Tuesday, April 22, 2014

5 Top Money-Saving Tips: Guest Post from Everyday Life on a Shoestring

If you haven't visited Sarah's Everyday Life on a Shoestring, it's high time you did. This blog is full of fantastic money-saving tips for parents of young children. It's personable, friendly, and charming, and we're honored to have Sarah with us on Babysitting Co-op 101 today. She's sharing some of her best money-saving tips with us. After you finish reading this post, we suggest you hop on over to her blog and learn some more!

Having kids is an expensive business. According to the Guardian newspaper, in 2013 the cost of raising a child in the UK has risen to an astronomical £222,458 ($374,042).

You would be right in thinking that the expensive part of raising a child would be getting them through college or university, but the next most expensive years are from age 1 to 5.

Armed with that knowledge, how can parents of young children save money?

Here are our five top tips (excluding childcare, which is well catered for on this blog!)

  1. The Guardian cites parental guilt over technological gadgets as another major cost; UK expenditure on kit for kids amounts to £302 annually. For young children this simply isn’t necessary. We all know that too much screen time is not good for anyone, especially young children. Our kids are expected to use the family computer and TV rather than having their own and a secondhand console is used for games. Both kids now have phones, but are on the cheapest contract we could find. This approach has not impaired them in any way – they are digital natives and are far more literate in all this stuff than I am.
  2. Buying secondhand also applies to many other things that have been required. From birth we bought clothes, toys, baby equipment, buggies and books secondhand, as well as never saying no to any offers of hand-me-downs. The world is awash with plastic toys and kids equipment, so don’t contribute to this ocean by buying new. Check out charity shops, eBay, school sales and Freecycle.
  3. From an early age, encourage children to save their own birthday, Christmas or pocket money to buy the things that they want. This teaches them the value of things and helps clarify whether an item is something they really want or just a whim.
  4. Avoid peer pressure! Just because other friends are going on expensive holidays or cinema trips, attend multiple after-school clubs, or have the latest gadget, it doesn’t mean that everyone has to. A camping holiday, playing in the garden at home, having a friend to play or watching a DVD together as a family can be just as fun. And today’s busy children need down-time as much as we do.
  5. The best things in life really are free! Parks, puddles, trees, the sky, museums, libraries, street entertainers, time with friends and family. It’s all available if you seek it out and costs nothing!
Many thanks to Sarah at Everyday Life On a Shoestring for this post!

Monday, April 14, 2014

McLean Gardens Babysitting Co-op

The McLean Gardens Babysitting Co-op in Washington, D.C., has been operating for more than 10 years. Based on Gary Myers' Smart Mom's Baby-sitting Co-op Handbook, this co-op usually has about 10 to 15 families at any given time. Parents in the co-op have graciously shared some details about how the co-op works to help people who are thinking about starting their own co-ops.


The McLean Gardens Babysitting Co-op works on a point system, and a secretary handles all transactions. If you want to find a sitter, you call or e-mail the secretary who arranges a sit for you by sending out an email to everyone to see who's available. After the sit is over, the sitter contacts the secretary to report the amount of time that should be deducted and added to each parent's total.

As parents come into the co-op, they start with a zero point balance. They earn points by babysitting, but they can "go into debt" and have a negative point balance as well. When people leave the co-op, they're supposed to pay an hourly fee to the co-op for any points below zero.


The parents in the McLean Gardens Babysitting Co-op have set up a Yahoo groups e-mail distribution list, which they use for setting up sits as well as communicating about monthly meetings. They also keep a database of points on paper that gets passed from secretary to secretary.


There are several roles that have to filled at all times for this type of co-op to function: Leader, Secretary, Treasurer, and List Serve Manager. The Secretary role rotates monthly among the members, and the Treasurer and List Serve Managers rotate quarterly:
  • Leader. The leader makes sure the co-op runs smoothly, settles any issues, and organizes monthly meetings. This role rotates quarterly.
  • Secretary. As you probably noticed from the description above, the Secretary is a busy person. That's why this job switches monthly. Taking requests and finding sitters can be time-consuming, but the Secretary is compensated with extra points. The secretary receives 2 points from each person in the co-op during his or her month in office.
  • Treasurer. The treasurer keeps track of the money for the co-op. The McLean Gardens Babysitting Co-op collects $20 per family per year. The Treasurer is compensated with 1 point per quarter per family, and the job rotates monthly.
  • List Serve Manager. The List Serve Manager maintains and operates the List Serve and earns 1 point per quarter from each family. List Serve Managers serve for one quarter at a time.


Members of the McLean Gardens Babysitting Co-op enjoy many benefits, including the following:

  • Great community. Most of the co-op members live within walking distance of one another. They're very supportive of each other. If one parent is late getting back from a doctor appointment, she know she can send out a text and have somebody else pick her kids up from school.
  • Hand-me-downs. This co-op doesn't just help each other with child care; they also pass around gently used clothing.
  • Social gatherings. Co-op members get together bi-monthly for social gatherings where they can get to know new members and enjoy each other's company.
If you're in the D.C. area and want to know more about the McLean Gardens Babysitting Co-op, you can email them at mgbcsits@gmail.com.

This co-op is a great example of what a babysitting co-op can do for you. It's structured differently than the co-ops you can learn about in Babysitting Co-op 101, which don't rely on a secretary or require fees, but the principles of cooperation and mutual benefit are the same. Again, we thank the members of McLean Gardens Babysitting Co-op for sharing their expertise and experiences with us.