-time person to handle after school supervision and transportation, which is what we are transitioning to this fall. At some point, it starts to really feel like luxury…

My philosophy is similar to traveling abroad. When in Europe or England, it’s easy to obsess about the cost of things by always converting the local currency into your real cost. You then realize that a meal for two that would cost you $50 in the USA is now $175 in London and it makes you upset. But what good does that do? It only prevents you from enjoying the experience. Same for the Au Pair program. You will only truly enjoy it when you stop worrying about every expense.

Full Circle July 24, 2016 at 8:40 am

This is something that we thought long and hard about. Daycare here is less expensive than the AP program for us but it was still a no brainer. We were having a hard time finding a place that offered all the hours we needed covered, which meant hiring a sitter for pick up and drop off. That alone would have done it for me because the idea of hiring a total stranger just to drive (and of course pay at least 2 hours in the am and pm because none want to work less) just didn’t sit right. Plus sick days, kiddo being exhausted at the end of the day from being in daycare and thus likely to be grumpy and tantruming when I come home, and the idea of not being a part of her daily routine because I wouldn’t be interacting with the school staff to talk about her day, pick up on something that may not be right, etc. All were way too much so really hosting an AP was a no brainer.

Now we are on a super tight budget. We share a car, we will only take AP on vacations may have a simpler vacation plan that doesn’t involve extra hotel room and plane tickets (renting a condo at the beach, for example) and won’t have family dinners out as often because we just can’t afford all those extras (and we wouldn’t feel right not inviting AP or asking her to pay). So in essence we are making some lifestyle choices and cutting back on few things we used to do to be able to do to make this work for us. But the flexibility and all the benefits of hosting are way worth it. We will also be watching closely what we spend on her: come the holidays we will buy her a nice gift, but no bonus or anything like that. We are able to offer some perks like include her in our gym membership, pool access in the summer, ITunes Music under our family share, a nice phone, a nice room, etc. She pays for any extras she might use in her free time (movie rental, her gas of course, data overage if it exceed the limited data plan we pay for, etc). It isn’t much, but we search for girls who care more about the family and whole experience as opposed to perks.

Also, paying the agency fee upfront is a few hundred dollars cheaper than doing the payment plan, so it’s a good option to save a little, if at all possible.

Jennc July 24, 2016 at 12:58 pm

With our first child we had a nanny , which started at about $375 a week and then became $500, hard to find quality nanny with any training at minimum age , when we had 2 kids we had one starting school and I put the other in daycare, for me daycare sucked, my baby was sick all the time I had to call out , leave work , she had respiratory issues severe that lasted until age 5…

Did one year daycare the cost of $650 a month though cheap wasn’t worth it, enter 3rd kid switch to aupair, there is good and bad …. But all are educated caring young women , we’ve had a great time yes overall it costs me more money, because we include aupair in everything but my youngest can sleep in every morning instead of being drug out of the house.

If I’m working s late shift my husband has help dropping kids for activities , picking up and dinner. When I’m home I can hang out with kids instead of spending every spare moment on laundry and kids rooms. My laundry alone, is a pain for me , my husband and I can include date night in the schedule , with all of us on vacation we have one adult per kid if we are doing anything crazy .

We now have 2 in school and 1 at home , but we have reliable school pick up everyday , kids don’t miss activities , in summer I am not shelling out over $1500 a month in childcare for 3 kids on top of all the other expenses because I have my aupair who can do activities with them. Next year my 2 school age kids will be at different schools so she will drop at one school and hubby drop at another . I anticipate we will continue with aupair until number is in school and then maybe make a change .

IndianaAdventure July 24, 2016 at 1:17 pm

I stumbled across and interesting article recently that daycare costs more than rent for many families. http://www.parents.com/baby/all-about-babies/daycare-costs-more-than-rent-for-many-families/. Child care is expensive and the better the care, the higher the costs.

Au pair costs are the same regardless where you live vs daycare/nanny costs vary greatly in different cities so I can see some readers of this blog feeling like au pairs are really expensive and others feeling like they are very reasonable. When we started with an au pair we had just one infant and lived in Chicago. An au pair was only a little more than day care after considering food, phone, transportation, extra coverage to stick below 45 hrs/week etc. A nanny share would have been pretty comparable to an au pair.

Now with a toddler in the Indianapolis area, it’s considerably more expensive to have an au pair, but we are used to the cost at this point and I’m spoiled by the other benefits of the program; like kid chores being completed and not having to deal with transport to/from daycare (and the prep etc). I hand over a pajamaed toddler in the mornings and get and bathed and freshly re-pajamaed one in the evenings. It’s awesome and I feel very lucky. And of course, there’s all the cultural exchange benefits too, which is really important to me. I want my kids to be world citizens and to understand other cultures and I’ll pay extra for that. Of course, I also spend more in “emotional energy” than I would at a daycare or even with a nanny, but the more you put in the more you get out :)

Full Circle July 24, 2016 at 1:51 pm

Most of the responses have been about how we all justify the cost as opposed to how to cut costs per se, and I wanted to clarify to OP why we are all leaning that way.

For one, it’s expensive and I always try to find a reason to justify the cost out loud (or in writing) haha. It’s more cost effective to some families than others (# of children, area where you live, etc).

But mostly we jump to justifying because in the US (other countries are a different story),the cost is pretty set. The agency charges what it charges, the stipend is what it is. Not a lot of room there. You can save a little bit by extending on your second year, referring families, jumping of promotions to get a couple hundred off, but that’s about it. The only way to save is to think about and cut the “extras” like car, insurance, outings, vacations, etc.

Hiring an AP out of the country without an agency is illegal.

There is no such thing as au pairs trying to extend their J1s without the agency. Only the agencies can issue the required paperwork for visas. You also can’t hire an international student (sponsor your AP to get and F1 and essentially have her be your AP).

People do that, but you cannot legally pay her a stipend (you can pay school tuition directly to the school, and still offer her all of the perks of family member but you cannot pay her for services bc F1s cannot work without authorization and only certain situations are authorized).

So yeah, it is that much and I wish it could be more affordable because it’s such an awesome program. But all you can do is comparison price against other childcare options and take the plunge if AP seems like it’s the right option.

Quirky July 24, 2016 at 4:07 pm

I think the reason it costs a lot to bring an AP here is because you are helping to pay the salaries of the people who are doing all the legwork for your AP agency — those people screening and interviewing AP candidates in the home country, those facilitating the visa process, those arranging travel, those helping with matching here in the US, LCCs, and of course all the overhead that comes with running an organization — HR, finance, management, marketing, etc. So all in all I don’t think the agency costs are all that remarkable.

We live in the DC area with three school-aged kids. This September, the older two (middle and high school) will be out the door by 7 am while the youngest won’t start school until 9:25 am. In the afternoon, depending on after-school activities, we’ll have kids starting to get home by 3 pm. We live in Maryland, my spouse commutes to Virginia (when he’s not traveling), and I commute to DC. Both my spouse and I are 45 minutes from home under ideal circumstances. It’s technically possible that we might be able to reduce our childcare costs by putting our youngest in a before-care program (which she would hate) and hiring an after-school sitter part-time who can supervise homework, drive to and from activities, etc. It would not be a significant cost savings over an AP, though.

And then we’d burn all our leave for days when school is closed, when kids are sick, etc. And we’d constantly be looking for and training after-school sitters — pretty much the only people who want 20 hour per week jobs are college students, and they come and go with the seasons. We would have to scramble to go pick up a sick kid from school.

We have run the numbers six ways from Sunday, and it makes sense to spend a little bit extra overall on the AP program for the incredible benefits of flexibility in having someone to work a split shift schedule and to cover sick days and school closed days.

As others have said — it’s just a function of how expensive childcare is overall.

massmom July 25, 2016 at 11:01 am

Thanks for this perspective. This will likely be our last year hosting an au pair, and I’m so sad about it! We love the cultural exchange and flexibility aspects. But once the kids are both in school full-time, I don’t think we can justify the cost. I work 4 days a week, so we really only need 12-16 hours a week of coverage. I suppose we could add extra hours and household tasks to round it out, but we don’t tend to go out much on the weekends. I’m definitely concerned about patching care together and switching up our schedules, but when you break it down on an hourly basis, I’m having a hard time getting over the cost. I may end up regretting it!

WarmStateMomma July 25, 2016 at 9:31 pm

@massmom: What about hiring a rematch AP at the start of the summer? If you found someone with only a few months left, you’d get full-time child care while the kids are out of school (assuming you need more child care hours then).

massmom July 26, 2016 at 1:26 pm

I actually think summers will be fairly easy to cover. Between day camps, time with both sets of grandparents, and our own vacation time, I find summers less intimidating than the school year…our current au pair will have almost 4 weeks off this summer. And there are always tons of college kids home for the summer looking for part-time babysitting gigs. It’s finding someone to do 10-20 hours of after school care that seems to be a unicorn.

momo4 July 27, 2016 at 11:41 am

Childcare is expensive. Most of the biggest costs of hosting an AP are fixed (agency fees, stipend). But when looking at trying to limit the costs of hosting an AP, I think it is important to look not just at the AP, but at yourself. “Keeping up with the Joneses” is expensive. Participating in the AP amenities arms race will add substantially to your costs. Do you really need a separate car for the AP? Do they need the latest model iPhone? Etc. I think its important to consider how decisions that are ultimately about your own self image can add to your costs.

You don’t have to spoil your AP, but don’t cheap out on them either. Be open and honest with them if there are financial constraints that affect your plans. I always explain how much it costs to fly 7 people anywhere from our city, not to mention lodging/food expenses, and they quickly understand why we do not take traditional vacations (not to mention the hassles of traveling with cranky toddlers who have missed their naps and can’t sit still for 5 hours straight on a plane). I also mention in general terms the cost of private school and our own student loan repayments, which is something most of my APs (who are from the EU) have never had to worry about themselves. But at the same time, I am always generous with small things. If I am getting a coffee, I always offer to get them one too. If we’re out shopping together, I buy them lunch. If I know they really like a certain food, I make sure to have it around. if we go out anywhere and they come along, I pay for them. We do not live a glamorous international or Hollywood lifestyle, but I am flexible about a lot of things and they are really part of the family.

I think it is ugly and petty to pinch pennies when it comes to the small things, even knowing that they can add up. If I’m so financially constrained that I have to worry about the cost of a few cups of coffee, maybe I shouldn’t be buying them for myself either. If I can’t afford to take them along for a trip, I should let them know that it’s a strain, and give them the option to pay for themselves or stay home. But considering everything my AP contributes to my family, I think generosity is well deserved.

And as a final note, if I’m feeling upset about having to pay for small things, it is definitely a symptom of larger problems in our relationship.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 27, 2016 at 9:09 pm

I have found that really paying attention to what an AP likes or dislikes so you can reward her with a little gift pays off. Does she prefer milk chocolate or dark chocolate (a bag of chocolate chips goes a long way in my house!) Cashews? Fresh fruit? What does she wear? Beige – even though scarlet would look fantastic on her? Baggy – even though you’re jealous of her ability to wear skinny jeans?

My current AP, who arrived just before Thanksgiving, recently told me how much she appreciated my attention to her preferences so that her Christmas gifts were things she needed or would enjoy.

Sure, some HF give ski vacations, but will they ask their AP to play a board game on a Saturday night? You don’t need to get caught up in the “Gimmes” (even my own kids prefer time spent over “things”).

New to This July 27, 2016 at 1:05 pm

This discussion of costs feels very timely to me, as we just got email from our agency a few days ago referencing an ongoing class-action lawsuit over au pair wages. Does anybody else know anything on this issue?

From what I’ve been able to glean from media reports (ane article on ThinkProgress seems to have the most detail), it’s looking to me as if, regardless of the outcome of the suit, the State Department has already backed off of the idea of a uniform national stipend (meaning state/local minimum wage laws would apply instead), and disavowed the 40% figure for offsetting room/board against wages — leaving in its place much more ambiguous FLSA rules, or whatever state/local law stipulates. If that is the case, it seems like it could be the death knell for the program here in California, where we have high minimum wages, and extremely low permitted deductions for employer-provided housing, relative to what housing actually costs here.

By my math, when you factor in all the NON-housing costs host families are legally required to cover (meals, education, transportation, plus agency fees), increasing the stipend to minimum wage less the room/board deductions allowed under state law would make hosting an au pair slightly MORE expensive than the average wage in our area for a professional live-out nanny. (The costs to us of housing the au pair are harder to figure precisely, but here in Silicon Valley they’re certainly well in excess of what the law allows us to deduct — just the hotel and rental car costs when relatives visit and can’t use our guest room will add up to nearly two months’ housing-cost allowance in a single weekend…) It’s hard for me to picture the program surviving when you’re paying more than you would for a professional PLUS providing housing — the benefits to families from cultural exchange, closer relationships, etc., just don’t seem reliable enough to motivate a critical mass of host families to stick with it, especially when you factor in the common downsides (less childcare experience, more interpersonal drama, more uncertainty in the hiring process, etc.).

So, it may be that the agency pricing model will HAVE to change — but I don’t know how much it can, given the services the State Department requires them to provide, which are presumably a big part of what our fees cover (overseas screening, training schools, travel, local support staff). It seems equally likely to me that they’d just end up giving up on California entirely — which I guess at least might be good news for host families elsewhere in the country who get tired of trying to convince prospective APs to consider locations they HAVEN’T seen in all the movies!

Meanwhile, the whole thing feels frustrating to me as a host who really wants to treat APs fairly, but also wants fair recognition of the value of all the perks APs receive beyond the stipend. I’m generally all in favor of living wages, but in a program where employers don’t have a choice about providing all sorts of non-wage compensation and services, it feels like our state laws wouldn’t do nearly enough to account for and offset the actual costs and burdens we encounter in providing those, or the actual standard of living that results for the au pair…time to write to my legislators, maybe?

2 kids and a cat July 27, 2016 at 8:07 pm

There’s a huge profit margin in the fees. Most of the services are provided by marginally experienced people and they cut corners at every place possible — from Skype interviews with potential au pairs instead of actually meeting them, to MIA LCC’s. The paperwork I have says that my fees pay for health insurance, but I recently learned that the AP pays part of the premium (not just the optional supplement). It’s so shifty. I’d be very happy to increase the stipend if agencies’ fees were scaled back.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 27, 2016 at 9:26 pm

When we tried to sponsor AP #1 as an employer, the U.S. Dept. of Labor reviewed our documentation and gave us the minimum wage we at which we could advertise the position. It was above the standard minimum wage, but minus room & board. My guess is that even if your local minimum wage is $15 an hour, room & board will be deducted. (I will say that AP #1 was bucking her salary – comparing it to nannies in the area – until I pointed out that while we waited for her application to be approved by the U.S. Dept of Labor – before it could even go to Homeland Security – we had enrolled her as a full-time student in the nearby community college so she could legally depart from the U.S. and return, paid her a stipend, paid for her cell phone, and gave her full access to a vehicle for which we paid insurance and maintenance but for which she provided the gas. I asked her to tally up her friends’ expenses, which included rent & utilities, and see who came out ahead.

Realistically, the standard AP stipend is set to federal minimum wage minus room & board. And yes, the AP in Omaha comes out way ahead of the AP in Manhattan, even though Manhattan might appear sexier to candidates. (And yes, even though it would make me squirm about how much I pay for childcare – I do think the AP stipend should be set to local minimum wage to equalize it. Would it kill the program? Probably not – because nannies would up their fees.)

WarmStateMomma July 27, 2016 at 10:53 pm

I don’t think the AP stipend would need to be increased if you wanted APs to receive more compensation for living in jurisdictions with higher wages. The value of the housing they receive in those high-cost jurisdictions would more than make up that difference in value. What’s the value of a private bedroom in Omaha compared to NYC? More than a few bucks an hour. I don’t think the Omaha AP gets more value than the NYC AP at all, especially since it takes more time and money to travel anywhere from nowhere and the opportunities for free local activities are much more limited in smaller cities.

New to This July 28, 2016 at 1:07 am

In this area, nannies are much, much more common than APs (to the extent that while nannies are ubiquitous, most people have never heard of the au pair program), so I doubt changes to the AP program would have more than a marginal impact on the market for nannies. Maybe the proportions are different elsewhere, or maybe I’m just underestimating the snowball effect of small changes in a market.

Beyond that, I agree with WarmStateMomma that areas with higher costs of living also often tend to be more desirable areas, with better entertainment options, nearby travel destinations, etc., and so the room in Manhattan really is worth much more than the one in Omaha, even if the stipend doesn’t buy as much. I also think the high local minimum wage here largely responds to costs of living that we’re already shouldering on the AP’s behalf, so it feels like a double hit to our wallet and a double benefit to the AP if the room/board offset isn’t also locally tailored (and per Fortysomething HM’s info, it sounds like it’s in dispute whether any offsetting should be allowed at all).

WestMom July 28, 2016 at 7:05 am

That’s a great point. We are in NYC metro and the cost of living is outrageous and I would espect it to be reflected in the value of the room/board we offer, but despite that I still think Au pairs should receive a higher stipend (has not increased since 2009). And if federal minimum wage won’t change than it seems fair to use the state wages.

One other measure that should be considered is number of kids as well. I can’t see why a family with one child pays the same as a family with 7.

Fortysomething HM July 28, 2016 at 10:26 am

Unfortunately, if the APs succeed in their argument that the Fair Labor Standards Act applies to them, HFs will not be able to get credit for the value of room and board – under the FLSA regulations employers are not generally allowed to consider the value of room and board when the employee is required to live-in (as APs are). This was part of the District Court in Colorado’s finding in the class certification motion. The impact here will be inevitably on the HFs because if the APS win here (and/or elsewhere) on this argument, the HFs will have no choice but pay minimum wage (plus 1.5 times that for hours over 40) in addition to room and board. Being an employer with a non-exempt employee under the FLSA can be a minefield – I’ve had sophisticated clients who don’t understand the FLSA and the law doesn’t care if it’s in innocent mistake. Damages during the statute of limitations (2 years back in most cases under federal law – state laws can be longer.. i.e. NY is 6 years) are DOUBLE the unpaid wages (FLSA has a liquidated damages component) plus attorneys fees for the AP. This would fall on the HF as we would be considered an employers under the FLSA.

As noted, this makes having an AP vs. a live-out nanny a financial no-brainer for most – there’s no way many (including me) would stay in the program.

Fortysomething HM July 28, 2016 at 10:51 am

Correcting myself – I just went to read the April 2016 Order of the Colorado federal court – the motion was a motion to dismiss not a class certification motion (doesn’t change the substance of my posts but for any lawyer geeks following along I thought I’d clarify). But reading the Order confirmed my memory – the Court specifically found that the FLSA does not allow employers to consider the value of room and board in the wage paid to the AP/employees. That would be a painful reality if it sticks.

New to This July 28, 2016 at 9:07 pm

With no offsets at all, the agency fees could go to zero, we could cut every perk we’re not legally required to provide, and our best move by far from a financial standpoint would be to hire a professional nanny and rent the AP bedroom to a local college student. (Bonus if the renter is interested in occasional hourly babysitting gigs!)

So, would we actually give up on the program if stipends skyrocketed? Hard to say. For our current AP’s extension year, I’d continue to shell out, because she’s honestly worth much more than market rate. After that, it gets less clear — on the one hand, we didn’t choose the AP program for financial reasons in the first place, and the reasons we did choose it (language exchange, more family-like relationships, etc.) would continue to be valid. On the other hand, I know myself well enough to anticipate that I’d get resentful and relationships would go south in a hurry if I felt like we were paying a premium for a less-than-spectacular AP. And of course, I’ve read enough here to know that nobody ends up with a rock star every time…

WarmStateMomma July 27, 2016 at 10:57 pm

@NewtoThis: training schools are actually not required. API provides all of its training online before the AP arrives in country. I wouldn’t consider this an improvement over the 3.5 training in NJ most agencies offer, but the NJ experience is something the agencies choose to do.

Also, the host family’s fees don’t pay for overseas screening in all countries. Chinese APs pay $3-6k to participate, which they are told covers the cost of screening, health insurance, airfare, LCC support, etc.

New to This July 28, 2016 at 1:14 am

Interesting, thanks! So maybe there is room for agencies to adapt, and keep costs from becoming prohibitive for HFs. Or maybe the agencies just shift even more costs onto the au pairs, and they end up paying higher program fees that get balanced out by higher stipends — though that would presumably make it harder for those not from wealthy backgrounds to gather the cash to enter the program, and also increase their financial risks around leaving the program early, which would be regrettable all around…

Fortysomething HM July 27, 2016 at 1:51 pm

I have read some articles about this – mostly the kind that are aimed at lawyers who practice employment/wage and hour law (as I do). I believe this particular case is in federal court in Colorado… not sure if there are other similar suits elsewhere. I have not read the pleadings or Court opinions though – I actually might dig into those if I can find some extra time (what’s that? lol).

I agree that if Plaintiffs in the class action are successful (and if there are any other similar lawsuits in other jurisdictions), it has the potential to change the AP program fundamentally – possibly or likely even end it. If the APs are successful and it’s not overturned (or if there’s not some kind of split in the Circuits where other courts find in favor of the agencies), and if there is no State Department/legislative action to address these issues, a finding that the FLSA and state wage laws applies to APs means that APs would be entitled to wages that would likely be above (and in some states/cities, well above) the current stipend. APs would also be entitled to 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for weekly hours over 40 (other overtime rules may apply too depending on your state/city – and yes, California has the most pro-employee laws of all, although NYC is giving Cali a run for its money lately). On the flip side, though, the FLSA says you don’t have to pay a non-exempt employee for hours they don’t work, so if your AP gets sick and can’t work, you would not have to pay them (this hardly cancels out the other stuff though).

And you are correct, New to This, under the FLSA and some state laws, the HF’s ability to get credit for the cost of room and board would be limited or non-existent (the FLSA does not generally allow an employer to say that the cost of room and board should be factored into the rate of pay that the employee gets when the employee has no choice but to live in the employer’s housing, which is the case under current AP-related regs).

There are lots of arguments the agencies can make that the FLSA does not and should not apply to APs, and hopefully the agencies’ lawyers are making all of them loudly and forcefully. The early decision on the class certification issue was not promising for the agencies (and frankly, their HFs). The Court found that the FLSA likely applies to APs, but it was an early decision in a very specific procedural context, and the parties need to take discovery and really develop the facts/arguments as the case proceeds.

I think it will take a long time (think years, not months) for this to come to any kind of resolution and there will likely be a ton of confusion before there’s any clarity (esp if there are different outcomes in different jurisdictions). But this has the potential to be a game changer, no doubt.

New to This July 28, 2016 at 1:19 am

This is very helpful — thank you!!!

HRHM July 28, 2016 at 12:35 pm

The real question would be how would you reconcile the requirements of the SD AP rules and the requirements of the FLSA? In addition to the housing question you note above, FLSA says you don’t have to pay for hours not worked but the SD makes it very clear that the AP must be paid a full stipend by the HF for 51 weeks, no exception…

Fortysomething HM July 28, 2016 at 1:07 pm

I agree – that will be an interesting question for both liability (applicability of the FLSA) and on a backwards looking basis, for damages (i.e. in weeks an AP got paid but didn’t work, she has no damages for those weeks). The FLSA says wages are a week to week thing only, so you won’t be able to say “well in week one you were over paid, so that should set off week two when you were underpaid.” The FLSA is a complicated statute and not always obvious or in line with what you might think is common sense.

HFs are not currently parties to the Colorado action (at least I don’t believe so), so at this point I don’t think the HFs of the current plaintiffs (or any later APs who might opt into the class, if they are ever certified as a class) will be on the hook for backpay damages if the APs win in that case. While that could conceivable change in this lawsuit, it probably won’t. As a practical matter , the agencies aren’t going to be bringing HFs into the case (that would be business suicide) and the AP’s counsel seems to have made a tactical decision to only go after the agencies. (BTW the APs have a large, heavy hitting firm doing this on a pro bono basis – it’s no fly by night amateur lawsuit by any means).

But regardless, the outcome of this (and/or any similar case) will certainly impact the program on a forward looking basis.

The Opinion of the Court is pretty enlightening (and not in a good way). Based on the way the Court described the parties’ position and the State Department regulations, I would not count on the State Dept to back up the agencies and HFs here. The bottom line seems to be “the stipend, etc are minimums and we never said otherwise.”

I’m not sure if google will prove fruitful for you all in finding the actual Opinion but the case name is Beltran et al. v. Noonan et al — if you can find and access the Law360 article there’s a link to the Order. Lots of legal mumbo jumbo but I think most HPs will be able to understand the significant parts of it. I am not sure if you need a Law360 subscription to access this (I can access it but my firm has a subscription).

Old China Hand July 27, 2016 at 1:57 pm

Marginally related cost question – how do you talk local community colleges into letting au pair’s get in county tuition? The rule “work full-time in the county” is supposed to get in county tuition, but our community college is saying that for someone on a J-1 visa, it doesn’t apply to them. It seems like it should…

Thanks!

Taking a Computer Lunch July 27, 2016 at 9:15 pm

My community college has an employee/employer agreement that covers au pairs. See if this link works: cms.montgomerycollege.edu/WorkArea/DAsset.aspx?id=18362 and ask your CC administration if they will offer a similar contract.

Quirky July 27, 2016 at 9:26 pm

TACL, we are MoCo neighbors!

Anna July 27, 2016 at 11:06 pm

Me too! Rockville here.

Quirky July 28, 2016 at 11:26 am

Garrett Park here — Anna, we are very close neighbors then. :)

Anna July 28, 2016 at 1:20 pm

Quirky, would you mind emailing me at annahostmom@gmail.com? I’d like to connect or see if our au pairs would want to connect (I have a new one who is here for barely a month)

Dorsi July 28, 2016 at 10:40 am

Sadly, in our area, it’s impossible. Our APs take “community ed” classes – painting, Italian for travelers, yoga. There is no feasible way for them to enroll in CC or University classes. $279 per credit is the cheapest available.

Our local ESL classes at the CC are also exclusively for refugees, undocumented immigrants, etc. They disallow J-1 visa holders – unless they want to lie about their status.

HRHM July 28, 2016 at 12:35 pm

The real question would be how would you reconcile the requirements of the SD AP rules and the requirements of the FLSA? In addition to the housing question you note above, FLSA says you don’t have to pay for hours not worked but the SD makes it very clear that the AP must be paid a full stipend by the HF for 51 weeks, no exception…

WarmStateMomma July 29, 2016 at 10:03 am

Exactly, HRHM. It makes no sense. There would be no more paid vacations, education expenses, etc. They are two different systems and there is not any room for compatibility. Some APs would earn less if they were paid minimum wage and only received payment for the hours they work.

I think the impact on other guest worker programs would be huge. The theme parks, factories, and other larger companies that benefit from these programs should be weighing in on this case. They get to deduct housing costs directly from the paycheck and they don’t have to provide food or other benefits. 10 years ago, my cousin brought home about $1/hour working for the Mouse and had to buy her own ticket home when she ran out of money to live on.

Fortysomething HM July 29, 2016 at 12:44 pm

If you read the Opinion (or the actual regulations for the AP program to which the Opinion cites), the regs actually refer to (and arguably incorporate) the FLSA. That’s part of the reason the Colorado court ruled in favor of the Plaintiffs on the motion to dismiss and found that the FLSA does apply to APs.

From a legal standpoint, t’s sometimes (although not aways) OK to offer MORE than a statute requires (i.e. even though the FLSA does not require non-exempt employees to be paid for time they didn’t work, there’s nothing in that law and the Plaintiffs will argue, nothing in the law in general, that says you CAN’T require that (some states and cities have laws that require paid time off for employees in certain situations).

Of course, from a practical standpoint, it’s not a great value proposition for HFs to hire an AP if they have to (a) pay federal or their state/local minimum wage; (b) not get credit for room and board; and (c) have to pay the stipend every week no matter what. But that’s the rub and it’s where the “will this program even continue” questions arises.

Full Circle July 28, 2016 at 8:03 am

I (somewhat) understand the confusion for some APs about the value of what they get. But really, it is not unfair at all! When I tell people unfamiliar with the AP program how much we pay and what APs get, their response is often “wow! Can they live with $200 a week?” but after explaining more, everyone gets it. Like other have said before, there is no way that they would have $200 left in their wallet after paying for the cost of living, not counting the upgrade on their living standard (relative to pay) that they would definitely not be able to afford. Good luck affording car, private room, utilities and all the extras offered to them on what their saltines could be. I was an AP many years ago and have really not been able to have the same lifestyle since. I was getting a reliable income straight in my bank account and my family paid for EVERYTHING (even my gas). I was able to travel all over the US, have an amazing wardrobe, go to concerts, eat out regularly, and basically do whatever I wanted. Life after being an AP was definitely a downgrade (big one) once I had to work and pay for my own things. While I know that not all families offer all kinds of perks and upgrades (we don’t simply bc we can’t afford it), it’s still usually more than what an AP would be able to afford on her own (that’s true for us). Anyway, I’m ranting but I think APs just don’t realize what life costs here in the US and that labor laws are not the same as they may have at home (especially Europeans but some South American countries are also used to much more than we get here). They actually get perks like paid vacation that many Americans don’t get. Once I explained the costs involved to our AP, she quickly got it. But I understand why an AP living with a very wealthy family can feel like they could afford to pay her more for a stipend (which may be true but it doesn’t mean that they should pay her more)

The increase in cost would mean the death of AP program for us for sure. Not sure that would be a fair outcome for families and APs who are happy to come on the current terms. It’s not meant to be a “get rich” year anyway.

Miata Mom July 28, 2016 at 2:12 pm

One thing we learned after hosting our 1st au pair last year was to be smart about scheduling her vacation time. Our au pair took two week off as two separate whole weeks at a time. So that meant that instead of being able to ask my Mom to babysit a single day here and there throughout the year, I had to pay a sitter to fill in for an entire week at a time (at $450/week!). This time, we are trying to coordinate as much of the au pair’s vacation time with our vacation time so that we don’t have $900 in back-up childcare expenses this year.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 28, 2016 at 10:05 pm

In general, the AP should control one week and the HF the other (meaning the AP takes her vacation week when you take a vacation week – unless you want her to join you and work). I have a school-age child (well, actually, I have 2, but the AP is only responsible for 1) – this year the AP took her vacation while the child was in camp (we have offered other weekdays off as recompense for working at the weekend – and we traditionally give federal holidays off because DH and I don’t go to work on those days). If your children are infants, toddlers, or preschoolers, I understand that a full week off really impacts your lifestyle (but it might really aid in her mental health). Once your children reach school age, then it’s okay to insist that your AP take her vacation while your children are in school to minimize your need to take time off to care for them.

Miata Mom July 28, 2016 at 10:38 pm

I’m okay with a full week, as long as we can coordinate it with a time when we’re off too, like around Xmas time in December we usually take a week or so to travel and see relatives, so that would be a perfect time for our au pair to schedule her time as well. We didn’t think of that last year, we just let her pick any weeks she wanted. You have to be a little flexible, because we want her to be able to coordinate trips with her friends, but this year if we give our new au pair enough notice about the dates hopefully she will still be able to do this. Our kids aren’t in school yet, so backup childcare for us is a full work week for somebody.

HRHM July 29, 2016 at 2:07 pm

We make it clear in interviewing that our AP must take both her vacation weeks when we take ours or during away camp. I get three weeks of vacation each year and so she usually gets more than two weeks off anyway (and we have to pay regardless) so if we take our three weeks to travel and the girls have their away camp in the summer and then she takes her two weeks on other weeks, we are then paying for 6-7 weeks of vacation for her PLUS help on the two weeks she’s gone on vacation. Not happening. Even with our system, we end up paying for 4-5 weeks.

FWIW, I’ve never had an AP not take the match due to this requirement. We know in advance every year which weeks they are, they are well spaced (Sept, Spring Break and either summer or xmas break) and the advance notice allows them to plan what they want to do with time to spare.

Miata Mom July 29, 2016 at 2:18 pm

Wow, sounds like a great deal for your au pair to have 6-7 weeks of paid vacation! Definitely reasonable for her to coordinate both vacation weeks with yours.

2 kids and a cat July 29, 2016 at 6:40 pm

We are also able to be very generous with off-time, but we are unlikely to do paid bonuses (I work in a field that does not give any bonuses, so I just don’t think that way about doing the job you were hired to do). As a family member, we offer her the same kinds of splurges we might offer our kids (but appropriate for her age! We looked this time around for someone who would appreciate being able to travel more instead of being treated to regular pedicures. Our last AP talked openly from day 1 (the ride from the airport) how great it is when host families give things since it saves them money. I felt like she had her hand out the entire time she was with us and I found myself pushing back to be less generous than I naturally would have been.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 30, 2016 at 9:37 pm

It was another HM who gave me the tip that you don’t always need to give your AP plenty of paid vacation just because the HK is not in the house. Have the AP tidy the bedroom(s); sort the toys, check for library books on the bookshelves, pull out clothing that is too small (you’ll have to give her a sample against which to judge), or switch the winter/summer clothing. For example, we often travel for Passover while our APs are enrolled in a college-credit close and choose not to join us – a perfect time to switch the winter/summer wardrobes and wash the winter coats. We’ve had APs choose to take the week as a vacation week (even though it means I get to do to the task – and that’s fine with me).

Look, we all want to accommodate New Year’s in Manhattan – and it’s more than okay to give a stellar AP an extra day or few days off as a reward so she can join friends and realize why you only hang out in Times Square once on New Year’s. But that doesn’t mean you have to bend over backwards so your AP can have every trip with her friends. We all make choices – and while I would bend over backwards for my current AP – and several of her predecessors – I wouldn’t have done it for all of them. It’s more than OK to demand that your APs 1) take their vacation while your kids are in school, in camp, or while you are on vacation or 2) that she pick one week when she absolutely wants to be off with family and friends and you pick one week when it’s convenient. HF are required to give 2 weeks paid vacation – everything else should be icing on the cake for a job well done! Bending over backward to accommodate visiting family or friends – or for traveling with her AP besties should be a reward for being a rockstar (and you should be blunt about it when agreeing, “I normally wouldn’t give up my own vacation time for an AP, but you’ve done such a great job that I’m willing to do it. I know you’ll continue to show your great attitude when you return.” (Remember many of your APs come from countries where 6 weeks of holiday is the norm, so they may not realize what your vacation days mean when you accommodate their wishes.)

American Host Mom in Europe July 31, 2016 at 4:42 am

Like TACL, we will often schedule our AP to work if she isn’t vacationing with us. Seasonal clothes swapping, extra linen changes / airing beds, cleaning out and organizing all the toys in the playroom, or baking and freezing for future use.

No idea if this would work in the US, but our agreement with APs stipulates that they can take a full week vacation when we are on vacation (generally July or December), and their second week should be done as long weekends – e.g., an extra Friday and/or Monday (they only work M-F), and exceptions are to be discussed well in advance. We have accommodated exceptions several times. This has made it much easier for us to plan, and hasn’t been a problem for anyone – although we aren’t in a country where there are many au pairs or organized programs, so they don’t meet others to travel with in the same way as the US.

oranje_mama July 29, 2016 at 1:40 pm

$200 in your pocket every week, with no taxes taken out, no food to buy, or rent to pay for . . . and in many cases, no phone bill, no car or gas expenses . . . when you are 18 years old and have no job qualifications? This is not a bad deal.

Taking a Computer Lunch July 30, 2016 at 9:46 pm

We give stellar APs one week’s salary and a bunch of practical little gifts (or if they are extension APs – gifts that reflect better knowledge of her) for Christmas. In reality in our city where there is a 10% on restaurant meals – eating out with friends is a luxury. APs in the United States have to pay income tax, depending on when they arrive (those that arrive in June fare better than those who arrive at any other time of the year). We make our APs pay for gas – although if they’re savvy (and many have been), then they know that DH and I will gas up the AP car on date night.

Bottom line for APs who are looking to match in the U.S. – caveat emptor (buyer beware)! Every HF is different, and the bottom line may really affect how much of your stipend will be affected by the choices you make. I’ve had careful APs who spent a week in Hawaii at the end of their year, and APs who spent their travel month at home with us because they had not saved a dime!

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