Interviewing and choosing someone who you can trust with your kids is a taxing chore. Once you choose the right person, figuring out how much to pay them can be even more of a challenge.
So, how much should you pay a babysitter? Well, it depends on a lot of different factors, and it can be a tough decision to make. You may even find that you pay one babysitter more than another, even when you task them with the same responsibilities.
It’s important to keep the following things in mind when deciding how much to pay your babysitter, because not only do you want to pay a fair rate, you need to make sure you can afford the going rate for a sitter, or they won’t be back to help you again.
1. Check your market
According to a recent survey, the average hourly rate for one child is $16. Depending on where you live and how many kids you have, you may pay more or less than that. Gone are the days of cheap babysitters for a fancy date night.
If you live on one of the coasts where the cost of living is high, you could be looking at paying $17 or more per hour. Tack on an extra $5-7 for each additional child. Per hour. Midwest rates are lower, but Phoenix was home to the cheapest babysitters at around $11 an hour.
This may sound like a racket, but it’s important to pay the going rate for several reasons. First, if you value your babysitter and want her to return, you need to treat her right. Second, good childcare is hard to find, and you want to hang on to it. And finally, you need someone you can trust on your side, so compensating your babysitter for their time and effort is critical.
2. Consider the number of children
If you have more than one child, you should probably consider paying your babysitter more. While more children doesn’t always equate to more work, it certainly can feel overwhelming for someone who doesn’t have kids of their own.
Multiple children can entertain each other, which can sometimes take the pressure off, but it also means making multiple meals, drawing multiple baths, and managing multiple bedtimes.
While the cost shouldn’t rise exponentially, you should compensate your babysitter for the number of children they watch.
3. Be respectful of your babysitter’s hours
Some parents admit to compensating their babysitter more when they’re required to work odd hours. Early in the morning before school or late at night is worth more than a steady, summer gig during the day.
The same goes for weekends or holidays. Pay your babysitter more if you are asking them to take time away from studying, their family, or their friends. And don’t ever expect them to choose your family over their own. There will simply be times when they have to tell you no.
4. Have a backup
If your normal babysitter is unavailable, always have a backup. This is likely someone who has watched your kids before, but doesn’t do it frequently. Maybe they are younger, or less experienced, but you still feel comfortable calling on them in a pinch.
You may feel comfortable paying this person slightly less because of their age or inexperience, but be very careful never to indicate that you don’t appreciate them, or the next time you’re in a bind, the answer will be no.
5. Consider leaving a tip
While not all parents tip, it’s a good rule of thumb to round up a bit when forking over the cash. If you owe your babysitter $45, round up to $50. In the grand scheme of things, it’s only $5 extra, but it will make your babysitter feel like you value their contribution to your night away.
6. Sign up for a babysitting site
A lot of parents trust sites like Care.com to set the going rate or even recommend a sitter. Sites like this cost a membership fee, but have a pretty serious vetting process, so many parents feel comfortable using sites like these when they need help.
Babysitters also have to pay money to list themselves on the site, so they have skin in the game, too. They typically don’t want to make themselves look bad or they’ll lose their investment.
This can be a great way to find an awesome babysitter with plenty of experience, and you’ll be able to see their rates and availability up front. No surprises.
7. Do your research
Ask other parents what they pay. This is especially important if you share sitters. Word gets around fast when a group of teenage girls all rotate watching the same families and find out that one set of parents pays more than the other.
Or even worse, that the same set of parents pay each babysitter a different rate for doing the same work. If you run in the same circles with these families or you hired a babysitter that a friend of yours recommended, make sure you find out what they pay, or at least a ballpark.
8. Evaluate their experience
Just like most jobs, the employer pays based on experience. If you want a babysitter you can trust, you’re going to pay more for someone who has experience and knows what they’re doing.
You might be able to get away with paying less for the middle schooler next door, because she’s just a short walk away, and her parents will be home if there’s a true emergency.
However, if you hire a high schooler or someone even older, with a lot more babysitting experience, they’re going to expect to be compensated for their time, the gas they used to drive over, and the time they’re investing in helping you out.
Setting the Rate
The bottom line is this: you will likely pay at least $11 per hour for one child. If you live where the cost of living is high, the going rate is typically $17 for one child. Add between $2 and $5 for each additional child, again evaluating the cost of living in your market.
After that, evaluating experience, the time of day, and any tip you may want to leave is all up to you. While there are plenty of factors to consider, you can generally feel out the situation on a case by case basis.
A great way to navigate this procedure is to propose a rate you feel comfortable with ahead of time, allowing your babysitter to request a higher rate or turn down the job if they don’t feel comfortable.