Saving on Sitters: Creative Child Care Solutions for a Tough Economy

Option 2: Entering Into a Share Care

How it works
A "share care" is when two different families let their children stay with the same sitter while the parents are out. Since the parents are sharing one sitter, they each pay around 20 to 35 percent less than the going rate and give the total to the caregiver.

So, if you typically pay $12 per hour for a sitter to watch your two children while your friend pays $10 per hour for her one child, you could each cut back by 30 percent and pay the sitter a total of $60 for four hours of work (rather than each paying $48 and $40, respectively).

What to do
First, pick a reliable family to share a sitter with and make sure you have similar parenting styles. If you choose a family whose rules mirror your own, it's easier for the caregiver to manage both sets of children under one roof.

Make sure you communicate everything beforehand to help the evening go smoothly. (Whose house will the children stay at? Will all of the children be eating dinner beforehand? What will each family owe? Exactly which adult will be paying the sitter?)

Once you've got the plans figured out, stick to them! If the sitter is expecting four children, for example, resist the urge to add another child to the mix. You might think, "What's one more?" but the reality is that it increases the sitter's workload.

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