Mathematical Theories on Babysitting

Posted on February 11, 2011
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How do you determine how much you pay your babysitter?  Do you have an hourly price or a set fee for the evening?

Places like recommend that you pay around $5 an hour and that prices go up based on the ages and "temperament of your children."  The hours we could while away discussing the temperament of our children and what it should cost us in babysitting fees.  Candi Wingate at recommends $10 an hour for one to two kids, but also says you should expect to pay as much as $18 per hour depending on the cost of living where you are located, the age of your kids and the experience of the sitter.  If you aren't happy with any of these prices you can go with who says you can get away with $3-$4 per hour.

That's a lot of varied opinion, but let's face it, you can't take anything to chance when you finally get the opportunity to go out without your kids.  You need an iron-clad, foolproof way of determining how much you are going to pay for sitters so that, a) they don't walk out on you half way through the night and b)they want to come back, no matter what happened with your kids.

Now generally we like to think our kids are pretty good, but let's face it, they aren't so good that we aren't dying to get out of the house on our own on a Friday night.

So here is our simple formula for paying babysitters:

age of children x amount of children + hours spent with children - amount of children x hours in bed during hours spent sitting.

It's not really that complicated.  So if Colleen and I go out this weekend it plays out like this:

age of children (5+5+5+9) 24 x amount of children (4) = 96 + hours spent with children (6) = 102 - amount of children (4) x hours in bed during hours spent sitting (3)

So we have a total of 24 years of children spread out over four kids with six hours being spent with them, that gets us about to $102.  We then subtract the three hours that they were all in bed (multiplied by four kids), that comes to about $90 for six hours of babysitting.  Of course this formula only really works if they are sitting your kids for five hours or more and there will be some bed time involved.

For babysitting of five hours or less you use this formula:

age of children x amount of children + hours spent with your children divided by the child negativity ratio (determined by taking the amount of children, multiplying by the hours the sitter would need to spend with the children to "have had enough," and dividing by the sitters age.

So a four hour get away for Colleen and myself would be:

age of children (24) x amount of children (4) = 96 divided by child negativity ratio (four children x seven hours to "have had enough" (28) divided by sitters age (14) = 2.) 96 divided by 2 = $48.  So for four hours of babysitting we would pay about $48.

Of course there are variables that have to play into the formula for various deviations.  There is the "can you wipe me up" .5% upcharge that often comes with children just out of diapers but not completely self-sufficient. We also add in an "innocence bonus" of 1% when we arrive home to find the sitter watching the Disney Channel even though the kids are all in bed and they could be watching a show above their age on HBO.

But there are some deductions that can be taken into account as well.  I think it's more than fair to charge a "macaroni and cheese pot left on the counter, now full of petrified macaroni and cheese," 5% deduction.  Also, there is a 2% deduction for each can of soda the kids drank while the sitter was in charge.  And yes, it is okay to carry over deductions to the next sitting session.  Sometimes you don't notice until the next morning that there should have been a "child in bed with ketchup smeared on her face," or a "marker stain on furniture in room where markers aren't allowed" deduction.  Those are both 1.5% penalties on the next visit. 

That's how we do it and yes, it helps if we have a long drive home so we can work out our formulas before we arrive at the front door.

We'd love to hear how you determine your babysitting costs.



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Comments (25)

  • Kim

    June 17, 2016 (1 year ago)

    Back in the 70's, when a teenager, I was regularly babysitting for different families in my neighborhood. My hourly rate was only an absurd $1 an hour no matter number of kids or ages. I earned alot but when I think back I shouldn't have been so modest or cheap. Man, I could have bought a house using the math u gave ofcourse according to the then economy of that time era. I could kick myself now for not asking more for my services.

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    September 02, 2014 (3 years ago)

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    August 31, 2014 (3 years ago)

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  • Lexy

    June 06, 2014 (3 years ago)

    Your little formula is crap. I have been a nanny for 6 years now, and I would never work for a family that paid me so low. You're trusting someone with your children, they deserve more than what you're giving them. First of all, using your formula, someone keeping 3 kids aged 1, 2, and 3 would make less than someone keeping three kids aged 8, 9, and 10. That is ridiculous. Older kids pretty much take care of
    Themselves. Younger kids are much harder to take care of. I seriously hope you rethink your formula. $8 for the first kid and $3 for every additional child is much better.

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  • Jackie

    March 26, 2014 (3 years ago)

    As a nanny I must say the way you pay for babysitting is sick. Four children for fours hours costs 48? It is extremely low. I hope you have updated your pay for the poor babysitters working for you.

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