Baby Care

Dave Ramsey shames dad for child care expenses and gets a major reality check

If you walked into a room full of parents and asked how many of them are struggling to afford child care, chances are good that a majority would raise their hands. Any parent can tell you that child care costs are a huge financial burden — one that only seems to grow with each passing year — but apparently at least one prominent U.S. financial expert hasn’t gotten the memo.

On a new episode of “The Ramsey Show,” hosted by personal finance expert Dave Ramsey, a Philadelphia dad called in for advice on how to manage his family’s ballooning child care costs. Rather than receiving helpful guidance, Ramsey proceeded to shame the dad for the “stupid” amount of money he spends on daycare. His vicious response has thousands of frustrated parents speaking out about the exorbitant cost of care and how out-of-touch public figures like Ramsey just don’t get it.

“The daycare we use is $25,000 per kid”

In a video shared on Ramsey’s TikTok page, a caller identified as “Dave from Philadelphia” tells Ramsey he needs help because he and his wife both make decent wages, but they’re still struggling to make ends meet. According to the caller, he works full time and his wife is in residency to become a doctor. Both of their kids attend daycare, which costs them about $50,000 per year. Then, they also have to pay extra fees for early morning, evening and summer care.

“The base tuition for the daycare we use is $25,000 per kid,” the dad explains. “Then, we pay extra for early care and after-care, and it doesn’t go during the summer, so during the summer we need a nanny.”

In total, the caller says he and his wife pay nearly $80,000 per year in child care costs. It’s a situation many people can relate to, but Ramsey didn’t react that way. Instead, as the dad broke down his expenses, Ramsey reacted with fury.

“You guys have lost your minds,” he snapped. “I mean, are they going to Harvard? What the crap? They’re not even in school, and you’re already paying $25,000 a head. Come on, Dude. That’s just dumber than crap. I don’t care how much money you make. There’s not enough money in the world that doesn’t make that stupid.”

In addition to calling the dad “dumb” and “stupid,” Ramsey and his cohost offered almost nothing in the way of meaningful advice. They suggested the family simply “downgrade” their child care or “find a free summer camp” — as if that’s possible for everyone.

It’s true that Dave from Philadelphia spends a lot of money on daycare, but what Ramsey fails to realize is that spending $25,000 per kid on child care isn’t outlandish. In fact, it’s quickly becoming the new normal in the U.S., and shaming parents won’t fix the problem.

This is how much child care really costs in the U.S.

More than half of U.S. parents say they spend over 27% of their household income on child care expenses, according to the 2023 Cost of Care Survey. Costs also vary widely depending on where someone lives, how many kids they have and the quality and experience level of their care providers. In Washington, D.C., for example, daycare costs an average of $417 per week for one child. In states like Washington, California and Massachusetts, parents with one kid can expect to spend anywhere from $288-326 per week.

In response to Ramsey’s child care-shaming video, parents all over the country wasted no time letting him know exactly how much they pay for care — and how out of touch they think he is.

“You missed on this one, Dave. Child care costs are astronomical. My kids cost around $3,200 per month,” one parent writes.

“Dave, I live out in the woods in northern New Jersey, and we pay $16,000 per year for our one kid in daycare,” another person adds. “Child care is expensive in this country.”

Parents also took Ramsey to task for suggesting free or lower cost child care as a possible solution. “Free summer camp hasn’t existed in decades,” one parent explains. “I pay $320/week for my 1-year-old, plus $180/week each [per kid] for after-school care for my older two. $680/week = $35,360 per year.”

“I’m a stay-at-home mom because I can’t find a job that will allow me to pay for daycare,” another parent adds. “Dude, the cheap daycare here is $700 per kid per week.”

Why is child care so expensive?

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), child care is considered affordable when it costs families no more than 7% of their household income. But, as evidenced by the child care costs reported by real parents, that figure is an unattainable dream for most families.

Instead, they’re shouldering the full burden of rising costs with little to no help. Emergency funding that helped to subsidize child care costs during the pandemic expired at the end of September of last year, leading to the child care cliff. Additionally, many providers that closed in the early days of COVID still haven’t reopened. As a result, parents are left fighting for a limited number of child care spots with increasingly high prices. Meanwhile, child care providers are also struggling to pay their workers fairly and cover rising operational costs.

It’s not far-fetched to say the U.S. child care system is in crisis, and mocking parents won’t change that. Parents can try their best to take advantage of child care tax credits, research subsidies or form cost-saving nanny shares and child care co-ops. But, for the majority of parents, child care costs are and will continue to be high until systemic change happens — and that isn’t their fault.

The bottom line

If the cost of child care seems shockingly high, that’s because it often is. But telling parents to simply find a cheaper day care isn’t a meaningful solution to the problem. Children deserve quality care, and child care providers deserve to be paid fairly for the vital work that they do. Public figures like Ramsey are in a unique position to use their platforms to advocate for child care reform that could benefit millions of families.

Parents might be able to cut out their weekly latte to save a few dollars, but they can’t simply get rid of their child care bill. Child care is a vital service that supports the majority of working parents in this country, and it’s beyond time to start treating it like the necessary infrastructure that it is.

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