Parents, of course, want to find the best person to care for their children, but they also don’t want to pay more than they need to (or can afford) for childcare. Striking that balance can make determining what to pay a babysitter a rather complex calculation. Parents must weight market forces against their own budgets while taking into account all those qualities that an individual brings to the situation.
And in the end, whatever amount they come up to offer, it will be tested by the market.
Even though sitters’ pay rates vary significantly from one area of the country, it’s still worthwhile to start with some actual numbers. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. However, nowhere in the United States do people typically pay their babysitters the minimum wage. Childcare is a skilled labor and is paid as such. In 2017 according to Care.com, the average pay for a sitter was $13.97. That's not far from twice the minimum wage.
Unless you are hiring through an agency, parents must negotiate a rate with each person who watches their children. We don't commonly do this in today’s society where most prices for goods and services are fixed. To come up with a good starting point to launch this negotiation, consider the following.
Start by determining the basic rate for your area. Though you can try using a babysitting rate calculator to get a general idea, don’t take it too seriously.
Rates will vary even within a metropolitan area, and your location is just one factor to consider. The best way to determine what is typical in your area is to ask as many people as you can until you determine a general range. This means asking both other parents and sitters that you interview.
If you are a new parent or new to the area and without many acquaintances to ask, post on a local online parenting board or ask in social media.
Collect up as many suggested rates and determine a range. Once you have that range, begin considering the impact of your owns specific needs and circumstances on your targeted rate.
The age and number of your children are the most important considerations. A newborn and a toddler would be a lot more work for a sitter than one 9-year old. If your children require more care because of their age or other special needs, you will want to start at the higher end of the range. And as a general rule of thumb add $1 per hour for each additional child.
How experienced is the person you are hiring? Does he or she have education, training or certifications related to childcare? If so, they will be expected to be paid accordingly. Age is another factor. Adults in their twenties or older will bring more maturity and life experience to the job. Also, they will probably have more earning opportunities opened to them than your 15-year-old neighbor who might jump at the opportunity to work a fairly low rate.
Your Family’s Needs
Whether you need an experienced adult or an eager teenager depends on your family’s individual circumstances. Consider whether you need someone to drive your children to activities or to help with homework.
Factor in the number of hours you need your sitter. Parents may want to pay a premium to help ensure availability. This might mean a more generous rate for your occasional sitters to encourage them to say yes when you call or an even higher rate for that last minute situation. It might mean paying a higher rate to engage a full-time nanny. Typically before- and after-school care costs more because those hours are in higher demand.
And then, of course, there are the special days like New Year’s and Valentine’s Day or other holidays when sitters are in high demand. Expect to pay a premium for those days.
Once you and your sitter have agreed on a rate, unfortunately, you are not done. You can't expect that this amount will be appropriate forever. Your situation will change, and your sitter will grow more experienced.
And simply as time passes, inflation will take its toll on that hourly amount. It's a good idea to revisit rates every year reviewing the factors above and your satisfaction with the care being provided.