There's no doubt that babysitters work hard and take on a lot of responsibility. But should you be tipping them for their service?
Whether you tip your babysitter will depend on where you live, your cultural norms and expectations, if your sitter has gone above and beyond their assigned duties, if it’s during the holidays or on a special occasion, if the job was arranged at the last minute, or if you are later than expected coming home.
In this article, you'll learn the places where it’s more common to tip your babysitter, the times when it’s more appropriate to tip, how much you should give, and more.
Babysitter Tipping By Location
The practice of tipping sitters varies around the world by country, city, and culture, here are some examples:
In the US and Canada, it's quite normal and often expected to tip service workers such as babysitters. According to UrbanSitter, about 55% of US parents offer a tip to their sitters, while the other 45% don't.
In the UK, babysitter tipping is a lot less prevalent than the US but in places where sitters are in short supply, parents are often happy to offer tips to help retain their services.
In Australia and New Zealand, babysitters are already paid a high price per hour so tipping is a lot less common.
But in all places, it may be appropriate to tip your babysitter in certain circumstances.
When Should You Tip Your Babysitter?
Generally, I prefer to use tipping as a way to reward exceptionally good service from my babysitter, as opposed to just a default extra percentage to tack on to their pay every time. If I was going to do the latter, I'd rather pay them a higher hourly rate upfront, instead of adding ambiguity to the situation.
Here are seven situations when parents who don't regularly tip should at least give it some consideration.
1. When Your Babysitter Really Goes Above And Beyond
Most parents wouldn't want to tip a babysitter that just stares at their phone for most of the night and only passively supervises your children, rather than actually interacting with them.
Arguably, even interacting with your children and keeping them constantly entertained is just part of the job description, and probably not even worth tipping for.
The more a babysitter does what isn't expected or asked for, the more you should be likely to tip. If they take it upon themselves to fold your laundry or clean the house without you asking, that's some excellent service that deserves to be rewarded! The same likely goes if your children are being unusually full of energy and mischievious on a given day, it's nice to pay them a bit extra for the hassle.
If your babysitter keeps your house running like a dream and everything is neat and tidy when you get back, the children are fed and put to bed at a reasonable hour, and all the toys are put away; consider showing your appreciation financially.
If you've got a great babysitter, you want them to know how much you value them. Such babysitters are often in high demand, and you want to be at the top of their list if they receive multiple requests from different families on the same night.
Is it cheaper to get a nanny or to put your child into daycare? Find the answer here! - Is Daycare Cheaper than a Nanny? (Full Price Breakdown)
2. For Adapting To Unexpected Situations
On rare occasions, things might happen that are outside of the control of both you and the babysitter.
Maybe your power goes out for several hours while you're gone, and the babysitter has to keep your children from freaking out. As well as try to locate some flashlights or battery-powered light sources, and then keep them busy with some impromptu campfire stories or some form of entertainment that doesn't require electricity.
Or perhaps a mouse or a bat gets into your house and the babysitter manages to either contain it or remove it from your house entirely. That's likely to be quite a calamity to work through, particularly with young children to watch at the same time!
If your child is feeling a bit sick, I would tip the sitter as well. (And out of courtesy, let them know in advance. They might not want to babysit a sick child!) Babysitting a child while they're sick has some extra steps involved such as giving them medicine, checking their temperature, and keeping them more comfortable.
Any kind of situation where babysitters need to think on their feet or deal with something unexpected probably warrants paying them a few extra dollars for their troubles.
Do you want to find a babysitter that consistently goes above and beyond? Read my article - What to Look For in a Babysitter (12 Essential Qualities)
3. For Offering Last Minute Availability
Finding a good babysitter can be tough, even under regular circumstances. So if there's an emergency and you need a babysitter at the last minute, or if your regular sitter calls in sick, having someone willing to step up with little to no notice can be a huge relief.
If you can get a babysitter on short notice, it doesn't hurt to tip them to show how much you appreciate their help. Otherwise, you likely would have to cancel any plans and stay home with your children instead.
Parents have busy lives, but so do babysitters. So don't ignore their willingness to help out last minute. They're essentially doing you a favor.
4. When You're Still Establishing A Relationship
When you're working with a brand new babysitter, it can be helpful to pay a bit extra to get on their good side. It’s especially important if it's someone you'll want to work for you again, and your children like them too. That way next time you want them to babysit for you, they'll actually look forward to working with you.
It doesn't have to be a huge gesture. Your tip might be as simple as rounding up the amount of money that you owe at the end of the night. For example, if you owe the babysitter $44, you might just round it up to an even $50. This makes it a lot easier to pay your babysitter with bills instead of having to worry about having exact change as an added benefit.
5. For Showing Flexibility
If you run an hour later than you had anticipated, I'd recommend giving your babysitter a tip, in addition to paying their regular rate for that extra hour.
Having a babysitter who is willing to be a bit flexible can make your life a lot easier. Rewarding them for staying a bit late will make them appreciative, rather than feeling bitter that they had to work longer than expected.
You might temporarily need the babysitter to take on an extra task or responsibility as well, which requires some flexibility. For example, you might have a new puppy that the babysitter needs to let outside more often. Anything like that deserves a bit of a bump to their base pay.
Would you ever hire a male babysitter? Find out if it's a good idea or not here - Is it Safe to Hire a Male Babysitter? (Facts and Stats You Should Know)
6. For Babysitting Large Groups of Children
The more children a babysitter has to watch, the amount of work required can seem to grow exponentially. Usually, babysitters will only charge an extra dollar or two on top of their base hourly rate for an additional child. But if their base rate is $12 per hour for one child, then if they're watching four children their rate might only increase to $16 - $20 per hour. You're getting a lot more babysitting bang for your buck, so it's a nice gesture to use a tip to increase their overall pay for the day.
Babysitters will want to know in advance if they're watching a big group of children. For example, if a bunch of your child's friends or cousins will be at your house for the day. Be sure to talk about rates ahead of time.
For large numbers of children, you might even want to ask if they've got an extra friend who can help them babysit the group as well.
Be sure to know how many is too many kids. See this article for the answer - How many babies can a babysitter watch?
7. During The Holidays
Families are more likely to give their babysitters a tip around the holidays. Some may give their sitter an average night's pay as a bonus, while others may give their sitter a non-monetary gift such as jewelry or a bottle of wine (if they’re above drinking age). If it's the last time you'll see your babysitter before the Christmas holidays, consider giving them a little something extra.
See our Christmas gift guide for babysitters for some brilliant ideas that don’t cost the earth.
You should definitely pay your babysitter extra if they're babysitting on or around popular holidays like Valentine's Day or New Year's Eve when babysitters are in high demand.
My guide to hiring an NYE babysitter offers a lot of additional tips and pay expectations for this popular occasion, as does my Valentine's Day Guide.
How Much Should You Tip A Babysitter?
If you're going to tip, you don't want to tip too little. Giving too small of a tip can backfire and make you look stingy and unappreciative, which is worse than giving no tip at all!
Your tip should usually be proportional to any inconvenience or extra work that was required of your sitter. For small extra details like taking your child to a further away park with play equipment they enjoy better, you might only tip an extra $2 or $3. But more substantial effort demands a more substantial tip. For example, the sicker your child is, the bigger a tip you should give.
As a general rule, most parents who tip will typically add on between 15% to 20% of the total amount they owe the babysitter. Or some may choose to tip a flat amount, such as an extra hour's worth of pay.
As mentioned earlier, some families also give their babysitters some extra perks, gifts, or bonuses, especially around Christmas time.
How Often Should You Tip A Babysitter?
Giving a tip occasionally has a lot more impact than simply adding it on to every payment that you give to your babysitter. It's a great tool for recognizing when your sitter has really gone above and beyond in their duties and encourages them to do a great job again for you in the future.
If you start to tip too often, your babysitter might come to expect it and become resentful if you don't tip. So try to only tip once a month or so if possible, to keep tipping feeling voluntary and not like something you're obligated to do. That way your babysitter won't start to develop any expectations, and tips stay as what they're meant to be: a nice bonus.
If your babysitter is consistently exceeding your expectations and you want a way to reward them, perhaps simply increasing their hourly rate is in order, rather than relying on tips to show your constant appreciation.
If your wallet is a bit too tight to either give your babysitter a raise or regular tips, consider some non-monetary ways of showing your appreciation. Have your children make a handwritten letter, a drawing, a card, or some other way of saying thanks and how important and appreciated they are.
How much should you be paying your babysitter, anyway? Learn from my guide here - Babysitter Pay (The Complete Guide for Parents)
Tipping your babysitter isn't necessarily considered standard practice. About an equal number of parents don't tip their babysitters at all, compared to those who do. On one end of the extreme, you have people who think you should tip anyone who performs a service for you. And on the other end are those who never tip.
Giving an occasional tip is a great way to show your babysitter just how much they mean to you and your family though. Not only that, but tipping your babysitter might make them more likely to babysit for you again, or make you their top priority when they're in high demand, such as if you need a babysitter for New Year's Eve.
At the end of the day, tipping ultimately comes down to whatever you feel comfortable with, and what you think the quality of your babysitter's work deserves.
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My book, Babysitting Business Secrets, is out now as an inexpensive ebook or full-color paperback. If your babysitter is serious about becoming the best sitter they can be, then this book is perfect for them. I reveal all my tricks and tips for first-time babysitters or experienced sitters who just want to up their game. Get your copy today!
- Matthew Taylor, Kidsit Founder