“How much do babysitters cost these days?” My husband asked when we were about to go on our first date after my oldest was born.
“I don’t know. I was paid $20 an hour, but that was for 2 kids. So…” I trailed off.
My husband’s boss had a teenage daughter that came over later that week to watch Jenn. We went out to dinner, watched a movie, and came back to dish out $100 for her time and attention watching our daughter.
The next day Chris’s boss very sheepishly came by his desk and handed him most of that money back. “You paid her way too much. It was very generous, but unnecessary.”
But she was the reason we go to invest in our marriage and was responsible for our daughter’s life. But it did start an interesting discussion about how much is too much. And what is the appropriate rate to pay a babysitter?
It’s a common discussion heard among mothers at playdates, mom groups, and the topic of multiple threads on social media. It seems that prices vary across various locations in the United States, and it depends more on location than anything.
A general acceptable hourly wage is different in California than it is in Georgia. Here are some guidelines to follow, and some tips to help you decide how much you should pay your babysitter.
What is a Good Rate to Pay My Child’s Babysitter?
It’s important to pay your nanny or babysitter the fees s/he deserves for their
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Pay a caregiver based on expertise
Does your babysitter have an extra skill set that makes her more valuable to your children’s specific needs?
Does he/she have specialized training that benefits your child substantially? For example, if your child has dyslexia, and your babysitter possesses training in the research-based Orton-Gillingham method of tutoring and helps him with his homework every afternoon, then you should consider compensating her for that skill set. Or when I was nannying kids, I had a certification from the red cross for different emergency situations such as CPR.
Is your nanny a retired teacher or perhaps a homeschool mom who is used to the management of multiple children and responsibilities? Perhaps she has an investment in the education of your child as well as his/her basic care. If she takes the time to plan and complete educational or developmental activities for your children, that makes her more valuable.
Even having the ability to cook meals, do laundry, or possessing a license to drive makes her time with your children more valuable. If she’s willing to take some of the responsibility off your shoulders, then you should pay her well for those things.
The behavior of your children can affect the price. If you know that one of your children has a tendency to act out or be disagreeable, then keeping a good babysitter may prove difficult. If your child is clingy or tearful when you leave, it can take a lot of time for him/her to warm up and adjust to a babysitter. When you find a babysitter who is willing to work with your child consistently and has the patience and love required, you will most likely pay them more so that they will feel their efforts are recognized and appreciated.
Pay a Babysitter Based on Experience
Your babysitter’s previous experience speaks volumes to his/her trade. A teenager just starting out can’t possibly compare to a retired grandmother who has raised three kids of her own and babysits her grandchildren on weekdays. The latter obviously has more experience.
You’ll want to take into account your babysitter’s age. It often correlates to their experience level. A 13-year-old who helps you with the children while you’re at home doesn’t usually get paid as much as a teen who began as a mother’s helper at age 13, and is now a senior in high school and babysits for numerous families during the week. A college student who works as a nanny has often had more experience as well. And the retired grandmother who has a business as a professional babysitter is most likely a highly-qualified candidate needing to be paid more than the former three.
References matter. If your babysitter claims to have years of experience, then check his/her references. More good references most likely mean more experience. And in that case, you should pay a little more than you would a beginner.
How to pay a Nanny Based on Responsibilities
How much you pay your babysitter also depends on what you expect them to do while they are watching your children. The more you ask them to do in addition to the basics – keeping your children safe and happy -the more you should pay them.
Think about what you are asking them to do.
Are you asking them to watch a movie with your children and then put them to bed? That’s an easy job that any teen could do.
But if you are asking them to feed your children dinner, take them for a walk around the neighborhood, play a board game, bathe them, read to them, and then put them to bed, that takes a little more energy and management.
Yes, even those things are considered basic tasks in babysitting, but it’s not a requirement, especially if you’re paying them minimally.
However, a babysitter who is paid more will be more willing to go the extra mile. If they’re doing more than the basics, such as driving your children to activities, preparing and cooking a nutritious dinner with food allergies in mind, loading and unloading the dishwasher, sweeping the kitchen, or other chores and responsibilities – they are going above and beyond the general duties of a babysitter and should be paid accordingly.
- Mother’s Helpers usually help entertain while you’re still home
- Babysitters watch kids occasionally while they’re the only adult at home
- Nannies typically play a large role in a child’s life and are there most days or regularly and have more tasks to do than just care for the kids. In fact, they act as a substitute for you on a consistent basis, performing many tasks in your place while you are away for lengthy periods of time
Mother’s helpers generally have less responsibility than say, a nanny. You can expect to pay a nanny much more than you would a mother’s helper, usually up to three or four times as much.
Pay also depends greatly on the number of children you have and their ages.
If you have one 9-year-old, the job is generally easier. But if you have three children under the age of 4, you can obviously expect the job to be a little more difficult and require higher pay.
The length of time that the babysitter or nanny is needed can affect their pay.
For lengthy contracts with a nanny, for instance, you will usually agree on a price per week or per month that is mutually acceptable for the both of you. For short-term babysitting, for 3-4 hours on a date night, for example, you can pay hourly (and the pay is generally more per hour).
Take into consideration the time of day and whether the hours required are normal, or excessive. If your child’s babysitter is required to arrive very early or stay overly late, you should pay a little more.
Pay a Sitter Based on Competitive Prices
Pay is often based on the typically accepted rate in your immediate area. You can ask around and find out how much babysitters and nannies typically get paid where you live.
To find out how much people in your area typically pay, you can ask your friends and neighbors. They will tell you how much they have paid in the past and can tell you about the qualifications of their babysitters that led them to that price.
Ask online in social media and chat forums, or take a look at a professional nanny/babysitter website (such as Care.com) to browse and compare the general price range of babysitters in your area.
The babysitter can tell you! If you ask them, he/she will probably be willing to give you at least a price range that they generally accept. If they don’t offer you a price range, you can always suggest something within your budget, and ask if it is reasonable. If it’s not acceptable to them, the worst that will happen is that they will say no. Then you can offer something higher, or interview again.
If you don’t know how much to pay your babysitter, use these ideas to try and gauge a payment that would be mutually agreeable. When your babysitter receives pay that compensates them for their time, expertise and experience, they will feel valued. In return, their work with your children will be more enjoyable, and your children will benefit in return from having a babysitter who loves their job.
How to compare babysitter rates
Ultimately, good childcare costs money. They are solely responsible for your child’s life. And they might even be who exposes or shelters them from certain things in life as well.
So once going through each area of how to pay for a sitter, consider what childcare means to you and your family.
Start with a base of $5 per hour for a young mother’s helper and $10 per hour for a babysitter you’ll leave at home alone with your kids. And build upon that.
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Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!