Date night can be a very expensive proposition when you have children. Not only do you generally have to pay for your entertainment — like a dinner out, a movie or both – you also typically have to pay a babysitter.
But my friend and I recently figured out a way to cut out the cost of a sitter. We traded babysitting, a money-saving strategy that is today’s hint.
Here’s how we worked out the exchange smartly so we barely did any actual sitting with babies. One recent weekend, my friend came over to my house just after my husband and I had put our daughter in her crib for bedtime, and just after her son had gone to sleep back at her house. My husband and I then went out to dinner and enjoyed our night on the town while my friend watched television and read on our couch (and her husband babysat their sleeping son).
Then, the next night, after my daughter was in her crib for bedtime, I went over to my friend’s house just after she and her husband had put their son to sleep, and left my husband to babysit our sleeping daughter. My friends then went off to dinner and it was my turn to hang out in the living room until they returned home a few hours later.
My hope is that we’ll make this couple’s babysitting exchange a regularly reoccurring trade, and I’m not the only one to like this method for finding a free (and of course, friendly and trustworthy) babysitter. Laura, who blogs at Stroller Parking Only, recently wrote about doing something similar and nicely summed up a great benefit of this approach: “When it was my turn to babysit, it was like another night off.” Meanwhile, Trent at The Simple Dollar blog also does something similar with another couple in his neighborhood, and he points out another advantage of such exchanges: “It’s with people that we’ve built a relationship with, so we feel secure leaving our children there. It’s a win in almost every way.”
I also like one of his tips for making the exchange last: Don’t sweat it if your friends need to cancel last minute, because you’ll probably need to do that once in a while too (in fact, my weekend night exchange happened on our second try). Another helpful tip, which comes from Amy Suardi over at Parentables, is to try to pick a friend for the exchange whose children are similar in age to yours. While I like the simple one couple exchange approach, you also can get more elaborate, adding more couples into the rotation. For hints on setting up a more elaborate exchange, the Frugal Mama blog provides an example of how such an exchange might work.
What are your strategies for trading babysitting with friends, and saving money on babysitters?