It’s summertime, and with jobs scarce, high-school student will be competing with collegians for steady babysitting work over the summer. That’s good news for parents who want to go out for a bite and a few sips of Bordeaux. But what is the optimal rate to get — and keep — the best sitter? Here’s a blueprint to avoid those babysitter blues.

To give you something to go by, know that the average rate for babysitting services today is between $8 and $12 an hour, according to the website The site also notes that rates in major metropolitan areas (i.e. New York or San Francisco) can be as high as $18 per hour.

With those numbers tucked away in the back of your mind, start thinking about factors that drive babysitting prices one way or another. Here’s a quick list:

Location. Where does the babysitter live? If the sitter is next door, that could cut the price (having a babysitter from across town may result in extra gasoline costs when picking up and dropping off). An older sitter who drives might be worth an extra dollar or two in that regard.

Capability. The number one driver of a babysitter's wage is experience. You can’t put a price on piece of mind, so if you locate a sitter with, say, five years of experience watching kids younger than 5, paying a few bucks more might be worth it.

How many kids you have. If your family is bigger than the Brady Bunch, expect to pay about $1 or $2 more for each additional child (past one child). The age of your kids goes into the calculations, as well. Typically, kids under three can drive up the cost of sitting by as much as $2 per child.

Time Away. If you can get away with it, don’t pay more for coverage after 10 p.m. But if your sitter asks for it, and you value his/her services, be prepared to pay a higher hourly wage past 10 p.m. But during daylight hours, when the kids can play outside and be slightly more independent, stick to your average per-hour rate.

When negotiating a babysitting fee, be flexible and be creative. For example, if you’re stuck between $10 and $12 an hour when negotiating, offer to pay the higher rate, but ask the sitter to spend an hour or two helping your kids do their homework or clean their rooms. In other words, cut a deal that makes your home an even more pleasant place to which you return.

If you’re still at a loss, try out’s rate calculator. There you can plug in some sample factors (like location and the number and age of your children) and come up with a fair number that works for you, your kids and your babysitter too.

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