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How Much Do You Really Pay A Babysitter?

May16

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Dear Amalah,

I assume you have answered this question before, but searching the site hasn’t brought anything up. I’ve googled and come up with a WIDE range of answers, but I have been reading your blog and advice column since my son was born and trust your advice exponentially more than those anonymous experts that pop up with a search engine.

I understand that what you pay a babysitter varies depending on a bunch of factors– where you live, how old they are, how many kids you have, etc. That may be true, but it’s not very helpful to me. Answers I’ve seen vary between $5-20/hour. My instinct says $8/hour or so seems fair and appropriate for what I need, but I just want to make sure I’m not WAY off the mark. I’ve probably been overprotective up to now, never hiring anyone to watch my (only) child and just using family or skipping things and staying home myself when I couldn’t get anyone, but he’s about to start preschool so I’m feeling ready to start letting go a bit more and expose him to a wider range of people. Plus, my husband is traveling more often now for work and situations are coming up often enough where I can’t just opt to stay home that I feel like I’m taking advantage of family members and I should probably just suck it up and find someone I can pay to watch my precious, energetic 4 year old boy. I’ve had lots of offers from friends and friends-of-friends, etc. to babysit, so finding someone shouldn’t be a problem, but we had our son young, so most of my friends do not have kids–while they are great for supplying babysitters, they can’t help much in the arena of the childcare pay scale. Last time I babysat anyone was the early 2000s and I generally got paid $5/hour for a typical evening of childcare.

My sense is that the price has gone up since then. Additionally, it seems like that rate would be inappropriate since most of our sitters are college-age or older. They probably won’t have child development-related degrees or anything, but they have or will soon have graduated from college and are supplementing their income or looking for a job in their field. As I said, I only have one child and, while energetic, he is well-behaved and easy to love and I’m not expecting anyone to do my laundry, drive him around or make him a four course meal or anything. I just need someone to keep him happy and safe in my home for a few hours here and there. We live in the Midwest in a fairly suburban area near a college town. Any pointers/guidelines you have would be appreciated. I would like to be generous with someone I’m trusting to care for my child, but not unreasonably so. Is there a secret excel spreadsheet somewhere that the more experienced parents are using to calculate their babysitting rates? If so, can you share? If not… could you make one? :)

Thanks a bunch!
Overprotective Mom of One

Try:

“How much do you charge?”

Or:

“What’s your hourly rate?

I assume you plan to interview any and all potential sitters (and check references!), and this is a perfectly reasonable, acceptable question to ask. Because the rate varies SO MUCH, even among similarly experienced applicants in the same geographic area.

Around here (near DC, where everything is HOLY MALTBALLS EXPENSIVE), $5 to $8 would likely be pretty inappropriate for anyone older than, say a junior high mother’s helper. The “going rate” is generally over $10 an hour, I’d guesstimate, but still depends. When we were interviewing part-time nanny candidates about three years ago, MOST of the rates discussed fell between $12 and $15. But that was for  a regular, long-term placement with a background check, two (then three!) kids, driving required, help with housework, etc. Every applicant I liked (generally former au pairs with a ton of experience) asked for the high end of the pay scale. In fact, I hired the most “expensive” sitter I interviewed, because I simply felt she was worth it and reeeeeally didn’t want to choose THIS particular expense to cheap out on. But the rate was discussed and negotiated and set in stone before her first day of work, so it was never me just kind of…handing over a vague-ish amount of dollars and hoping it was enough.

Before that, we had a few college-aged or fresh-out-of-college sitters for nights and weekends, and generally went with $10 an hour, but always rounded up generously at the end of the night. (Mostly because we wanted to be their first choice if they sat for other families and everybody tried to call dibs on the same Friday night!) Now we usually use our regular nanny or one of her friends (who are also former au pairs/fellow nannies/daycare workers) for nights and weekends and pay more per hour…but again, we have THREE CRAZY BOY CHILDREN, including a BABY, and I like coming home to find that the professional sitter has given them baths and cleaned the dinner dishes and cleaned up toys and ahhhhh, here’s a bajillion dollars. I don’t care. I love you.

But! Even that’s not directly relevant to you and your situation. $10 to $15 an hour here in DC might be highway robbery where you live, or maybe your college town has seen NYC-like inflation levels and everybody is asking for $20. You won’t know until you get out there and start asking. But you are totally allowed to ask, I promise. No, there is no secret handshake or spreadsheet we’re keeping from you about how much we pay our babysitters. You could certainly peruse the listings on your local Craigslist or Sittercity and see what rate is being advertised (on both jobs available and jobs wanted)…but you’ll also see that a lot of listings leave that information out. Or sitters will post a wide range that depends on the  job details (number of kids, driving, cooking, mom-at-home vs. solo gig).  Either way, the specific financials are discussed later, during the interview.

If there’s an upper limit to what you’re comfortable paying, that’s fine. Not every applicant is going to be a good fit for a variety of reasons, and money can be one of them. A college girl from a very small town, or someone whose experience mostly involved younger siblings, may charge less than someone from a big city or who is pursuing an early education degree, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t a wonderful, responsible babysitter. You can interview and check references and compare rates…but there’s still a lot of gut instinct “I like and feel good about this person watching my child” involved in the process as well.

And if you offer $8 and they counter with $10, I don’t think that’s going to cause anyone to turn the job down in an insulted huff: A good sitter will cut a first-time hiring mom some slack for not knowing the local “going rate.” If there even is one.

Photo source: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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19 Responses to “How Much Do You Really Pay A Babysitter?”

  1. Susan May 16 at 1:52 pm Reply Reply

    We live in Los Angeles and used Sittercity to find our (totally effing awesome) nanny/babysitter. They have a handy calculator on their site that tells you the ballpark rate for your area and needs. Our nanny/sitter is a college graduate, she watches our one child, and she started at $15/hour. We’ve given her a raise of $1 per year. It’s pricey, but she’s amazing and has taught our daughter all kinds of awesome things and like Amy said, if you like your sitter you want to find some way of making your family his or her first choice. And childcare’s not the time to save money. 

  2. Rachel Meeks May 16 at 2:10 pm Reply Reply

    In Texas where everything is generally less expensive, I pay based on the babysitter’s age and experience. Adult (part-time): $12/hour, high school student: $8/hour, inexperienced junior high student: $6/hour to help out while I’m here.

    We have two nicely-behaved children and I hire babysitters for convenient daytime hours, not late weekend nights. They also live close enough that they can walk and not have to drive.

    Whenever I ask teenagers how much they charge, they never know what to say, or they’ll say a rate that is too low. Basically, teenagers want you to offer a rate. Our usual (great) teenage babysitter said she would work for $5/hour, but I told her that was too low and I would pay her $8. I want her to want to babysit for us.

  3. jL May 16 at 2:26 pm Reply Reply

    We had a nanny that babysat for my twins every day for their first year of life. We paid her $11/hour (also in the Washington DC area). My best friend asked if she could drop off her son for one morning a week while she went to a meeting and offered to pay $18 for the morning – which ended up being about 5 hours once a week. Our sitter was really offended at that rate.

    My BF was used to paying $35/day for drop off care so she figured half of that was reasonable but my nanny was used to being paid $10-$15/hour so essentially the BF was offering to pay her $3/hour. It was really awkward. I definitely agree that asking for a rate is great advice. Also, know what your max limit is and if they don’t give you a rate, offer that. When we have gotten sitters for evening/weekend events we have paid between $15-$20/hour for high schoolers.

  4. pogita May 16 at 4:03 pm Reply Reply

    We live in a college/military town. In fact I am a professor. I stopped using college students for the most part because of how often they would agree to sit and then cancel at the last minute. The students charged just as much as the grown-ups in our area and were WAY less reliable. Now my $10.00 an hour goes to a professional nanny. Sadly, that rate does NOT include help with housework. I understand that that kind of help runs $15.00 to $20.00 an hour. Sadly I still have to do the laundry.

  5. Kimberly May 16 at 4:27 pm Reply Reply

    $10/hr in Lincoln, NE with generous rounding up at the end of the evening.

  6. Jeannie May 16 at 5:07 pm Reply Reply

    Out here in Vancouver (Canada) I pay anywhere between $8/hour and $20/hour, depending on expertise. The low end is your high school student with minimal experience who takes my 5 year old to the park when I’m at home; the $20 is for my early childhood education certified nanny with 20 years experience to handle both my kids, make them dinner, put them to bed and maybe clean up after if there’s time.

    But I agree — I just ask. Even teenagers can say “my last job paid me $10 an hour”.

  7. Liz May 16 at 5:19 pm Reply Reply

    I had a regular college-aged sitter.  To watch my younger child alone, which she did for a couple of hours twice a week, I paid $10/hour.  He was ~8 months old at the time.  In my part of the San Francisco Bay Area, that seems to be a decent rate for very occasional help with one child.  

  8. Beth May 16 at 7:32 pm Reply Reply

    Central NJ: the sixth grade twins on our block charge $7/hour each, but they also always babysit together, so it ends up being $14. We only use them for short periods in the daytime, when they’re not far away and their mother is also home if they need a hand. We pay our favorite college student $15 which feels steep, but DOES buy us loyalty — and that’s important. Plus, she can drive our daughter places and even take her to the pool — she’s a certified lifeguard!

  9. A May 17 at 8:59 am Reply Reply

    I live in the DC area too and for a college age student with experience I found that the going rate is $15-$20 per hour. I have 3 kids so it will always at the high end of that. I used to babysit multiple kids for around $10-$12 about 6 years ago so I had a little sticker shock. Unfortunately we can’t really afford that right now so we try to rotate family members/friends. We did pay a babysitter once so we could go out to dinner for a special occasion but I felt resentful paying the babysitter about $50 for 2.5 hours to sit on the couch with my kids and watch movies. Guess I’m stingy ;-)

  10. Hillary May 17 at 1:24 pm Reply Reply

    I am also stingy – my kid is super easy and I don’t need someone with a college degree, let alone a masters in early childhood education. I live in Boston and posted a job on SitterCity specifying a rate of $10/hr and that the sitter needed to be able to provide her own transportation. I found a great high school grad that watched my daughter a few times during the day so I could hang out with my husband for a few hours. She ended up having a kid of her own and didn’t want to watch both kids. I also found a college grad on SitterCity with my $10/hr job post who asked for a higher rate when I interviewed her. I told her that wasn’t really an option. Then she stole cash, jewelry and my leftover oxy from my c-section in the 2 hrs we left my daughter with her. It sucked a lot (SitterCity was really great about this, btw). Now we pay $15/hr to one of my daughter’s daycare teachers and hardly ever go out. :/ Be careful and remember you get what you pay for!

  11. leslie May 17 at 2:30 pm Reply Reply

    We just recently paid a babysitter for the first time (we are lucky that my mom lives close by and generally jumps at any chance to watch our daughter). I knew the going rate in our area (suburbs of Chicago) was $10-12/hour . We used the 16-year-old daughter of my coworker, who happens to live on our block. We did not discuss a rate before hand, except for her mom telling us to pay her “whatever”, and my husband and I decided on $12/hour…we didn’t want to be the stingy babysitters no one wants to sit for. In the end, it came to $70 (we rounded up). So, there you have it. $12/hour to watch a well behaved 19-month old who, I might add, was sleeping the majority of the time. Looking back, I think we should have gone with $10. But it’s water under the bridge. All I can say is thank goodness for Grandma, b/c I don’t think I could swallow that on a regular basis.

  12. Christine May 17 at 4:02 pm Reply Reply

    I live just outside of San Francisco – also an incredibly expensive area.  I’m paying $20/hour to my babysitter while I work from home (I’m still nursing, so I take baby breaks and she cleans the kitchen and cooks lunch for us). 

    For high school students, I think a common system is a dollar per grade: $9/hr for ninth grade, etc.  my 12 yr old was making $5+ as a mothers helper (mom still at home, just playing with the baby).

  13. Rachel May 21 at 3:14 pm Reply Reply

    $15/hr in Minneapolis, for one child (no meal prep, no bath, no putting to bed). I pay more because I hire child care workers from my daughter’s (excellent) preschool so they already know my child and have great child care experience and first aid training.

  14. EMO May 22 at 12:44 am Reply Reply

    Try this babysitting rate calculator from care.com….

    http://www.care.com/babysitting-rates

  15. C May 23 at 6:48 pm Reply Reply

    ya, we are bay area too. for our professional nanny we pay $17/hour for two kids (this is on the low side but our nanny speaks only spanish which makes the person cheaper), and for our 19 year old babysitter we pay $11 and she seems happy with it. 

  16. Candi May 24 at 12:39 pm Reply Reply

    When you are hired as a babysitter, you have the option of negotiating your pay rate, even if you work with an agency. The babysitter agency will place you in a position, but you are free to negotiate your work schedule and pay with the family. You will not want to sign a contract until you have come to an agreement concerning your compensation.

    Remain calm during the negotiation. You may be inclined to feel hurt or defensive because you think that the parents are trying to minimize your value, but in reality the parents are trying to be conservative with their money. Both parties to… http://tinyurl.com/2fqc48l

  17. vanessa Jun 01 at 7:12 pm Reply Reply

    you guys seriously pay that little? I’ve been babysitting since I was 10, and at the age of 26 I currently charge $17/hour. I would be seriously offended if someone offered 10 bucks an hour. Babysitting is a skill. It’s one thing to hire a teenager to watch your preschooler for a couple hours after school, but if you want someone who is really going to take care of your children in a comprehensive kind of way–the way you might–you’ll need to shell out.

  18. cha Jan 10 at 12:40 pm Reply Reply

    so with these insane rates, what is a parent to do that only makes $14/hour themselves? Don’t say “you shouldnt have had kids”, because my kids go to private daycare and it is only $150/week for 2, plus my oldest goes to school. If I paid $10/hour “school holidays”, etc, after paying insurance and benefits I’m in the negative. Coops or friends are the way to go if you can! I found an old high school friend’s sister who is 20 and is agreeable to $50/day .I think that is fair, esp. since I also have to still pay the $150/week at daycare.

  19. Lily Nov 03 at 12:30 am Reply Reply

    Hello,

    I live in the Bay Area and many of my friends including my self charge over $20dls an hour. Most of us are Early Childhood Profesionals. The Bay Area is one of the most highest pay for any area (including babysitting). Their is always an alternative and that is getting a teenager for $10 dls an hour. It’s your call either pay a professional or ….
    Good luck!!

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