Starting a babysitting circle

One thing most parents have in common is the need to take a break every now and again; to catch up with friends, spend quality time with a partner or just have a bit of time to chill out. Another thing we have in common is the challenge of finding an affordable babysitter who we completely trust to take care of our kids, and who we can rely on regularly. 

You might have tried various routes to find a babysitter – grandparents, aunts and uncles, agency sitters – but another option that can work incredibly well is to start a babysitting circle with a group of other parents who you already know and trust.

The idea is that you and the other parents in your circle “pay” each other for babysitting by exchanging vouchers which have a time value rather than a financial value (time is money, after all). So if you go out for three hours, your babysitter earns three hours which they can spend on a night out for themselves. They can use the vouchers to buy some babysitting time from any of the other parents in the circle – the vouchers work just like money, without actually costing a penny to anyone.

There are lots of benefits to organising your babysitting this way. Most importantly, you know the people looking after your children are responsible, trustworthy and good with kids. It also means you’re not actually spending any money on childcare, leaving more cash for dinner, movie tickets, cocktails… whatever you need to blow the cobwebs away! The time you spend babysitting might also be a great opportunity to introduce both sets of children to each other so they can make new friends in the process.
There are just a few things you need to get the circle going – some fellow parents in need of a break (shouldn’t be too difficult to find), some vouchers to exchange, and a way of keeping in touch with the members of the group so you can organise your nights off easily. 

One way to contact the members of the circle would be through an email list, or even better, a private Facebook group – everyone is online these days this should be really easy to arrange. One of the benefits of cheap broadband is that it’s also probably cheaper to use the internet for the organisational side of things than to phone or text individual people.   

When it comes to the actual “money”, I’d recommend getting some coloured cardboard and making colour coded vouchers for set amounts of time. For example half an hour, one, two and three hours. You can then combine these to pay for your babysitting. It might even be worth laminating the cards because they’ll start to get a bit worn as they are passed around between parents in the circle.
A babysitting circle is the perfect money saving solution to childcare for nights out; and it’s an arrangement where you get out exactly what you put in while supporting other parents in your community. If you have any more tips or experience with a similar arrangement feel free to leave a comment!

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