One of the basic limitations for couples with young children in trying to set up date nights is cost. It’s not just the cost of the date itself, but you typically have the extra expense of having to pay a babysitter to watch your children. But there are ways on how to cut down on babysitting costs. And at the same time, you can also make sure that your children are being cared for by people you trust.
My kids are teenagers now, but below are some of the methods that we used over the years.
Family: The Obvious First Choice
My wife and I lived hundreds of miles away from our extended families, so this was a tough one for us. But any time we visited “back home” this was an option that we took full advantage of.
Family will typically watch your children free of charge, and if you live in close proximity to them, you should use this option on a regular basis. Just be sure that you are not abusing the privilege. For example, if you are dumping your kids off on your family just about every weekend – just because you can – you may be at risk of losing a cozy arrangement.
Wherever possible, avoid overusing the option. Also, if you don’t have money to pay family to watch your children, see if you can pay them back in other ways. For example, you may be able to help your parents or siblings with major jobs around the house. You may even be able to provide any specific expertise you have to help them with a problem.
When it comes to family, it’s important not to abuse the babysitting privilege, and to make it as mutually beneficial as possible.
Set Up A Reciprocal Arrangement With Another Couple
This was an arrangement that we had great success with. We had arrangements with several couples where we swapped babysitting. This gave each couple greater flexibility in arranging date nights and other outings without concern for cost. It’s the basic principle of you watch my kids, and I’ll watch yours.
Since you are all in the same boat, as parents with young children facing the constant dilemma of how to afford trustworthy babysitters, the can often be a great incentive to participate in this kind of arrangement.
In particular, we had a reciprocal babysitting arrangement with another couple who are among our best friends even to this day. We were in similar situations, even though we lived about 10 miles apart. Our kids were the same ages and neither couple had family living in our state. Not only did we arrange babysitting on a regular basis, but we also did babysitting weekends, and there is no explanation needed as to how valuable those can be!
Barter For Babysitting
Another option you can consider is barter. Is there is a another couple who don’t have children, where you might be able to find some way to compensate them – other than cash? Think about any specific skills that you have that might be of benefit to the other party, and offer them in exchange for babysitting your children.
You may be able to exchange computer services, lawn work, or even laundry services for babysitting. You may be in a tight spot in that you need a good but inexpensive babysitter, but if you can come up with services that you can provide in exchange, you may be helping to fill an important need for the other person.
In this way you will be able to have a babysitter who you trust, without any money ever changing hands.
Don’t Use The Most Popular Babysitter In The Neighborhood
If you have young children, you’re probably very familiar with the “neighborhood babysitter”. This can actually be a mixed bag at best. If a particular babysitter is very popular in your neighborhood – particularly if she is THE most popular – you may confront two unpleasant issues:
- The babysitter is not always available when you need her, and
- She probably charges the highest rate.
When a babysitter becomes popular, everyone in the neighborhood wants to use her. While that may provide an important validation of her services, it could just as easily make her hard to get, and expensive when you do.
The way around this is to work with two or three babysitters, that way you will have greater availability and at a lower price. It could be that your children develop an attachment to a less popular babysitter that will make her even more desirable than the top sitter in the neighborhood.
When you have children, you need to be creative in the babysitting department. Everything related to going out, or just having some free time without the kids, is compounded by the need for babysitting. And hopefully some of these tips will help you.
What other ways do you use to find reliable but inexpensive babysitters?
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© 2013, Kevin M. All rights reserved.