If you’ve read my introduction, you know that we have two school-age kids. Bringing up kids is hard – and costly.
We’re not lucky enough to have grandparents living close by – they’re literally on the other side of the world. That poses some challenges, the biggest one being that the kids don’t get to spend enough time with them. Visits are once a year if that. Both my wife and I strongly feel that grandparents are the best thing to happen to kids – they’re always on the kids’ side, 100%.
As parents, we’re inclined to order err… coax them around and be on their case most of the time. Grandparents? Pfft – they don’t care two hoots about ‘rules’ and do what they want. Both the grandkid and the grandparent know we won’t protest too loudly given that they only get to spend a few weeks with us each year. But I digress…
When Grandpa and Grandma are in town, it’s a boon for us parents. The biggest and most obvious benefit is that they are just great babysitters. The wife and I can finally have that late date night where we don’t have to be home by a certain time. We can take a long walk after dinner without the frugal b*st*rd in me subconsciously thinking that I could save a few bucks if we left sooner. Go on, mock me – I deserve it, I know. Related: We are Frugal And I Am Cheap
When we first moved from the Northeast to Southern California, we didn’t know anyone in the neighborhood. As expected, that posed a few challenges as far as sitters were concerned.
In times of desperation, we turned to an online service or two, but they were surprisingly expensive with rates around $25-30/hr! We did end up using the service a couple of times, and the sitters were good but it was just more than what we felt comfortable paying.
As our social circle grew and we got to know more neighbors and made friends, the sitters became cheaper $11-15/hr and came recommended. That helped for sure.
If I were to do this today, I would probably jump on NextDoor first and look for recommendations. Unfortunately, This was only a few years ago, but NextDoor wasn’t as big or as well known as it is today. Yes, you do get the occasional spam or that one neighbor who feels the need to vent every single day, but overall I think they’re doing a decent job.
We also realized that high school girls made for the best combination of babysitters. They:
- were reasonably priced
- were young but experienced enough – either because of younger siblings or had been babysitting since freshman year
- generally lived in the neighborhood and/or had a good reputation in the neighborhood
I realized recently that the mistake we’d made in the initial years was to stick with just what we could find – we didn’t shop around too much. I’m not sure if we were too overwhelmed with the new location or too inexperienced with looking for babysitters in general. We didn’t know what we didn’t know. This is yet another example of stuff you kinda sorta have to figure out or yourself when you grew halfway across the world and in a different time/culture. My siblings and I never had a babysitter growing up, we just did.
We are blessed to have great neighbors. We know so because it’s only since we moved to this house that it’s all fallen into place. Both my kids have a BFF a few houses away – one neighbor each.
That means lots and lots of playdates and the occasional sleepover.
Luckily, all the parents get along swimmingly as well.
Did I mention we were blessed?
You can see where this is going. I’ll preface this by saying that we are absolutely shameless when it comes to using our neighbors as babysitters. Look at the advantages:
- They’re right next door (well, almost)
- They’ll be good to the kids but also stern when needed
- Our kids will play with their kids and won’t need constant attention
And in return, we watch their kids, drive them to and from school/class that our kids go to as well, and occasionally buy a few pizzas so all the kids are happy!
To Wrap Up…
If you’re a parent with younger kids, look for all options:
- Convince the grandparents to come and stay with you. This is especially helpful when one spouse has to make a trip for work etc and it may be overwhelming for the other spouse to manage everything.
- Ask your neighbors for babysitter recommendations
- Check on NextDoor and similar community sites where folks have to use real names
- Check in the local boys & girls club or youth organization. Quite often the high school or college kids who work there babysit on the side, and for cheap.
- Check online sitter portals
- And lastly, don’t forget to swap with your neighbors! Offer to babysit their kids first, follow through and then take them up on their offer when you need it next 😉
It never hurts to ask.
Have you come across any tips to keep babysitting costs down? Please let me know in the comments!