How Much to Pay  
  A decent wage ensures that your baby-sitter appreciates the level of trust required in turning your child over to her care.  

So you’ve finally worked up the courage to leave the little one at home and are planning a night on the town for two (after all, you can’t remember the last time the two of you made eye contact, let alone canoodled over a glass of wine). But what’s the going rate for reclaimed sanity? You can’t just double the tax at the end of the night. Below, a guide to figuring out what a sitter is worth.

Expect to pay a minimum of $40 per night. The going rate for a single child ranges between $10 and $15 per hour (with a minimum of four hours) for a college student or young professional. You’ll probably have to fork over another $2 per hour for each additional child. Offer anything less, and you may have trouble attracting a sitter. Note: It’s especially uncool to say you’ll pay a sitter for a certain number of hours, then pay her less just because you decided to make it an early night.

Experience matters. Eight to $10 per hour is fine for anyone under 18. You’ll pay more for special skills, from $12 for a sitter who cooks, cleans, and drives to $18 for someone who brings her own bag of games and goodies and is either certified in infant CPR and first aid or adept at handling more than two kids.

Pay for the ride home. Safety is important to sitters, who are often single women heading home late at night. It’s pretty much standard to slip in an extra $10 to $20 (depending on where the sitter lives) if your night runs later than 9 p.m.

Feed them. Since baby-sitters are usually working during meal times and preparing food for the kids, parents should allow access to the fridge or leave extra cash for takeout.

From the Fall 2003 edition of the New York Family Guide