When was the last time you spent quality time away from your little darlings? Can’t remember? Then this article is for you.
Every parent’s sanity can benefit from a little “me” time. You might protest that the cost of babysitting makes date night too expensive.
But we’re here to help. Here are nine ways to pay less for babysitting.
1. Make the most of on-site day care services
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 babysitting 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
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 babysitting as a gift
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’
This one will surely give helicopter parents heart palpitations. Depending on where you live, you might not even need a babysitter 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 2 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
You can also save on babysitting 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 him or her to act as a helper for a day so you can see how the teen interacts with your children and whether he or she is capable of handling challenging behavior.
6. Barter for babysitting
Another way to find low-cost babysitting 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 babysitting?
- 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 babysitting time?
We almost all have something of value others can use.
7. Form a babysitting co-op
If you don’t think you have anything to barter, remember you can always barter babysitting for babysitting.
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 babysitting other members’ children. Then, they can redeem those points for free babysitting themselves.
8. Use the web
Websites like Care.com, Sittercity and UrbanSitter allow you to 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
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. The teen minds the kids while you get your work done. Since you’re still there, you may be able to negotiate a lower rate.
Ari Cetron contributed to this post.