How Much Are We Spending for a Babysitter?

03/07/2016 04:38 pm ET | Updated Mar 07, 2016

According to recent U.S. government reports, parents can expect to spend about $250,000 to raise a child in the world today. The cost includes everything from food, shelter and clothing to healthcare, education and childcare. My company, UrbanSitter, was curious to know how much of that expense is used to hire babysitters and nannies to care for our kids, so we surveyed and compiled data from 15,000 families across the nation to find out what it costs to hire a sitter whether it be for work or play. We asked how much families are paying their beloved nannies and sitters -- hourly and annually -- and also how often they book them, and how they choose whom to hire. Here's what we found out:

It's Getting More Expensive to Hire a Sitter

• The national average hourly rate for a babysitter is nearly $16 per hour for one child, $18 per hour for two kids, and just more than $20 per hour for three kids. This is up nearly a dollar an hour from last year when the average rate for one child was not quite $15 an hour.

• San Francisco tops the list with the most expensive babysitting rates in the country. Parents there pay their sitters about $16.50 per hour for one child and just over $20 per hour for three kids. Not surprisingly, childcare tends to cost more in larger metropolitan areas.

• Among the larger cities studied, Denver has the lowest rates--$11.57 per hour for one child.

• These are just base rates for parents who also tip their sitter, though only 19% of parents tip their sitter on every job. Those who add a tip to their sitter's hourly rate do it on holidays or special occasions--like New Year's Eve or Valentine's Day when competition for a babysitter is steep--or when a sitter goes above and beyond what is expected. When tipping, most parents simply round up, rather than giving a percentage of the total rate.

• More than half of parents in the survey spend at least $1,000 a year on babysitters.

• 64% of parents surveyed spend $30,000 or more a year on a nanny.

Booking a Sitter is a Standard Part of Modern Parenting
• Despite the steep cost of hiring a babysitter, most parents surveyed book a sitter at least once a week. Date Night is alive and well!

• More than 80% of parents surveyed said they would love to hire a babysitter during a family vacation.

We Rely on Other Parents to Determine Whom to Hire

• Reviews from other parents and references from friends ranked as the most important factors when hiring a babysitter, ahead of sitter experience, gut feeling, and background checks. More than half of surveyed parents check references before hiring a new sitter.

• 54% say they'd consider hiring a male caregiver, though just over 10% of us have actually hired one.

While it's helpful to know how others hire and pay their babysitters and nannies, it's also useful to remember that child care rates can vary depending on location; number of children and their needs (such as care for a newborn, multiples, or children with special needs); caregiver experience and qualifications, such as CPR certification, first aid training, or early childhood education; and expected job duties, including driving kids to and from school or activities, helping with homework, cooking meals, and handling household chores such as cleaning or shopping.

If you're interested in cutting costs (and hey, aren't we all?) here are some suggestions:

• Book a sitter on a weeknight. Booking a sitter on a Tuesday night can be more economical than booking for a Saturday night, a much more in-demand babysitting night.

• Let the sitter know that you are interested in booking her/him multiple times. Sitters like getting to know families and working for them more than once. They get to know your kids that way and it's easier for the sitter and your children. Sitters may be willing to accept a lower rate if they know a family is interested in hiring them for repeat bookings.

• Team up with another family. If your children are elementary school aged, it might be fun for them (and less expensive on a per kid basis for you) to book a sitter to watch your children and your friend's children. The kids will enjoy playing with each other while you and the other parents enjoy paying less per child than you would on your own. Just make sure your sitter knows in advance that she will be watching children for two families and be prepared to pay her hourly rate for that many children (still less per child per hour).