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Look at you! You’re ready to go with your cheap date ideas when suddenly a voice from the other room cries out, “I need to go potty!”
Ah-ha! You just remembered you’re a parent—which means you have children. You’ll need someone to watch those children when you and your spouse head out for your awesome (but totally budget-friendly) date night.
How much is the going rate for a babysitter?
UrbanSitter surveyed more than 20,000 families around the country for its annual survey, which found that the average cost of babysitting as of 2018 was $16.43 per hour for one child. The most common reason parents cited for hiring a babysitter was for date night coverage. Assuming the average date night runs about four hours, hiring a babysitter could set a parent back $65 for one night out.
That $65, however, doesn’t include the extras many parents throw in; 55% of parents surveyed tip their babysitter, and 83% offer perks like on-demand movies, food delivery, and even museum and amusement park passes.
Costs also rise with the number of children. Rates go up to $18.86 per hour for two kids ($75 for one date night) and $20.56 per hour for three ($82 for one date night).
Nor does this amount count the cost of an actual date itself. The survey found that the top three most common date night activities were going to dinner, taking in a concert or show, and seeing a movie. Assuming a date night includes both dinner ($50) and a movie ($25), it could easily end up costing parents $140. That’s enough to make most parents want to stay home.
Date night isn’t the only reason parents hire sitters, though. Parents also hire extra help for reasons such as running errands or going to appointments, covering before- and after-school care, and even just to have a few moments of hard-won “me time.”
And sometimes the reasons themselves can alter the cost. Parents often pay more for sitters who come before or after school – as much as $2 per hour extra. And many parents would pay more for a babysitter who had safety training, an early education degree, or a child care certification.
The cost of babysitting can also vary by location per Care, with San Francisco coming in as the most expensive city to hire a babysitter at $17.43 per hour for one child and Phoenix the cheapest at $11.83 per hour.
Budget-conscious date night ideas:
Use a baby monitor.
Yes, it’s a beautiful thing. Put the kids to sleep, grab the baby monitor, and enjoy your date at home! If your kids are older, you won’t need the monitor. Just make sure you don’t leave the house while they’re asleep. That’s a free parenting tip for you right there.
This is a nice way to enjoy dates, even when you can’t get out of the house. The baby monitor method is especially great if you don’t have any family who lives close by, can’t find a sitter, or just don’t want to pay for one.
Swap babysitting with friends or a neighbor.
You want to go on a date, but guess what? So do your other parent friends. Kids are fantastic, but everybody wants and deserves a break. Tell your friends you’ll watch their kids while they go out if they’ll do the same for you in return. You can swap babysitting services, still enjoy your dates, and get a babysitter for free.
If you live near your family, the babysitting rays of sunshine have beamed upon you. Don’t abuse it, but definitely use it! Call Grandpa and Grandma and ask them if they can watch the kids this weekend while the two of you try out some cheap date ideas.
If you don’t live close to family, consider asking for help when they come to town for a visit. Sure, you want to spend time with them. But you know who they really came to see—their grandbabies. So let them play with the kids while you two step out for some bonding time. All you need is a few hours to test out your new and creative date ideas.
Hire a Pre-Teen
t’s difficult to pinpoint a universal age when a child is old enough to babysit younger children. Many states have no specific age requirements for babysitting, but many specify how old a child must be to be left home alone – often 12 to 13. Make sure to check with your own state for applicable laws.
The American Red Cross babysitting course requires a minimum age of 11, and I remember taking on babysitting as a first job at that age. Yet many parents are reluctant to hire a sitter so young, and probably for good reason. Maturity levels can vary widely, and many 11-year-olds aren’t likely ready for that kind of responsibility.
So, if there’s no real “correct” age, it really comes down to the individual. If you’re contemplating hiring a younger babysitter – aged 11 to 14 – take some time to consider the babysitter’s maturity level and whether or not they’ve taken any babysitting or safety courses, and then compare that against the ages of your own children and the level of care required.
You might also want to look into hiring a pre-teen you already know through your friend circle, church, work, or other organization. Having some familiarity with the pre-teen can help you better determine if they’d be a good fit.
If, after you’ve thought about all the factors, you’ve decided you feel comfortable hiring a pre-teen to babysit your kids, it could save you some money. Many pre-teens offer to work for a lower hourly rate than older sitters to land that first job and gain some experience.
Take Advantage of School, Daycare, and Organizational Programs
This is a method my husband and I have used frequently. Our son’s preschool offers monthly “Parents’ Night Outs.” For $20 – significantly less than the cost of traditional babysitting – he gets to participate in some planned games and activities, eat dinner, watch a movie, and hang out with his friends from school, all while Mom and Dad get their own night out.
He loves it, so I don’t have to feel guilty about leaving him in the school’s care. Because his preschool provides the care, I know I can trust them as they’re fully licensed and certified. And the Parent’s Night Out continues right after the school day, which means that in theory, we could have an all-day date from 7 am until 10 pm.
Many other preschools, daycares, churches, and community organizations host parents’ night outs. So, if you don’t already belong to a daycare or organization that hosts this kind of event, try checking newspapers, social media sites, or school or church bulletin boards. I’ve even seen some children’s class centers, such as dance or gymnastics centers, offer parents’ night outs.
Though rates and times can vary, on average, these events are typically $20 for one child for three to four hours of babysitting, and special pricing is usually offered for more than one child, such as $35 for two, so use it!
It’s Time to Budget for Your Cheap Date Ideas
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have a memorable date. So take a moment and talk to a friend or family member and learn how to fall in love with the beauty of saving money while still being able to bond with your significant other.
Do you have more ideas on how to save on babysitting? I would love to hear them below in the comments.