When was the last time you spent quality time away from your little darlings? Can’t remember? Then this article is for you.
It doesn’t matter how much you love them or how sweet they are, every parent’s sanity can benefit from a little “me” time.
You might protest that the cost of baby-sitting makes date night too expensive or means it’s impractical to run errands in peace.
But we’re here to help. Here are seven ways to pay less for baby-sitting.
1. Make the most of on-site day care services
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Somewhere, someone has pressed the caps lock key and is getting ready to tell us how unethical it would be to take advantage of on-site baby-sitting services such as those offered at your local gym, book club or Bible study group.
Back up there, bucko. I agree.
On-site child care is there for a specific reason. For instance, at gyms it’s included in your membership fee so you can exercise, not so you can drop off your children five days a week.
That said, I don’t think there is anything wrong with working out and then spending a little time returning emails or paying bills before collecting your little ones. Just stay on-site and keep your time reasonable — 15 minutes sounds good, if you ask me.
2. Share a nanny or sitter
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Combine forces with a friend and hire one sitter to watch both families’ kids for a certain period of time. You don’t necessarily have to go on a double date, but you can certainly plan your date nights for the same evening.
You will (and should) pay more for the extra kids, but the cost will likely still be less than if you each hired your own sitter.
3. Ask for baby-sitting as a gift
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When your birthday and the holidays roll around, tell your family and friends that what you’d really like is some time away from your kids. They might even appreciate being off the hook when it comes to buying something for you.
Just make sure you’re only asking people you trust enough to watch your kids.
4. See if your neighbor will ‘monitor-sit’
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This one will surely give helicopter parents heart palpitations. Depending on where you live, you might not even need a baby sitter in your house for you to go out. You may simply need a high-quality baby monitor with a good range.
It’s not nearly as reckless as it might sound. I acted as a “monitor-sitter” for my previous neighbors several times, and it worked beautifully. Our houses were so close together that the monitor for their son’s bedroom worked in my living room.
Once he was old enough to sleep through the night, they would bring over the monitor and head two miles down the road to our local movie theater. In the event their son woke up — which he never did — I had a key to go get him, and I would call for his parents to cut short their date.
5. Use a younger, responsible teen
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You can also save on baby-sitting by finding a younger teen to watch your kids.
In my experience, teens at that age can be quite mature and are very motivated to do a good job. They don’t have many options for earning income, after all. If their age makes you nervous, middle-schoolers who live close by can likely call on their parents for help if needed.
If you aren’t sure whether a younger teen is up to it, invite them to act as a helper for a day so you can see how they interact with your children and whether they are capable of handling challenging behavior.
6. Barter for baby-sitting
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Another way to find low-cost baby-sitting is to barter with people you trust. If you don’t think you have anything to offer, how about these ideas?
Can you sew and offer to do mending?
Do you keep chickens and have eggs to trade for baby-sitting?
Can you mow the lawn or do some landscaping work?
Are you an awesome cook who can make some meals for their freezer?
Can you let a friend borrow your boat, vacation home or camping equipment in exchange for some baby-sitting time?
We almost all have something of value others can use.
7. Form a baby-sitting co-op
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Finally, if you don’t think you have anything to barter, remember you can always barter baby-sitting for baby-sitting.
This can be done as a one-time trade, or you can take it one step further and create a co-op. Although co-ops can be set up in a variety of ways, many use a points system in which individuals earn points for baby-sitting other members’ children. Then, they can redeem those points for free baby-sitting themselves.
8. Use the web
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Through websites like Care, SitterCity and UrbanSitter, you can comparison-shop for sitters in your area. While it might not necessarily save you much, the sites allow you to get competitive rates for help when you’re in a bind.
9. Consider a helper instead
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If you need to get things done, but not necessarily leave the house, you might be able to use that young teen (see No. 5) as a helper. They mind the kids. You get your work done. Since you’re still there, you may be able to negotiate a lower rate.
What do you think of these ideas? Have you tried any in the past, and which ones push the boundaries of your comfort limits? Leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.
Ari Cetron contributed to this post.