ThreeJars Daily: Stop Shelling Out For Babysitting!

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Stop Shelling Out For Babysitting!

Want to go out or run an errand but don’t want to pay a ton for a babysitter? No problem! Here’s how to get good reliable childcare for a lot less.

By Aviva Patz

1. Share a sitter with another couple going to the same movie, party, or PTA meeting so that you each pay only half the hourly fee. Your kids will love the pajama playdate with their pals, and the sitter will appreciate that the kids are happily entertained by each other.

2. Swap babysitting duties with close friends. It’s simple: They watch your kids one time; you watch theirs another time. You can also join a formal babysitting cooperative like the ones on, where a group of families (anywhere from 3 to 60) in a community trade babysitting duties using a points system. Can’t find a coop near you? Start your own by using the startup kit on

3. Use a drop-in childcare center, which is a lot like a traditional day-care facility—it’s licensed and employs sitters trained in CPR, first aid, and early childcare—only you can, well, drop in! They’re usually open until 9 or 10 p.m. on weekdays, and 11 p.m. or midnight on weekends, and typically charge about $7.50 an hour (some let you buy a block of hours for less—$6.50 an hour for 20 hours, for example) or a flat rate of say, $25 for an entire evening. Kids participate in themed activities such as sock hops, safaris, luaus and talent shows. To find a center near you, check,,, or

4. Use a mother’s helper if you’re just going out for a bit and have preschoolers or slightly older kids. Talk to friends whose children are in middle school or ask around your church, synagogue, or local YMCA to find kids—usually 10- to 14-year-olds—who might be interested. You can expect to pay 20 to 40 percent less than the going rate, and your children will have fun playing with someone closer to their own age.

Aviva Patz is a freelance writer based in Montclair, New Jersey. She has written for Self, Shape, Redbook, Health, Cooking Light, Parents, Parenting and more.


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