I just got back from having coffee with my newly divorced friend Bettina. She is totally excited about sharing her latest moneysaving tips for single moms.
She wanted me to remind our readers that you may be single again for now, but you’re not dead to the adult world--you are a grown up human being who needs to be in adult company at least sometimes. If you want to maintain your sanity and continue to enjoy your children, you’ll need to get out of the house on occasional evenings. Instead of letting prohibitive babysitting costs ($15 or more per hour!) turn you into a stay-at-home hermit, Bettina advises starting a babysitting co-op. She started her own by organizing the families in her building to take turns sitting for each other’s kids entirely free of charge. The couples and single moms in her building and in buildings close by are enjoying their evenings out,feeling safe and secure. Each new co-op member family is informally interviewed by current members be sure that everyone is generally philosophically on the same page. And,the best part is that not only are your kids with neighbors you trust, but when you’re out to dinner,you're not obsessively checking your watch imagining that babysitting meter ticking off the accumulating dollars.
Bettina, a paralegal in a high-pressure law firm, is very organized so she finds it easy to track her co-op's babysitting requests, assignments and hours banked on a spreadsheet. If you need a sitter on Saturday night from 7 to 11 pm, you e-mail Bettina who then sends your request around to the co-op members. Once a member signs up to watch your kids, you work out the details with that member who then earns four hours of babysitting time.
Last week Bettina racked up major hours. Her sons are 7 and 9 and are friends with the son of a co-op member who lives down the block. Bettina hosted a sleepover for her two kids and the other little boy from 5 pm on a Friday until Saturday at 2 pm. She’s now got 21 hours of babysitting credit to use at her convenience.
Her second savings tip was one we hear over and over again--the clothing exchange. Women all over town are hosting clothing swaps. Bettina's babysitting co-op members have two kinds of swaps going. In addition to"shopping" at occasional mom's clothing swap evenings, they also swap out gently used baby and kid equipment such as high chairs or tricycles, as well as clothing, snow suits, boots, skates and sporting gear.
Bettina estimates that she’ll save over $4,000 this year in babysitting exchange and swapped items.Time to start your own co-op!