How Much Should You Pay the Babysitter? (Well, That Depends.)

With our kids now 12- and 14-years-old, we no longer have to worry about babysitters.

To be honest, the Honeybee and I rarely used babysitters at all even when the kids were younger because we were fortunate enough to have two sets of grandparents living relatively nearby who would usually fill in for us.

The few times we did hire a babysitter — a very nice teenage girl who lived up the street — I was always a bit befuddled regarding the appropriate rate of pay.

The last thing I wanted to do was underpay her — after all, everyone hates underpaid jobs. Then again, after spending a hundred bucks or more after a night on the town, I really didn’t want to overpay her either.

I usually ended up paying our babysitter $10 per hour plus all the food and beverages she could consume from our pantry and refrigerator while we were gone.

The reason I bring this up is because my highly-entrepreneurial daughter, Nina, has recently been expressing an interest in babysitting some of the younger kids in our neighborhood as a way to supplement the income she has been generating from her car wash, wallet and miniature clay charm businesses.

So how much do babysitters get paid nowadays?

Well, I did a bit of research and it turns out the answer is: it depends.

According to babysitting website SanDiegoBabysitters.org, babysitters typically earn somewhere between $5 and $20 per hour. However, there are multiple factors to consider when it comes to determining how much to pay them.

1. The age and experience of the babysitter. Sitters between 13 and 15 should get as low as half the pay of an older or more experienced babysitter.

2. The age of the kids. Add an additional $2 per hour to their base pay for newborns and $1 per hour for toddlers.

3. The number of kids. Add an additional $1 – $2 per hour for each additional child.

4. The cost of living. Big city babysitters should expect to earn more than their country cousins.

5. If additional duties are required. Add an additional $1 – $2 per hour if the sitter is required to drive the kids someplace, cook meals, or perform other tasks.

6. Time of day. Because there is less effort involved, evening rates can be a bit lower if the kids will be sleeping while the babysitter is on duty.

As a quick example, let’s say you hired a 15-year-old babysitter to watch your two toddlers so you and your honey could enjoy a quiet dinner and a movie. Let’s also assume a base rate of $20/hour for an older experienced babysitter.

$20/hr base rate + $1/hr premium for the first toddler + $1/hr premium for the second toddler + $2/hr for one extra child = $24/hr

But since our sitter is younger, we can cut that rate in half (to $12 per hour). Who knows; assuming your kids would be sleeping most of the time, you might even be able to shave a bit more off the rate. Or not.

Anyway, I think you get the idea. I know I do now. I just wish I had these guidelines when my kids were younger.

At least I can now rest a little bit easier knowing that I wasn’t underpaying our neighborhood babysitter.

Photo Credit: surlygirl

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    Thank goodness we moved to Thailand. Our “babysitter” is 58 years old and has already reared 3 children of her own. She works Mon-Fri from 8am until 1:30pm and makes lunch for me as well as the baby. She also cleans and does laundry (even though we’ve tried to stop her numerous times). For all that we pay her the sum of 7000 Thai baht. At an exchange rate of roughly 30/1 that works out to be roughly $235 per month.

    • 2

      Len Penzo says

      Wow. That’s one helluva deal, Steve. I hope she’s a good cook! Then again, for those wages, I guess I can overlook lousy cooking. ;-)

    • 3

      mai says

      Hi,

      My name is Mai M. I’m Hmong and was born in Thailand but my family immigrant to the USA for a better life and hoping for a better future.
      Anyways, If you really take your time to understand your “babysitter”; her culture, ethnic, family history and how she was raised. Maybe you will understand why she accept the position from you. She will keep working as hard as she can as long she has the job. This little money that she is earning from you. It is to help her support to the family. It will be nice if you tip her once in a while so she would feel appreciated.

      -Mai-

  2. 4

    tracee says

    when the grandparents can’t fill in we use a family friend. the going rate where i live is $8 an hour then $4 an hour more per extra child. so we pay the 17 year old 8 bucks an hour plus all the pizza and dr. pepper she can consume. we always “tip” a little as well, because i’m evil and want her to like me best so that she is always available when i call. tell nina good luck! in my teens i babysat and raked in the money!!! sometimes the red cross offers babysitter courses so if there is one available i would recommend that, or even just your basic CPR.

    • 5

      Len Penzo says

      We’d add a tip too, if the kids, family dog and furniture were still in one piece when we got home.

  3. 6

    says

    So far, we’ve been able to count on our parents who are close by and love spending time with the kids. I’m sure that we’ll have to rely on a babysitter at some point. Good information to know. Thanks!

    • 7

      Len Penzo says

      I bet the grandparents saved us $800 to $1000 in babysitting fees annually. That really adds up over 12 years or so!

      • 8

        Beth says

        Check the prices of daycare these days ! My granddaughter is 2 and I figure I have saved her parents about $30,000 so far ! Maybe more !

  4. 9

    Libby says

    WOW! I remember babysitting for $1.50 an hour and was grateful if there was a tip. Maybe I should look into this as a part-time job to make extra money to pay off bills…..hmmmm…..

    (Good luck, Nina!)

    • 10

      Len Penzo says

      Maybe you should, Libby. Or if you’re feeling really adventurous, start your own babysitting company! There is definitely a market out there.

  5. 11

    says

    That looks like a fairly accurate formula. I once overpaid a teen babysitter, and the next time she sat for us she wouldn’t take any money, saying we gave her too much last time.

    Another tip: decide what you are going to pay before consuming a few bottles of wine!

    • 12

      Len Penzo says

      Ha! Yeah, that would ultimately end up being a much more expensive bottle of wine than originally anticipated, wouldn’t it? :-)

  6. 13

    says

    Thank goodness for having grandparents close by to babysit! Much more affordable, and they want to do it so they can see the grandchild!

    • 14

      Len Penzo says

      I know we never had to twist the grandparents’ arms. However, I do know some grandparents who, sadly, end up getting taken advantage of too. They actually become almost full time childcare providers, rather than part-time babysitters because they refuse to say no.

      I’ve already told my kids not they won’t be allowed to do that to me!

      • 15

        Beth says

        Wait until they lay that baby in your arms ! I Love spending my days and some evenings with my grand children ! The hugs are worth so much more then I could Ever be Paid !

  7. 16

    says

    I always wanted to be the guy who overpaid, but not by a ton. I wanted to be the place the babysitter wanted to work so that when I decided to go out she’d always want to come back.

  8. 18

    melissa says

    We pay our teenage babysitter $8 an hour for our two kids who are 7 ans 9. Most of the time we order a pizza and have it delivered before we leave, so she gets to have dinner too. It’s easy for everyone!

  9. 20

    says

    I guess we’re fortunate right now to have our parents nearby (and willing) to watch the baby. We also have a good network of friends with whom we trade “babysitting services”, so that we can all enjoy “date nights”. However, I do have quite a few nieces who, pretty soon, will definitely be interested in babysitting to earn some extra money. Your post gives me some good information to make sure, when the time comes, I don’t over/under pay.

  10. 22

    says

    I have babysat a TON over the past 13 years. When I first started out at age 13, I made $6/hour, but by 14 it had risen to about $10. I still charge just $10/hour even though I could ask for a lot more because the families that I babysit for now are dear friends, and I’ve either been babysitting their kids from birth, or for the past 8 years.

    The little perks like a free meal, tv, and even getting paid to study while the kids are sleeping make babysitting a great side hustle!

    • 23

      Len Penzo says

      I’m making sure Nina sees your comment, Paige. Maybe she’ll remember that babysitting can continue even in to her college years. It sounds like a terrific way to earn extra money without cutting too much into study time. (Cause we all know college kids spend all their free time studying.) ;-)

  11. 26

    Megan says

    I think there is a lot of confusion on how to compensate your “occasional babysitter.” I’ve babysat now for more than 15 years, throughout high school, undergrad, grad school and now as I work full-time. I live in an urban area – and my hourly base rate is $13 (I’m in my 20’s, keep CPR and First Aid certified and belong to sitter organizations.) I find that I’m in high-demand and sit 4 nights a week minimum. Every family’s comfort level is different – but I try to keep consistent on a base rate and go from there.

    My only financial feedback for families is to remember to increase rates for a long-time sitter (after several years of faithful sitting – they deserve a raise!) And, never try to negotiate for a lower rate while the children are sleeping (I find it so insulting, I’m still “on-duty”, in your home, and are expected to be alert. Do you receive less compensation at work for answering e-mails, or going to the bathroom versus being in a meeting?)

    Excellent post Len!

  12. 28

    says

    We also don’t pay babysitters because we have willing grandmothers and aunts who can watch our two-year-old when my husband and I go out or run an errand. Usually we’ll bring the sitter a treat when we come back, but thank goodness for family living nearby!

  13. 29

    Steve says

    I wish the babysitter would figure it out for me. I would rather make a decision to go out based on what it will cost me, vs. make the decision to go out and them stiff or overpay the sitter by the amount I happen to value that evening. On the other hand, some research indicates that leaving the amount up to the payer often leads to them paying more than they would have otherwise. I typically offer $7 per hour but then feel guilty and round up (e.g. $40 for 4 or so hours).

    • 30

      Len Penzo says

      I feel your pain, Steve. More experienced babysitters like Megan can clearly articulate their rates; it’s often tougher for young teens however who have no feel for the market themselves and are looking for pricing signals from their customers. (This was my main motivation for trying to get a handle on current rates: I wanted to give Nina an idea for what she should be asking for when she finally does start babysitting.)

  14. 32

    Keely Strohl says

    I dont really believe in paying the sitter less just because the kids are sleeping. Does that mean if there was an emergancy the sitter could be less atentive? Could they have a beer? Have their girl/boyfriend over? The kids are just sleeping…. I always pay my sister they same amount no matter what time of day it is and no matter if only one of my kids are there or both.

  15. 33

    DrJudith says

    Many parents try to get away with as little as possible to pay their babysitter and don’t tip.
    Parents should recognize that their children are their most important asset and should be taken care of by vetted, competent, experienced and reliable child care experts. Child care is an incredible responsibility. So maybe the old adage…you get what you pay for. Most parents are just trying to get a cheap babysitter but have no problem spending $100 on dinner for two hours.

  16. 34

    Jennifer says

    Thank you for this article and the comments that present different ideas. I live in the country so I just raised my sitter to eight dollars an hour because gas has risen to $3.55/gallon in our area. Please mention to your daughter that any help she can give the parents will endear her to that family and insure call backs, ie. clean up after herself and the kids, if she has time, is bored, and wants to anything extra is appreciated but never expected! I DO expect my house to be in at least the same condition it was in when I left. If they create a fort in the living room i’m thrilled they ad fun but I don’t want to pay her and then clean up late that night! Also, don’t just watch tv! I want my sitters to play with my kids, whether that is Barbies, video games, Legos, or coloring. My kids biggest disappointments are when sitters don’t play with them!!

  17. 35

    Hazel says

    I’ve been browsing a few of the posts on your website recently and am finding them of great interest. Another great article by the way, keep up the good work :)

  18. 36

    says

    Nice breakdown! One thing I think you may have left out though are children with special needs. Depending on the condition of the child, they may need a heck of a lot more attention. If the kid(s) require daily medication too, this will require one to bump up the pay (mainly because you’ll want to have someone older and trustworthy).

    Gotta love relatives in the area though! That’s option number 1 for sure :)

  19. 37

    Jules says

    I find it very nice that you are all saying pay a certain way and of course it is great when we go and they have things we didnt expect, like food and so on. I was paid $20 for my very first babysitting job.

  20. 38

    Rachel says

    Reading this article makes me feel like a really crappy “employer” so to say. Im a 25-y.o single mom, working two jobs 7 days a week. Paralegal during the week and a waitress on the weekends. My parents (55 and 62 y.o) both work full time jobs and are just as exhausted as I am at night and on the weekends. My parents will only watch my son on day on the weekend while I’m at the restaurant job and MAYBE one night during the week for 2 hours max. If I followed this formula for my 2 year old I would never be able to go out and date OR work my second job because most of my tips would be paid to the sitter. I have two babysitters I use regularly (2-3X a week). One is a girl I used to babysit and our parents have been friends for 20-something years. Shes in high school on summer break and sits around all day and doesn’t do much. The other is the daughter of a former boss of mine. A recent High School grad who isn’t going to college until next spring who also sits home all day and does nothing. Luckily theyre thankful for ANY money I give them and theyre parents are always offering their services. I usually pay $20.00 for a night job and I pick up and drop off. My son is in bed at 8 sharp so at most they have him awake for an hour. On the weekends while I’m at work i give them $30.00 in which case their watching him for 5-6 hours, 2.5 of which he is napping. Call me cheap all you want, but a mom has to do what a mom has to do!

  21. 39

    Denise says

    I usually pay around $7 and $8 an hour for my two school-aged kids. If the sitter can drive I will add a bit more. (I have been known to round up a bit too.)
    I also teach a babysitter’s course at my local Y and tell the kids that asking between $6 and $8 per hour is more than fair. It’s really hard for most teens to tell an adult how much they should be paid. My advice would be to ask the sitter in advance if whatever-$-per-hour is okay with them and let them discuss it with their parents. Their parents can help them decide if it’s fair or how to negotiate a little.

    • 40

      Len Penzo says

      Great advice, Denise. I agree; it never hurts for teens to ask their parents if the proposed rate is fair.

  22. 41

    Kara T says

    I remember babysitting in my teens. Back then I was the only sitter on the block and was in demand. Here are my thoughts:

    Sometimes its nice to hire a young sitter while the parents are home, just to keep the kids out of the way. Watching children while Mom is home (a “Mom’s Helper” while she cleans, or rests) has less responsiblity, but definitely is a more physically active job than sitting still all evening while the kiddies sleep. Therefore, negotiate a rate per activity level AND the amount of responsibility as well as the age and experience of your sitter.

    I consider “base pay” to be the least amount of activity and responsibility. Add money per hour if the parents are NOT home, add money per hour if the kids are awake the entire time and need constant attention, add money for extra kids, longer hours than usual or if the sitter cooks, cleans or drives, etc. I worked a few birthday parties back then. Ask your sitter to have their friend help them wrangle those kids at a party and be sure to pay them well for all that active hard work with maybe 3-4 kids per sitter.

    If the kids are only awake long enough to know you are watching them, say an hour, pay less than if the sitter had to keep them active for the entire time the parents were gone.

    Of course, the active sitter is more fun for the kids. Pay more for a fun sitter! Kids will be happy to have them come back and won’t make you miserable when you leave. Isn’t that priceless?

    Lastly, when you need to keep things on a budget, offer to establish a steady arrangement at a slightly lower cost. This incentive means a steady income for the sitter at an affordable rate for you.

  23. 42

    NannyB says

    Where did these guidelines come from? This is absurd! I am a full time nanny and I charge either $20 a day (up to 10 hours) or a part time rate of $10 a day (up to 4 hours) and any overtime at $3 an hour. I do not charge per child because I am charging the family… not the kids. I also do not charge a premium for young kids, as babies are the easiest to care for. I have never before heard of a baby premium charge!

    I am also fairly competetive. I do know a lot of sitters charge per kid, but again, I personally think this is just ridiculous! But those who do charge per kid typically charge $2-3 per hour and then an additional $1 per hour for each additional kid. I am administrator to a babsitters network and I know that this price is common across the board…. and I keep up to 5 kids at a time (state law is 6 max per adult). I am located in Ohio…. I wish any of this info in this article were true or even possible. I would be rich!

    Thanks for the laugh.

    • 43

      Len Penzo says

      As mentioned in the article, the guidelines came from SanDiegoBabysitter.com

      Perhaps you should try raising your rates, NannyB. You won’t know if you don’t try! If you don’t, you may be leaving lots of money on the table.

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