Since the pandemic started, parents across the country have been dealing with...a lot. Especially when it comes to child care. One report found that the average cost of child care has gone up 41% since March 2020. And inflation isn't helping either. Now, as working parents head back to the office, they may need to increase their budgets to include at-home care.
Because some babysitters are charging a lot more than they used to, according to the Wall Street Journal. Think: Around $25 or $30 an hour. Compared to pre-pandemic, when the average rate was less than $15 an hour. To learn more about why these costs are going up, our “Skimm This” team spoke with Lynn Perkins, the CEO and founder of Urbansitter — a site that matches parents with care options for their kids.
Listen or scroll down to find out why she's not surprised to see rates going up. And what parents can do to navigate rising costs.
First things first, why are babysitting rates increasing?
Perkins says it’s a combo of two issues: Supply and demand — and a more qualified pool of workers.
“During COVID, we saw that there were fewer care providers,” she explains. “So, with less supply and heavy demand, the people who offer child care and other types of care were able to increase their rates. We also saw that people who were previously teachers or nurses and potentially burned out by their careers went into child care. And because they are so skilled and have credentials, they're able to charge more.”
Perkins also says the rates we're seeing now reflect all the work that babysitters actually do for families. Which, btw, can be a lot more than sitting on the couch and watching TV.
“I think it feels really steep to people who are used to paying one rate to, all of a sudden, see the rates go up so drastically,” she adds. “But I do think there is a positive out of this, which is that if we can have very talented adults and teenagers make good money at child care, and adults make a living wage, I think that we'll see a higher quality care offering for families out there.”
Not to mention, this rise in demand can also help babysitters push for better working conditions, like minimum work hours and transportation.
And how are parents finding and retaining babysitters?
Perkins says that frustrated parents — who are worried about people poaching their sitters — are adding extra benefits to try to sweeten the deal.
“We've seen parents throw in things like movie tickets or gift certificates to spas, things like that,” she adds. “Maybe not for a typical babysitting job, but if somebody is coming in to help for a week or longer, parents are really kind of going all out. I think they're recognizing that finding really good care is challenging. And so you want to be able to keep and retain people once you have found a good fit for your family.”
What if parents can’t afford these new babysitter rates?
If your neighborhood Baby-Sitter's Club has been upping their rates recently, Perkins has some advice:
Split care costs with another family.
If you know a family with a child or children around the same age as yours, try sharing a babysitter. That way, you can potentially pay less per child than if you had your own care provider.
Find someone local.
If you find a sitter in your neighborhood or close by, they might work for a lower rate if they have a shorter commute time.
If you can have some flexibility in your family’s schedule, try and work around your sitter’s needs. For example: If your babysitter has an after-school activity a few days a week, try and schedule them for the days they’re free. Perkins explains that your sitter may be willing to work for a slightly lower rate if you can work around their schedule.
Babysitter rates aren’t what they used to be. And child care is putting a greater strain on families' wallets. But with rising inflation and a smaller supply of workers, it's worth pulling out your budget spreadsheet to factor in the care you may need.
PS: For more from our convo with Perkins, check out our “Skimm This” episode.
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