How much should I pay my babysitter?

On one hand, your children are precious and priceless. On the other, you've got a budget. Here are six helps for choosing an appropriate wage for the sitter.

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  • Choosing a babysitter is a tough decision. Trusting your children with someone else isn’t always easy. Once you've chosen the perfect sitter to entertain and care for your children, you have to think about what to pay him or her. Prices are set somewhat by country and region, but many sitters, especially teenagers, do not ask for a specific wage.

  • When deciding how much to pay your babysitter, consider the following six factors:

  • Number and age of children

  • I vary the amount I pay based on the number of kids the babysitter is watching. If it's just my two youngest, I pay a dollar or two less per hour than if the sitter is responsible for all four children. Some sitters charge per child, so make sure you are aware of any pre-set expectations before you hire a babysitter.

  • Another reason to pay a sitter a bit more is if they are caring for young children. Babies require constant attention and more skill to care for. Toddlers can be equally difficult as they often get into things and resist going to bed.

  • Age and experience of your babysitter

  • Before my daughter was old enough to babysit her siblings, I often hired my brother-in-law's sister. She was in her 20s, so I felt like I needed to pay her a little more as an adult. More experienced babysitters also deserve a higher wage. I pay younger babysitters less because I know they are just learning and I want to reward them as they improve and grow. This has worked for me and my sitters, as they know they can expect to earn more as they mature.

  • Your finances

  • Hiring a sitter can be expensive. In some areas of the US, or if you use a babysitting service, you can expect to pay over $10 per hour. If your budget doesn’t allow for that wage, find someone willing to work for less. Be honest with your sitter. Saying, “I can pay you $5 per hour,” upfront is better than having an awkward conversation at the end of the job.

  • Length of job

  • Generally, babysitting is a paid-by-the-hour kind of job. However, for longer periods of time, a set amount might be more economical and still be fair. For example, my husband and I sometimes take an overnight trip. We leave our children with a college-aged young woman. We are gone for about 30 hours, and pay her around $125. Hourly that works out to around $4 per hour, but since the children are sleeping for several of those hours, it’s still a good wage. For jobs over eight hours, I usually negotiate a set payment that both parties agree upon.

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  • Other jobs expected

  • If you end up with an amazing sitter who is able to take care of the kids, then chooses to do your dishes and clean up after the kids are in bed, you might want to pay a little more. The most important job I want my sitters to do is to keep the kids happy and safe, but I will pay a little more if they go above and beyond. It’s nice to come home from a night out to a clean house and sleeping children.

  • Driving situation

  • The other reason I paid my 20-something babysitter a bit more than a teenager is because she drove herself to and from my house. Doing this saved me 30 minutes each time she babysat. Consider paying a bit more for gas, mileage and convenience if your sitter drives him or herself to your home to work.

  • Hiring a babysitter takes some thought and effort. Don’t break the bank for a night out. Think about what you can afford, what you expect from a sitter, and your sitter’s qualifications. Choose a wage, hire your sitter and enjoy your time away from your kids!

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Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.

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