Family life

Babysitting on a budget

By Susan Goldberg

Babysitting on a budget

Babysitting on a budget

How we manage on a budget

My partner and I are in that in-between space occupied by so many parents of younger children: we desperately need to spend quality time together, without our kids.
 
However, we also need to watch our budget. I mean, it’s easily a $50 job to get both my children to sleep at night, but the plain truth of the matter is that I am very unlikely to spend $50 in order to simply go for that much-needed beer or a walk or movie with my spouse. The idea of spending more on a babysitter that we do on the actual date activity seems wrong.
 
So, what’s a couple — in particular, a couple without family in town to provide free babysitting — to do? For those times where we really need to get out and can't or don’t want to spend the cash, we’ve come up with a few strategies:

Babysitting on a budgetPhoot: blackjake/iStockphoto

Let the school babysit!

We have a standing weekly date — we go for a hike — while the kids are in school. Yes, it cuts into work time, so in some ways we’re paying for it, but somehow the financial sting doesn’t seem as bitter.

Babysitting on a budgetPhoto: franckreporter/iStockphoto

Try a babysitter swap

We’ve cut a deal with friends down the street: one night a month, each of us sits for each other’s kids. Totally awesome.

Babysitting on a budgetPhoto: asiseeit/iStockphoto

"Witching hour" babystiting

We have good friends with no children of their own who are happy to watch ours on occasion. But it can still feel like an imposition to ask them to come over, put our rangy children to bed, and stay up late on our behalf. So we’ve come up with a 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. timeslot: we drop off the kids at our friends’ for pizza and a DVD, and then go out ourselves. At eight, we collect the kids and put them to bed — and fall into bed ourselves. Triple bonus: we get a date and an early bedtime — and someone else gets to hang out with our kids during their tetchiest time of day.

Babysitting on a budgetPhoto: blackjake/iStockphoto

The kid swap

This is a variation on the babysitting swap. A different set of friends drops their two boys off to play with our two before heading out for a few hours on their own while we hold the fort. Then, they return and hang with children while we vamoose.

Babysitting on a budgetPhoto: damircudic/iStockphoto

The babysitting double dip

It’s no more work for a babysitter to take care of four sleeping children than it is to take care of two, right? My friend Karen has come over with her kids for a sleepover — but what the kids didn’t know is that once they were asleep, we split the cost of a sitter and went out dancing. (Till 2 a.m. The next day was a bit of a blur, but totally worth it.)

Babysitting on a budgetPhoto: Stellajune3700/iStockphoto

Hitting up friends

This is an especially great option for new parents, when everyone wants to meet the baby and is dying to find ways to help you out anyway. The next time someone says, “Can I give you a hand?” practice answering, “Well, we’d love to get out for a couple of hours on our own — could you come by and babysit one evening once the baby’s down?” I bet you’ll be surprised at how many people say yes.

Babysitting on a budgetPhoto: patrickheagney/iStockphoto

The donor dad nanny

When we asked our good friend Rob to be our sperm donor all those years ago, none of us imagined that, years later, he’d show up for extended babysitting jaunts. It started as an evening here and there, then an overnight, a weekend, and now a full week each year. This option, obviously, isn’t in the cards for all families, but I know it’s left several of my straight friends wondering how to retroactively acquire a sperm donor.

Babysitting on a budgetPhoto: STEEX/iStockphoto

Baby shower games that are actually fun...

Babysitting on a budget

Susan Goldberg shares some tips on how you can budget your babysitting expenses.

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