Do you have a hard time finding room in the budget for a babysitter? We have a go-to guide for you on how to start your own babysitting co-op to help you save money and invest in relationships.
What is it?
A babysitting co-op is a group of people who exchange babysitting services to one another. You don't have to pay for the babysitting, instead all the members of the co-op track their hours spent babysitting for other families involved. You can then “cash in” those hours for babysitting services for your family.
There are many different ways to track the hours co-op members have earned and spent. Maybe you have a tech savvy group? Utilize digital methods. Start a Google document to track hours used and hours spent for each family. Every member can have access to the document and be allowed to edit it as needed. If you need something more tactile, think about using poker chips. Each chip can represent a predetermined amount of time. We suggest 30 minutes. It's most simple to keep all the chips worth the same amount of time. Before you get started with your co-op, all the participants will want to decide together how many hours each family should start with. Take into consideration if you will “charge” families with more children extra hours over families with a single child. Will weekends be worth more than weekdays? Address any other questions that your co-op members may have about making the system work best for your group. There is no right or wrong answer, you can think of co-op chips as a currency for services that can be bartered or have pre-established rates.
During your initial set up you need to decide how to schedule sitting...e-mail, facebook groups, yahoo groups, one-on-one? We like the idea of utilizing facebook's private group settings to help arrange babysitting that way. Group members can then ask everyone at the same time if they are able to babysit for them. Additionally, if someone is running low on hours and needs to work a bit to catch up they can easily volunteer their services to earn some hours back. Of course, you can always keep it simple by passing out a phone list.
Try to tackle any potential issues before they occur. Here are some things to think about:
- Will you allow members to draw hours before earning them?
- Will you allow new members to join?
- What will the requirements be for new members?
- If someone wants to leave the co-op will they need to find a replacement?
- Will your group require meetings?
getting the most out of it
Starting a babysitting co-op is not just about free babysitting. Setting aside time to spend with your significant other, running errands uninterrupted and sometimes just having a bit of “Me” time are all great benefits you'll reap from your new co-op. You might also be surprised by the friendship and community you are building.
- If you feel like you need more info check out Smart Mom's Baby-Sitting Co-Op Handbook.
- Sitting Around allows you to search for established babysitting co-ops in your area.
- Check out Babysitter Exchange to start and manage your own babysitting co-op online.