You are here

How much do you pay your babysitters?

Erin Zammett Ruddy

I realize this is a potentially nosy question but I’m not talking about what you pay in childcare or how much your nanny costs or anything like that. I’m talking, you and your man want to go out to dinner and you get the neighbor girl or the daycare teacher or your cousin’s daughter to come over and watch your kids. How much do you pay her? And, perhaps more importantly, how much do you tip her?


The other night I handed my sitter $100 and it kind of hurt. We were gone for five hours and got in late and she fed and bathed both kids, cleaned up the kitchen and emptied the dishwasher. But she didn’t make them dinner or organize their closets or teach them Spanish. And my kids were asleep for 80 percent of the time. A hundo felt a little steep…but was it?


We typically pay $12-$15 an hour for the three sitters we have in rotation. I feel like this is pretty standard for where I live—Long Island—but where it gets tricky (and expensive) is the tip. We have all sorts of justifications for why we need to add more and more onto the base. We tip more on the weekend, we tip more when we get home late, we tip more when she has both kids versus one, we tip more when she arrives early enough to have to juggle both kids for a while, we tip more when we don’t have change. And we tip more when we come home tipsy.  In other words, we tip a lot.


And I generally like to be generous because I want them to always say yes when I text last-minute: “Any chance u can watch the kids tomorrow night?” (Almost all communication with my sitters is done over text, which I heart.) And the big, super-important bottom line: I trust them all with my kids, my kids love them and it is a complete non-issue (i.e., no tears, no guilt, no worries) when Nick and I go out, which is priceless if you ask me. Only it’s not. In fact, it’s quite pricey


And I worry that it’s getting out of control. That we’re setting a higher and higher precedent that, eventually, is going to make going out hurt more than it already does (add dinner and drinks to that babysitter money and you’re looking at a roundtrip airline ticket, plus the bag fee). That said, I think date night is one of the most important elements of our relationship. Nick and I make a conscious investment in our alone time away from the kids—we know we need it, we want it, and it makes us better people and parents (look how happy we are in the photo above--that takes TLC!). So we are willing to, occasionally, shell out the big bucks. And we’re getting better and better at asking my parents to take the kids (or saying yes when my mom offers, which she does a lot). There is nothing like free babysitters. I repeat, if you do not live near family, consider moving!


OK, so that’s my situation. Now I’m curious about what you pay (and where you live, since I imagine some of this is regional) and how you calculate those figures—i.e., when you dish out more, when you give less. Do you agree that hiring a babysitter is an investment in your future as a happy couple or do you think that's just me justifying my nights out! Do tell!