Date night can be pricey enough without adding children to the mix. But once we become parents, a night out becomes even more expensive. In addition to to paying for dinner, drinks, and/or a movie ticket, we also have to pay babysitters an hourly rate. Depending on your city and how many children you have, that hourly fee can be as high as $20 an hour!
Luckily, there are some ways to save money on a babysitter. Here are five ideas:
1. Do a babysitting swap: You and a friend can take turns looking after each other’s kids. One weekday afternoon, you can watch her children for a few hours while she runs errands. The following week, she can babysit your kids while you get errands done. Or, you can switch off Friday or Saturday evenings so that you and your hubby can have a date every other weekend. The added bonus is that your kiddos will have regular play dates built into their schedule!
2. Barter your services: Got a skill that would be valuable to someone else? Offer up your services in exchange for babysitting. If you’re a hair stylist, for example, you could give a friend a free haircut if she’ll watch your kids for a few hours while you get things done. You could also offer free tutoring or homework help to a teenage neighbor in exchange for babysitting.
3. Share a sitter: If you’re going to dinner with another couple, offer to have them drop their child off at your house. Your sitter will charge you extra for the additional child, but you can then split the cost with the other couple. For example, if you’d generally pay the sitter $8 an hour for your child, and she increases her price to $10 an hour for the additional child, you’re now looking at only $5 an hour out of your own pocket!
4. Think outside your home: Many indoor play gyms and activity centers throughout the country offer weekly “parents’ nights out.” For a small fee, you can drop off your children for a few hours in a safe and fun environment while you go to a movie or dinner. Many of these places will also provide pizza or other kid-friendly food so you don’t have to worry about dinner for your little ones. Try The Little Gym‘s Parents’ Survival Night Out for kids ages 3 to 12, or My Gym‘s Parents’ Night Out.
5. Don’t forget about family: Whenever my sister-in-law—who lives thousands of miles away—comes to visit, she practically kicks my husband and me out the door so we can go on a date. We used to feel bad having her babysit instead of spending time with her, but we quickly realized how much she looked forward to having our twins all to herself for a few hours. So don’t hesitate to ask Grandma and Grandpa or an aunt or uncle to watch your kids one evening. As long as you don’t abuse the privilege, they’ll be happy to spend some time with your children!