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How Much Do You Really Pay A Babysitter?

By Amalah

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


“How much do you charge?”


“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

Amy Corbett Storch


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 Ama...

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 [email protected].

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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