Fifteen families in Kat Applegarth Simons’s Dumbo apartment building recently got together to form a babysitting co-op. Instead of paying a sitter $15 an hour, the families take turns sitting for each other’s kids entirely free of charge. Last Friday night, Kat brought along her own 6-month-old daughter, still asleep in her Pack-’n’-Play, to a couple’s apartment down the hall to watch their 15-month-old daughter. By the time the parents came home at 11:30, Kat was credited with four hours toward a sitter of her own. Kat’s group uses Google Documents and spreadsheets to keep track of members’ babysitting points, and a rotating secretary coordinates requests and sitting assignments. But not every co-op is so organized. A Fort Greene group relies on the Website babysitterexchange.com to send out requests and to keep track of hours. Some groups require new applicants to go on trial playdates before they can be inducted into the rotation. Some have strict geographical boundaries. Most attract like-minded individuals with similar parenting philosophies. Aside from the economic benefits, a co-op provides a built-in social network for kids and a deep bench of potential babysitters. There are times, of course, when sitting is work. But if it gives us the freedom and flexibility to get out of the house, says Amanda Wiss, founder of a babysitting co-op in Fort Greene, we can deal with someone else’s kid for a while.
Annual Savings: $3,120
(Based on four hours a week, $15 per hour)