Up Your Happiness and Save Money with a Babysitting Swap

Dollars & Sense on 03.13.11
Contributor bio | twitter

Photo credit: Dion Gillard/Creative Commons

Pursuing hobbies and interests is a proven happiness-booster. Yet with children under tow, or a full-time job, it's tough to find the time. And if you're bringing in little or no money, it's even harder to justify the expense of a sitter.

Enter the babysitting swap. You and a friend, or you and another couple, agree to watch each other's children in an even exchange. Let's say you watch your friend's children on Tuesday mornings, and she watches yours on Thursdays. Or you take care of another family's kids this Saturday, and they take care of yours next weekend.

No Lost Time

The beauty of a swap is that you don't lose any time -- since you'd be watching your own kids anyway. Sure, you're taking on more responsibility, but if you're lucky, the kids get along and the swap turns into a playdate.

I was able to start my blog -- a time-consuming yet unpaid pursuit -- thanks to a swap that my friend Elizabeth and I started. Elizabeth also had a Friday night swap going on with her friend Natalie: a guaranteed date night -- with free childcare -- every other weekend. 

Tips for a Successful Swap

1. Try to pick a friend with children of similar ages, especially for daytime "play" swaps.

2. Come up with ground rules on issues such as illnesses, tardiness, screen time, and discipline.

3. Consider other locations besides each other's houses:  indoor play areas, libraries, parks, even gym classes.  (You might want to bring your child's own snack, drink and diapers.)

If your swap goes swimmingly, think about inviting another friend -- the more adults taking turns, the more time off you get! An added plus of expanding your group is that you build up a strong network of friends.

Bolster Your Support Circle, and Your Passion

My swap with Elizabeth expanded to four mornings a week -- and four other families, who I could count on if I needed someone to, say, pick up my daughter from school.

I was on duty about once a week, which gave me three solid mornings to work on my writing. I still got plenty of time with my toddler, but instead of running errands together, he got to play with other kids and I got started on what would become my dream career -- being a work-at-home writer.

A childcare exchange is the perfect low-cost solution if you need more time for your love -- whether that be your special interest, your partner, or both.

Top Articles on Swapping and Hobbies 
Let Your Heart Guide Your Career Choices: Nancy Anderson Helps Us "Work With Passion"
5 Strategies for Throwing the Perfect Clothing Swap
Top 10 Hobbies That Can Pay Off