Do we tip the babysitter?
July 23, 2011 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Do we tip the babysitter?

First time getting a non-family member to babysit tonight! Woo! Now, to tip or not to tip? Relevant details: we're in the suburban Boston area, we'll be paying $13/hour for an adult to come over to babysit for 3 hours (we hope the little one will be asleep the entire time, but it could be an unpleasant cry-fest). Mr. Baby is almost a year old. We found the sitter on, so it's not a friend or relative.

The idea of tipping had not even crossed my mind until my husband mentioned that he assumed we'll be tipping. I babysat a lot as a teenager and don't recall ever getting a tip. Aside from holidays, maybe. Is it the done thing to tip your babysitter these days? If so, a percentage of the total, or some other calculation?

I remember parents often telling me to help myself to whatever food I wanted while sitting. While I'm totally cool with making that offer, is that something you do when your babysitter is an adult who presumably would have obtained dinner beforehand? If it matters, the sitting is for late dinner-time (7-10).

I want to get this right so we have a shot at a regular sitter!
posted by banjo_and_the_pork to Human Relations (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We don't tip our babysitters in New York City, as one data point.
posted by gaspode at 11:01 AM on July 23, 2011

Best answer: I'd say round up to the nearest $5 or $10 and call it a day. So, if you're gone three hours, pay $40 instead of $39. And yeah, let her know if it's okay to eat your snacks, and show her how to work the TV remotes if they're at all complicated, so that she'll be able to relax after putting the baby down.
posted by decathecting at 11:06 AM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If she puts out a fire, signs for a package, or gets puked on, please tip her. If she just eats your snacks and watches your cable, no tip needed.
posted by bilabial at 11:10 AM on July 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

In New York; we don't tip. Sometimes if it's very late we pay for a taxi home.
posted by Ollie at 11:15 AM on July 23, 2011

You don't want the sitter uncomfortable or wondering whether it's okay to have a Diet Coke or granola bar. If dinner has been eaten, great, it still doesn't hurt you to offer.
posted by J. Wilson at 11:18 AM on July 23, 2011

SE USA: no tip, maybe a Christmas gift if you use her a lot. Put her in the same gift/tip category as you would your postman: seldom, if ever.
posted by Ys at 11:20 AM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

We always round up....say if it came to $27, give her $30.
posted by texas_blissful at 11:26 AM on July 23, 2011

I've never heard of tipping a private worker like that... It's all tip unless she's working for an agency or a subcontractor of some type.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:29 AM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I babysat all through middle and high school. I never got tipped, but I got bonuses on top of the hourly rate a lot. Short notice? A few extra bucks. Got home later than they said they would? A few extra bucks. Dog got sick and pooped all over the living room? A few extra bucks. Popular night (New Year's, neighborhood parties, school functions)? A lot of extra bucks.

As for food, "help yourself to whatever drinks or snacks you want."
posted by phunniemee at 11:40 AM on July 23, 2011 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I did a lot of babysitting as a teenager, I was cheap and the kids all loved me.

I never got a bonus. Sometimes instead of an hourly rate we'd agree on a set fee ahead of time, usually if I was going to be spending most of the night sleeping on the couch like New Year's Eve. Sometimes the parents would round up and I always liked that.

A couple of people gave me small Christmas gifts, things like lotion or a small item from some catalog, usually I just got a plate of cookies or fudge.. It was really nice to be remembered but not expected.

The most awesome people to sit for were the ones who had specific snacks for me ("The kids can have these granola bars, but we got the bag of chips for you to eat after they go to bed.") and who took the time to explain the television remotes and how to make the VCR work.
posted by TooFewShoes at 12:15 PM on July 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Definitely round it up.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:24 PM on July 23, 2011

I have babysat/nannied often in the past and still babysit every once in awhile, and I've never been tipped. The whole idea seems odd to me - what's the tip for? You're already paying me $X/hour to watch your children. If you're going to pay me more, just pay me more per hour.

I sort of expect parents to tell me to eat whatever I want, and in fact think it's a little strange if they don't. I wouldn't necessarily expect a babysitter to have eaten by 7 pm, either, although if they plan ahead they will have. (Oh, and I'm in my late twenties, so definitely an adult).
posted by LizzyBee at 12:26 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Here in GA we don't generally tip but do round up. On the other hand, there have been a couple of times when a sitter has had to drve across town on short notice that I have thrown in an extra $10 for gas.
posted by TedW at 12:30 PM on July 23, 2011

I babysit a lot, and no one tips. Usually they round up to the nearest $10, though.
posted by nonasuch at 12:40 PM on July 23, 2011

I babysat from middle school through college, in three different parts of the country. I've never heard of tipping. You pay what you pay. Rounding up is good, like to the full hour, but beyond that, why would you tip?
posted by DiscourseMarker at 12:56 PM on July 23, 2011

Never heard of my sister getting tipped as a kid. Round up, offer snacks/drinks. If something crazy happens, then throw in some extra money.
posted by Brian Puccio at 1:04 PM on July 23, 2011

Never heard of tipping the babysitter. I babysat throughout my teens (Manhattan & Westchester), sometimes they rounded up, sometimes not. I usually got a little extra at the holidays, but it just seems silly to tip the babysitter after a few hours of babysitting.
posted by firei at 1:24 PM on July 23, 2011

My parents and sisters always tipped, said it seemed the pragmatic thing to do because responsible, reliable sitters were hard to find, could often enough pick and choose their gigs, would be quicker to work for those who provided a little extra.
posted by ambient2 at 1:48 PM on July 23, 2011

Time Out NY suggests tipping a regular at Christmas.
posted by brujita at 2:03 PM on July 23, 2011

If she is working for a service, and some of that $13/hour is going to the service, then tip. If you are just paying her directly and she pockets the whole thing, then no tip. (This is pretty much the rule for everything - you don't tip owners, you do tip staff.)
posted by Kololo at 2:23 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If its "an unpleasant cry-fest" then I'd say a tip/bonus would be a nice 'good faith' gesture if you want to make it a regular thing. If she's just sat on the couch for 4 hours watching TV and eating snacks, I don't think a tip is really required but rounding up makes it easier for everyone.

On the food thing - my mum used to make a platter of sandwiches and cookies for the baby sitter. I don't think they ever ate any of it. When I sat it was more of a 'help yourself to snacks' rather than 'help yourself to whatever' but the only time I ever ate anything was when there was a box of chocolates on the coffee table and I was specifically told to have one if I wanted. But I'm at the very shy end of the spectrum - like wouldn't even help myself to a glass of water. I know some people have no problems going through other people's things and helping themselves to 'whatever' so clear boundries on what the babysitter can have are best for the both of you.
posted by missmagenta at 3:10 PM on July 23, 2011

I babysat a lot as a teen and I didn't usually get a tip as a regular thing. But people often "rounded up" when it came to the total or gave me an extra $10 if they were late, or if it was a holiday (New Year's or July 4th or what have you). And yes, while it's not required, being told to help yourself to snacks or whatever is always really appreciated by babysitters. You can think of it like a tip if you like. I know that when I babysat, the people who were the nicest to me would sometimes find that their dishes got done or their living room tidied and stuff like that.
posted by katyggls at 3:28 PM on July 23, 2011

We always tipped, but it was more because finding a teenager that was trustworthy and willing to babysit was such a PITA, we looked at it as in investment in getting onto her "good" client list. We were usually paying $10 a hour and would throw in an extra $5.
posted by COD at 3:49 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

i've done some babysitting, and some families tipped me and some didn't. while it may not be necessary to tip, i can guarantee it made it a lot easier to decide which jobs to take if there was ever a scheduling conflict, which happened somewhat regularly. i also admit i go out of my way more for the ones who seem to appreciate me more (through tipping)- as mentioned above, stuff like cleaning, or tackling a more difficult creative project with the kids rather then just letting them do whatever, etc.

after i'd been doing it for a while, the hourly rate i charged upfront didn't even matter anymore- families paid me whatever they felt like, and though my "rate" was the minimum, my highest priority families ended up being the ones who paid me more than that, not because i asked but because they simply felt i deserved more. yes, this happens. (of course, if you or your kids are a nightmare, then there's really no way i'm going to be available when you call anyway unless i'm desperate.)
posted by GastrocNemesis at 4:06 PM on July 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Now I feel like I overpaid. I always rounded UP to the next hour. So 3.25 hours got 4 hours pay. And if it was a round number like $30 or $40 assuming we paid about $10/hr back then, I would usually add $5. So $30 became $35.

My theory was if she or he was good, I wanted them to do it again. This person was watching our most precious asset, our children. Did not want them in any way resentful or doing it with any sort of remorse. Would rather overpay than underpay in that type of situation.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 4:17 PM on July 23, 2011

Best answer: I tip if
a) the sitting job is short notice
b) we return late
c) the sitter goes out of his/her way to be awesome
d) to ensure that he/she will be available next time

This has meant that, nine times out of ten, our sitter has been tipped. I also make sure there's a pizza on hand.

Additional data point: I am an easy mark.
posted by lekvar at 5:13 PM on July 23, 2011

I've never tipped a babysitter except for twice when things went horribly pear-shaped.

I tell sitters to help themselves to whatever they want in the kitchen. Adults have never taken me up on the food but usually make tea; teenagers eat and eat and eat but don't make tea.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:29 PM on July 23, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone! We ended up tipping (rounded up from $39 to $40 then added an extra $10 to that) because it turned out that our son cried for about 40 minutes before going to sleep, and I figure that amount of crying deserves something extra. This was so helpful!
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 8:09 PM on July 23, 2011

On behalf of babysitters the world over, I commend you! Thanks for the update.
posted by bilabial at 11:07 AM on July 25, 2011

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