I still remember the first time my husband and I were alone after having our son.
It was only a few days after coming home from the hospital, surprisingly. At the time, I was more interested in giving my parents a chance to spend time with A uninterrupted since they’d only be in town for another day or two longer. I wasn’t desperate for a break just yet.
Fast forward a few months, the desperation for a break started to set in. Note that I’m sure it would have happened sooner, but we were blessed with a super easy first baby who slept 4-hour stretches from the very beginning 😉 (Yes, it was awesome.)
That’s when I realized how freaking expensive date night could get.
You see, once my parents left, we didn’t have family around to watch our son. And he was too young for me to feel comfortable with just anyone watching him. And, of course, my husband having seen the things he’s seen is incredibly paranoid about babysitters, so he’s even pickier than I am.
It was rough. Because man, did we need date night – but it was not only impossible to arrange around my husband’s schedule, but it felt like just a regular dinner date was a fortune because of the cost of babysitting.
However – we totally found ways to make it work.
This was our go-to way to afford babysitting. Before we moved, there was a family we regularly swapped babysitting with so we could each have date night without having to pay a cent for babysitting. We just had to pay in taking on a few extra kiddos one night 🙁
If you’re part of a mom group, you could even do a babysitting rotation among several of the members. I’ve never done this personally, but here’s a post about how to start a babysitting co-op from Frugal Mama. It’s something I’m going to have to look into, especially now that we’ve moved!
Because A is so young, it works better to have a babysitter come to our house rather than drop him off elsewhere. Swapping babysitting services can be tough if we’d like to have a dinner date.
If you make awesome cookies, if you have some photography skills, if you can knit, or if you have any other special skill someone might need, it could totally be a way to barter for childcare.
If you run any kind of business, even an MLM, where you can get a discount on product, you could potentially use that for barter as well. I had an aunt that would let me pick things from an Avon catalog when I babysat as a kid and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.
This is dependent on A going to bed easily (which isn’t so much a thing anymore), but it works pretty well if your kids aren’t prone to fighting bedtime. We just have the sitter arrive after he’s already gone to bed. The times we’ve done this, we’ve offered $5 per hour, which I think is great pay for watching Netflix and, you know, making sure the house doesn’t catch fire. The basics.
I also like to offer the babysitter an opportunity to earn extra money when I do this by writing out a list of chores they can do and what each pays. Like if they wash the dishes, I’ll offer an extra $5. I might leave a load of laundry to be folded next to the couch, and if they do that I’ll throw in another $5. And so on and so forth.
If they don’t do them, that’s fine. If they do, it saves me the trouble of doing it and gives them the opportunity to earn more money if they choose. And if they do them, it totally makes for a more relaxing date night because it’s bumped something off my to-do list 😉
If all else fails, be upfront about you’re offering when you ask around. That way, if someone feels it’s not worth their time, they don’t have to take it, and they don’t feel used like they might if you didn’t tell them anything in advance.
If you can only afford $5 an hour, even during the day, and you’re planning a day date for 3 hours, say “I’m offering $15 if you watch my kid for 3 hours.” Chances are, you’ll find someone available and willing.
To be fair, this is actually a good idea no matter what you’re planning to pay 🙂
I know, I know, this post is about how to save money on a babysitter. But sometimes the best way to save money on one is to not need one at all. I wrote a whole post on this topic, actually, so be sure to check it out!
After you have kids, it’s so important to spend time with your spouse as husband and wife – not just mommy and daddy. Saving money on a babysitter makes it a little more likely to happen 😉
I’m a twenty-something LEO wife and stay-at-home mom to a one-year-old little boy. I enjoy writing, reading, taking my son for walks and runs in the stroller, and crafting. My goal is for Love and Blues to be a resource for first responders and their families. I write about marriage and family topics, as well as about the quirks that come with being married to a man in law enforcement, firefighting, or emergency medical services.
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