Whether you’re hitting the town for date night, grabbing a movie with friends, or just need a few kid-free hours to yourself, babysitters are a necessity when you’re a parent—especially if you don’t live near close friends or family.
But babysitters can get pricey, even if you’re only paying the teenager down the street to come over and watch movies while your kid sleeps. Based on 2017 UrbanSitter data, the average cost to babysit for one child is $15.20. And sadly, for parents, that number is only rising. If you’re raising kids in San Francisco, you’re paying an average of $17.34 per hour, per kid. Costs are much higher in a city or suburb than if you live in a rural area.
So how much moolah should you pay your babysitter? It all boils down to four factors: where you live, how many kids you have, what you’re asking of your babysitter, and what babysitting credentials they bring to the table.
Start by asking around. Ask your neighbors and friends that live in your nearby area what they pay. Keep in mind: families with multiple kids or kids that require extra attention or specialty care will be higher than the norm. Standard babysitting rates run anywhere from $10 to $25 per hour, but again, much of that depends on where you live.
To get a decent ballpark estimate, plug in your information into a babysitter pay generator. It’ll tell you the market cost for your area and family size. Of course, you’re welcome to set your own rate, but knowing the average in your area can help you gauge how much cash to fork out.
The Number of Kids
The first rule of babysitting: Don’t be the family that underpays babysitters—especially if you have multiple kids that are difficult to watch. If you lowball your babysitters, they’ll be less likely to work for you again.
So, how do you make sure you strike a happy medium when you cash them out at the end of the night?
The more kids, the pricier it gets, and the harder it can be for the babysitter to wrangle all of them. Plan on paying an additional $2 to $5 per kid per night.
If you ask your babysitter to take on extra tasks such as preparing food or chauffering your kid around, you’re stepping into nanny territory. As such, you should pay at least $5 to $10 more on top of their hourly rate.
Since you’re asking them to step out of the bounds of babysitting and into nannying, you should also do things like leave money out for dinner, order them a pizza in advance, or let them use your car.
If they only come over to put the kids to bed and watch TV while they sleep, you don’t need to up their rate. But if you expect them to help your kids with homework, play with them for hours, or clean your house, you should pay them an above-average rate.
If your babysitter is well-experienced and has been around the (your) block once or twice their pay should reflect that. Depending on their age and experience level, you should consider upping their rate by $5.
If you usually paid a twelve-year-old with minimal experience 10 bucks an hour, you might want to pay the 16-year-old $15 per hour—if their work ethic merits it. If babysitters have specific certifications such as CPR training, first aid training, or formal experience working with little kids, that’s also reason to raise their rate by $1 or $2.
Your Next (Baby) Steps
Hiring a babysitter and figuring out what to pay them is daunting. But remember: it’s your house and your rules.
If you want to run a background check before having someone come over, we applaud you. There’s nothing wrong with a little peace of mind. Or if you’d feel more comfortable installing a nanny cam, go for it. We don’t blame you for wanting to check in on your kiddo whenever you please.
If you’re looking for a babysitter, start by asking your neighbors or close friends. 90% of parents will only hire babysitters if they’re a referral. If you feel unsure about someone, you can always stay at home during their first visit. That way, you can keep an eye on them and see how your kids react to them.
Other resources like Care.com or the Bambino app will help you find a sitter if you recently moved and are new to an area. And again, if you’re meeting someone for the first time, feel free to do a phone interview first or have them come over for a trial run.