How much does a babysitter cost?
It’s the big question on every parent’s mind when they start looking for a babysitter: How much should you pay?
Unfortunately, there’s no one answer, as there are many factors that influence how much a babysitter should get paid, including location, skill level and the number and ages of the children that need care.
That being said, "At the end of 2018, we're seeing the average rate for babysitter job posts reach $15.83 per hour," says Jacquelyn Booth, director of analytics at Care.com.
But the average doesn’t necessarily tell you what you’ll pay a babysitter in your specific area, nor does it factor in considerations like regularity of work and duties required. Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to arrive at what a fair pay rate for a sitter in your area should be. First, determine what you’re looking for in a sitter. Then follow these steps:
1. Research going rates in your area
It’s all about where you live. Just as the cost of living varies by city, so, too, does the acceptable amount to pay someone for child care. Beverly Harzog, a consumer finance analyst at U.S. News and World Report, says standard rates can even vary based on what area of the city you live in. For example, if you live closer to downtown, rates may be higher than if you live on the outskirts of the city, closer to the suburbs. A rate calculator will give you a good baseline to work with, but Harzog says the best way to get an idea of what people are really spending is to ask local friends how much they pay.
“Let’s say the average rate you find after talking to your friends is $15 per hour,” she says. “This rate tells you what the average rate is in your area, but you still might need to adjust that depending on your specific situation.”
>> See average babysitting rates in your area with our Babysitting Rates Calculator.
2. Factor in the number and ages of your children
The next factor to consider is how many children you have and their ages.
“If there‘s one 9-year-old child who is well-behaved, then that’s an easy gig for the sitter,” says Harzog. “But if you have 2-year-old twins, then that justifies a higher rate.”
Similarly, it is typical to offer more money for a higher needs child, such as a newborn, versus a child who is able to be more independent. How much more you offer will vary, but many parents start with the average rate for one child and add between $0.50 and $1 per hour for each additional child. For an infant, parents may add anywhere from $1-$2 per hour. But the babysitter’s skill level will also play a role in how much you up your offer.
3. Assess the skill-level of the sitter
If your sitter is a teenager who has only been babysitting a few months, then paying the average is likely OK. But if you’re seeking a sitter with multiple years of experience or who has completed training courses and/or gotten special certifications, like CPR, they will typically demand higher pay. How much higher depends on their qualifications and preferences.
”Someone who has a lot of experience might be looking for something that is a higher paying position, even if it’s not necessarily a higher responsibility job,” says Suzie Zeldin, the co-founder and director of operations at SmartSitting.
In this situation, you should first determine how much you’re comfortable paying, using tools like a rates calculator, asking friends what they pay and factoring in your unique needs. If you’re really stumped about what constitutes a fair offer, you can also open a dialogue with the sitter about what they expect to be paid, says Harzog.
“Sometimes, there is competition for the best sitters, so you want to make sure you’re offering a fair rate,” she adds.
That said, don’t automatically rule out sitters who are younger or have slightly less experience. Depending on the ages of your children and your expectations, a responsible high school sitter may be able to fill the role just as well for a rate that is more affordable.
4. Consider the number of hours and regularity of work needed
Sometimes, the hours and days you need your sitter can affect how much they get paid. For example, a babysitter may expect a higher pay rate if they’re working during busy times, like weekends or during the holidays, or if they’re called for a last-minute job.
“It really ties back to what you’re asking of that person,” Zeldin says. “If you’re asking a sitter to spend 15 hours per week with your family smack dab in the middle of the day, that requires a higher commitment level than a once-a-week job.”
If you’re looking for more regular care, you can use the average hourly babysitting rate in your area to determine what a good daily or weekly rate might be. For as-needed care, average rates are typically OK, as long as you’re accounting for things like holidays, high-demand hours, and any additional tasks you’re asking the babysitter to take on.
5. Determine duties and responsibilities
The last thing to consider when deciding how much to pay your babysitter is the amount of work you’re requiring them to do. Typical babysitter duties entail things like playing with the children, light meal prep, changing diapers, putting children to bed, and perhaps a quick clean-up of play areas or any kitchen items used.
But if the workload expands beyond the basics, the pay rate should also increase. For example, a babysitter who is picking children up from school in a personal vehicle will need to be reimbursed for fuel. If you’re requiring the babysitter to help extensively with homework, do any housework beyond light cleaning, or to regularly prepare full meals, you should plan to compensate the babysitter for these additional duties.
Once you’ve decided on a reasonable pay rate, there’s one more small thing that Harzog says to consider. Find out from friends if tipping the babysitter is common in your area. If it is, then it’s a good idea to give a tip — typically just a few dollars on top of their regular pay — particularly for last-minute gigs, large groups of kids, holidays or just exceptional care.
Read next: 20 ways to save money on child care