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How much do you pay your babysitters?

Never underestimate the gift of a good sitter, but how do you keep them coming back without breaking the bank?

I realize this is a potentially nosy question, but I’m not talking about what you pay in childcare or how much your nanny costs or anything like that. I’m talking, you and your man want to go out to dinner and you get the neighbor girl, the daycare teacher, or your cousin’s daughter to come over and watch your kids. How much do you pay her or him? Perhaps more importantly, how much do you tip?

The other night, I arranged to go to a cooking class with some friends. Based on my son having school and my usual watchers being unavailable, I realized I needed to move into the babysitter world. I was gone for five hours and got in late. The babysitter fed and assisted him with homework. She cleaned up the kitchen and emptied the dishwasher. However, she didn’t make them dinner, organize their closets, or teach them Spanish. My son was asleep for 80 percent of the time. A $50 felt a little steep…but was it?

I typically pay $12-$15 an hour for the sitters I have in rotation. I feel like this is standard for where I live, but where it gets tricky (and expensive) is the tip. One local mom commented: “We have all sorts of justifications for why we need to add more and more onto the base. We tip more on the weekend. We tip more when we get home late. We tip more when she has him in the morning. We tip more when she arrives early enough to have to juggle both kids for a while. And we tip more when we don’t have change. In addition, we tip more when we come home tipsy.  In other words, we tip a lot.” I have done that, especially if I was working and received a large tip myself. I do it because I feel I should share it, or if my son is acting up, or if she was able to deal with his issues. I have been forced home on many occasions, as the sitters and my son were not a perfect fit. To avoid an interruption or just knowing that they can handle it makes it worth the extra tip.

I generally like to be generous because I want them to always say yes when I text last minute: “Any chance u can watch the kid’s tomorrow night?” The big, super-important bottom line: I trust them all with my kids, my kids love them and it is a complete non-issue (i.e., no tears, no guilt, and no worries.)

In addition, I wonder if we are setting a higher and higher precedent that, eventually, is going to make going out hurt more financially than it already does. When I was younger, I was always paid well as a babysitter, but I never recall making the type of money I pay out. Although if our children are safe and we trust the sitters, why should we not pay it out? There is nothing like free babysitters. I repeat, if you do not live near family, consider moving! Most of my family lives in Florida, with the exception of my nephew, who lives with me. If it weren’t for him and my fantastic friends, who are willing to help me out at anytime when I want to get away for a weekend, I would definitely travel less.

Toby Mueller May 25, 2011 at 06:26 PM
Great topic Lisa. If you ever need a sitter at the $15 an hour rate, let me know. I am ready, willing and able to sit. I even do windows. Seriously though, getting a trust worthy sitter is tough to find and retain. They are worth every penny when found. I really think that it is not cut and dried for paying them a fair rate. It really depends on many things. How much time with the kids or TV, or whether they do extra things for you.
Terri May 26, 2011 at 01:10 PM
I have two boys and pay my college-student sitter $7.00 an hour. She doesn't have to do any chores and is fed well.
Stephanie St. Martin May 26, 2011 at 05:24 PM
There's a lot that goes into the big "how much to pay a babysitter" question. I think there should be a cheaper rate if your kid is going to be asleep all night. I checked Care.com's Babysitter Pay Rate Calculator (http://www.care.com/child-care-babysitter-pay-calculator-p1140.html) to see what the rate is in Mount Pleasant--if a sitter has no experience and is watching only one child, the average rate is $9.50. Anytime I hire a sitter, I will present this info to them. Sometimes, if they are just there while my kids sleep, I will go a little lower. A weekday night should be standard amount--weekends, a $1 more an hour. This calculator is based on the location, the number of kids, and the experience level. I would present this and see if you can negotiate to an amount everyone is comfortable with.
Lee Beth May 27, 2011 at 05:17 AM
I am a parent of a babysitter. She is a college student, dean's list, loves kids. She has her own car, so transportation to and fro is not an issue. She asks $10 per hour and frequently is paid more than that. I think that some of the issues raised here are irrelevancies as far as base pay rate goes. If the kids are asleep, I realize the workload is less, but if she had a job in retail and the store was quiet she would still be receiving her pay. Even as a waitress, while she would not be earning tips, her base salary would continue with no customers at all. The issue is that it is her time that is being used, and the opportunity cost associated with that time. I also think that the base rate is for 1 or 2 children, and should go up if there are more kids involved. Recently I had a friend ask if my daughter would be available to sit for her child for a week following surgery. She is only offering $5 an hour, because her other child will not be home. She said that is what day care costs. I suggested that one-on-one care in your own home is a whole separate pay scale (and level of service) from day care, and that perhaps a young teen would be willing to babysit for that much money, but not an adult. She replied that the teens would still be in school. She did not realize that for that very reason she would need to pay more! There are few adults available for a one week only job. I empathize with her dilemna, but that is the cost of being a parent.
Candi May 27, 2011 at 05:43 PM
If you are looking for a full-time live-in babysitter position, you may wonder what the compensation may be for your work. Live-in babysitter compensation varies from state to state: the average is a range of $250 to $850 per week. If you are working as a babysitter in a state with a higher cost of living, you should receive a higher compensation. Babysitter compensation also varies based on the number of children to be attended to, the ages of those children, and whether you will be expected to perform peripheral job tasks (cooking, cleaning, driving, handling medications, etc.). The larger the number of children you will be watching, the younger those children are, and the greater the number and complexity of the peripheral tasks asked of you . . . the more your base pay will likely... http://tinyurl.com/2fqc48l

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