How much should you pay?

Budgeting Tips, Finances, How To Save Money

Welcome to all of you who are new to this site, via seeing me on Fresh Living this morning!
I'm happy to have you here 🙂 When you get a second, feel free to take a look around. The tabs at the top of my site are a great place to start, as well as my “Top posts of 2011” page. Be sure to sign up for our first annual Frugality Boot Camp, and enter up for our giveaway where you can win a FREE ticket to that boot camp, (giveaway has ended, sorry!) email me with questions, and have a great day!Oh, and WARNING…this is a long post. But a goodie, so hang in there! 🙂
So much fun!
Today I was asked to do a fun segment for Channel 2 here in Utah, called
“How much should I pay for ___?”
Why is this segment important?
  • More often then not, people are absolutely tight-lipped about spending money, and usually don't talk about how much they spend on things.

As humans we will talk about a horrific injury, or giving birth in explicit detail…but won't mention how much they pay for groceries each month.
We will talk about and compare stretch marks and love handles, but won't discuss how much we pay for Christmas for our kids.
It's about time someone set the record straight and declared a standard for all of us to aim for!

FIRST: A few things to note:

I understand that you may or may not agree with the standards I am setting…but hear me out!

  • 1. Yes, I understand that everyone is different! You might have only 1 child, and someone else may have 7 children. You may live in upstate New York where cost of living is much higher than in the Utah suburbs. You may choose to pay more for some things, and pay less elsewhere. That's all ok!! Please know that I completely understand that everyone, and every situation, are different. Try to take these tips and standards with a grain of salt and use the philosophies to set your OWN standards and try to save money wherever you can.
  • But, more than anything, just know that with a little effort, you CAN cut most of your spending in half. Yes, half.Don't know how? These standards show that you are most likely over-paying for unnecessary things in your life. P.S…Come to my boot camp and I'll teach you plenty more ways to save 🙂
  • Lastly, these standards are set based on research and weren't pulled out of thin air. Not only my personal research (trial and error in my own life), but I also conducted a survey on my site recently and got hundreds of responses that solidified these standards.
Ok, that being said…HERE IT IS! Enjoy!
(Click HERE to watch the video online)
Let's break it down, now:
How much should I pay for…BABYSITTING?

Hands down, this is THE #1 question that, when I ask, people have no idea what to answer. There is never a confident answer!

  • Because it's situational. It depends on where you live, the number of kids you have, how old your babysitter is, etc. Here is a standard for you to start from to – hopefully – set the record straight once and for all.
  • Because we don't want to feel cheap. If you're anything like me, you value a good babysitter (and won't settle for anything less), but don't want to (or simply can't!) pay a lot for child care. We feel tentative in our answer because we don't want to sound like tight-wads or cheapskates that promote slave labor in babysitters. Trust me, that's not the case!

Important Definitions: 
Babysitter = One-time thing. Simple, occasional, as-needed, basic. (Date night, need to run to the store, girls night, whatever it is). You pick them up, they watch your kids, you drop them off at home.

Nanny = A more advanced, frequent caregiver. They are typically college aged or older, they come regularly (or semi-regularly), drive themselves, and do additional chores (drive your kids to and from activities, do your laundry, grocery shop for you, tutor your kids, etc.).

Do not confuse the two! A nanny would start anywhere from $10-$15+. In this situation I am talking about a babysitter, not a nanny.

That being said, here you go!

Here is a base pricing standard to follow for a babysitter (NOT a nanny):
**UPDATE: The above chart is what I said initially. Since many of you don't feel comfortable with starting with such a low base and tipping based on performance, here's an all-in standard to consider:
In addition:
  • You can round up at the end of the night if your babysitter does an exceptional job, but don't feel like you have to tip exorbitantly on top of the second standard chart.
  • Make sure to provide them dinner, snacks, treats, give them access to your TV or computer to use once the kids are in bed, and make them as comfortable as possible.

Quick soap box comment…

Ok, I've had lots of emails and comments from people saying they wish babysitting where they lived was as cheap as Utah. Yeah, I hear ya, we are totally lucky to have LOTS of youth here that are willing to babysit.
Who is it that sets the standards that high? The 14 year olds that we hire? Maybe…but most likely it's us. WE are the ones paying an outrageous amount, and the sitters just go along for the ride. I DO NOT recommend being “cheap” with babysitting. Pay what you think is fair!
Be reasonable. If you think the chart above is too low based on what's standard in your area, add a dollar, two, or maybe three per hour. But don't go crazy! The principle here is to start with a low BASE, and have pay them generous tips based on performance. (see below for details on this)
They are teens, for heaven's sake! If you are paying above minimum wage you are probably paying too high, unless you have lots of kids, or they work their tail off for you. I was in college in 2005 making $7.50/hr as a manager in retail and I didn't complain one bit. Trust me (from my own experience as a babysitter), they are happy to have a job and be making any money.
Now that you have the base standard, here are a few things to note:
ROUND UP (“tip”) if…
  • Your kids are awake most of the time, as apposed to sleeping.
  • You have young kids that require more work, like babies and toddlers, as apposed to older kids that can basically fend for themselves.
  • Your babysitter leaves your house better than how you left it.
For example…
Let's say you have 2 kids, and you're gone for 3 hours, you owe $12. If any of the above applies, round up to $15. If you have 4 kids and you owe $15, consider rounding up to $18 or even $20, depending on how awesome of a job they did. Whether you round to the nearest multiple of 5 or whether you simply add a few dollars, just round up.
In the real world, we have to EARN what we MAKE. Don't feel guilty making your babysitter EARN their money! In the real world we aren't entitled to a certain amount whether we work hard or not…why should it be the same with babysitting? Consider it a base + commission-type structure, or base + tip structure. This will motivate them to do a great job when babysitting, and will show that you are appreciative of their work.
  • Your babysitter drives herself to and from your house.
  • Your babysitter is older, like a college-age student.
  • You are late, or having them babysit at an inconvenient time like the middle of the night.
  • They are doing extra-hard work like taking them to the zoo, or babysitting when their friends are over.
  • If you have a regular caregiver like a nanny, you'll need to pay more. BUT…keep in mind that they should be doing more than just watching your kids! (Tidying the house, laundry, preparing their meals, etc.)
If you say you'll be home by 10 but you come home at 12:30, by all means, pay them $1 more per hour. If you prefer older, more experienced babysitters, you'll need to pay them more to stay competitive. Use minimum wage + “tip” (rounding up) as your base standard, or simply ask them what they charge.
Friends talk. If you shoot from the hip and pay Babysitter-A $15, but pay Babysitter-B $20 for the same amount of work simply because that's what you had in your wallet,they. will. talk.
Chances are, Babysitter-A won't be inclined to babysit for you again. No bueno. Be consistent!
Once again, your babysitters need to EARN what they make, just like we all do. Don't over pay on the first day, because you have nowhere to go! There is no bonus or extra that your babysitter can earn (without sending you to the poor house…). Plus, no one likes pricing inflation 😉 I remember as a babysitter being happy getting ANY amount of money. We are the ones that set the standards and are hard on ourselves, not the 13 year old who is happy to get any cash at all.
Be picky. My oldest is only 2.5 yrs old, and I've already had some horrific babysitting experiences. I've learned that I need to be choosy. Give them a trial run BEFORE leaving them alone with your kids.
  • Ask around. See if your neighbors use them and what they thought.
  • Have them babysit while you're around. Have them watch the kids for an hour or two so you can get housework done. Sure, they will be on their best behavior while you're there, but at least you can get a general idea of how they are with kids.
  • Test them. Be sneaky if you have to! Come home 30 minutes early. Unfortunately, you might catch them watching TV while your kids are playing in the back yard. Sneaky, yes. Worth it to know if your kids are being well cared for? Absolutely.

Once you find a sitter you like, do all you can to keep them happy!

Moving on…
How much should I pay for…GROCERIES?
Second to our mortgage payment, groceries tend to be the second highest cost we have each month. Yet, NO ONE talks about how much they pay! Why is that?
  • Because as americans, we typically spend a lot on groceries, and we tend to stay tight-lipped on things we spend a lot on.
  • Because we don't want to feel embarrassed if the other person spends differently than we do.
Love it or hate it, I take a “no holds barred” attitude toward frugality and am willing to talk about – quite literally – anything and everything. So here I am, ready to set a standard and declare to the world that it's OK to talk about how much you pay for groceries! We can all learn from each other, so there is nothing wrong with sharing personal experiences.
So here's a base standard to follow:
As you can see, you should roughly be shooting for $100 per month, per member of your family. If you think about it, it really tends to even itself out:
  • Sure, babies don't eat much…but they have diapers that cost a lot.
  • Sure, there may be 7 of you, but no need to pay more than $600 because as long as your cooking, adding another mouth shouldn't be that costly.
  • Sure, 8+ people in your family is a lot. But there are TONS of ways to cut costs and keep it under $800 (Grow your own produce. Cook inexpensive meals. Buy bulk. More tips below.) If anything, big families should be trying to spend less than anyone else because you have so many other expenses! $800 is very reasonable, and I actually had a hard time writing it because I know you can keep it much below that. But I'm trying to offer some wiggle room, here 🙂
All I have to say to the nay-sayers and the “how in the world would I keep my grocery bill that low??”-ers is…
Not only is it possible, but it's not hard.
And most importantly…
it's absolutely necessary.
No one should EVER overpay for groceries. It's too easy not to! The money we save (even if it's only a few dollars) is worth every amount of effort.
Here are some of the top reasons people overpay for groceries:
  • Convenience. Oh man, I am a BIG FAN of convenience!!!! With grocery shopping, this is typically the #1 reason we overpay. We shop at the store closest to us even if it's prices are more expensive, we don't want to shop at multiple stores because it takes too much time, or we simply don't care enough and want to do whatever is easiest (trust me, I hear ya!).
  • Being picky or even trendy. Some of us choose to shop at expensive “boutique-type” grocery stores because it's trendy, some of us are picky about our food and want the best (no problem in that!), or we don't want to feel cheap shopping at a low-priced grocery store.
  • Lack of knowledge. We simply don't know how to save money on groceries other than clipping coupons!
I promise you…there is an easier way.
Here are simple ways to save money on grocery shopping:
  • Deal-shop. Look through the ads and find the best deals for the week. Each week stores typically have loss-leader items where they actually lose money on the deal to get you into the store. Stock up on the deals and plan your meals around them. It's that easy!
  • Price-match. I use to find all the best deals for me (so I don't have to look through the ads. I'm all about convenience, remember??), I print off the list of good deals from the stores near me, I take the printed list to Walmart and price-match. That way I only have to shop at one store but can take advantage of all the best prices.
For a VERY detailed explanation on how I grocery shop, click HERE.
  • Buy bulk. The more you buy, the more you save. Genius! Click HERE for what I buy in bulk and why.
  • Don't waste. ANYTHING. EVER. Use every scrap of leftovers. Eat it for lunch. Use it in another meal. Freeze it. (Don't know what you can and can't freeze? Try it! If it doesn't work, you'll now know for the future.) Put wilting produce into a smoothie. Plan your meals around what you have in your fridge before buying new groceries. USE. WHAT. YOU. HAVE.
  • Cook, and plan your meals in advance. This is this biggest money-saving advice I can give you. When 5:00 rolls around and you're exhausted from a long day, the last thing you want to do is come up with what to make from dinner from the top of your head. That's typically when you open an expensive bag of frozen fish sticks, or call your nearest Chinese restaurant. No, no, no my lovely people! Keep a list of go-to meals on your fridge, and try to plan your meals a few days in advance (a week or two in advance is best, but any advance planning is helpful!). You will be SHOCKED at how much you will save.
  • Only buy what you need. Once you have your meals planned, make a list and stick with it! If you don't have a plan when shopping, you WILL overspend. By a lot. Make your week's meal list in advance and base it on what's on sale that week. That's it. SO EASY!
I found a neat article with 50 tips for saving when grocery shopping HERE.
Remember, it's the simple, sustainable things that you can do easily for the rest of your life that will save you money.
Have you checked out yet? Our brand new site is dedicated to helping you cook delicious, homemade, down-home-cooked meals for your family without slaving away in the kitchen! Basically every parent's dream, right? Join our Shelf Cooking Community today!
How much should I pay for…HAIRCUTS?
Ok…careful now, Jordan…
I know I'm stepping into dangerous territory because people, especially us women, tend to have personal, undying relationships with our stylists.
Trust me, I hear you.
It's cheap therapy, really.
Haircuts are a big money-waster if you're not careful!
YES, we should all care about how we look to an extent and take pride in our image. YES, there is such thing as a bad haircut. However…many of us are overpaying.
  • A cheap haircut = a bad haircut…right? (wrong, just for the record.)
  • I've never thought to shop around for a cheaper stylist, I just found one I liked and stuck with it.
  • There's no way I could cut my kids' or husband's hair myself, so I'll pay anything for someone else to do it for me.
I hear you. BUT…you could be spending less on haircuts, and using that money for cooler (or more important) things.
Here is a base standard for what you should be paying for haircuts:
You might be balking, especially at the cut/color price. But you can do it! I promise!
Here are some easy ways to keep your haircut prices down:
  • Shop around.  Go to the web, they are EVERYWHERE! Dollar Cuts offers affordable cuts, and here in Utah Craigs Cuts offers $7 haircuts with $5 deal days. Can't beat that.
  • Look for a coupon. Remember my “10 most unused discounts” post? Never throw away your junk mail! If you look closely enough, you will get plenty of haircut coupons.
  • Don't judge a book by it's cover. Just because a salon has a fancy name doesn't make it better than others. If a salon is in a small or old-looking building, that doesn't mean the stylist got any less schooling than a stylist in a ritzy salon. It's all about overhead and image! A salon that has lower overhead can offer lower prices. It's a numbers game.
  • Keep in mind that a cheap haircut does NOT necessarily mean a bad haircut! Just for the record, I have had plenty of pricey haircuts that did not turn out as I would've hoped. I get my hair cut/colored at a salon for $45 and it looks great! Trust me…

the stylist is more important than the price tag.

  • Ask your social network. All my stylists have come to be via word of mouth. Ask around. Post on facebook, “I'm looking for a good stylist in the Salt Lake area to give me a cut/color for around $70. Know of anyone?” Trust me…you'll get a response!
  • Stylists that work from home will typically be cheaper. The last two stylists I've used both do hair out of their house. Sure, shampooing my hair is tougher because it's in their kitchen sink, but at 1/2 the cost, it's worth it for me! PS…they have both been awesome.
  • Ask for discounts. My current stylist works in a salon. She offers a discount when you book your next appointment on the spot, bringing my price to around $75 for a cut/color, in a salon! Booya.
  • Do it yourself. Cut your kids' hair and husband's hair at home! Honestly, I'm outright anti “get your kids' hair cut in a salon” to be honest. Why? They are kids! They don't shouldn't care! Their haircuts are simple (or should be anyway). My philosophy? Cut it at home. If they want a fancy style from a salon, tell them to save up their allowance and they can do whatever they want with their hair. That's what I did growing up, and I chose to spend my own money to get a cut and color in a salon in high school in between having my friends do it for me at home. It really taught me to manage my money and value every dollar I spent.
    • How? Go to, and search “how to cut hair at home” or something of the sort. Hundreds of videos will pop up. Buy yourself a set of clippers, and do it yourself for heaven's sake! It may take a few practice runs, but in the end, the savings will be worth it. And trust me, you get faster as you go.
    • One of my readers said: “I use John freida precision foam hair color…so easy! You lather like shampoo and rinse. Love, love it. Write to john freida and they send you a coupon for a free box. So i signed my in laws, parents, and myself up. 🙂 As for hair cuts, we go to great clips for 7.99. They have coupons once a month in our savvy shoppers and junk mail. :)”
  • Go to a beauty school. In college, my apartment was right by the Paul Mitchell school salon in Provo, UT. I would get a somewhat complicated cut, and FULL color + weave there every few months. To this day, it's the best my hair has ever looked. Ever. I miss my student stylist that I'd always go to and wish she moved here with me. A few beauty school salon tips:
    • Know in advance that it takes a bit longer than an average salon. Plan ahead, and use that time to your advantage. Read a good book. Catch up on emails on your phone. Call your friend that you haven't spoken to in ages. Use that as “you time” and enjoy it, and it will work to your benefit.
    • Go for a senior student, or “Phase 2” as it's called at Paul Mitchell. They are simply more experienced.
    • The students are very closely monitored by their teachers, so NO, they will not make your hair lop-sided and bright pink unintentionally. Their every move is closely monitored, hence the fact that it takes a bit longer than an average cut.
    • Beauty schools ALWAYS have deals and specials! Call them, look for coupons, or look online. They offer happy hour, coupons, specials, 2 for 1 deals, etc.
    • Beauty schools also offer great deals on spa services like pedicures, facials, and other services and sometimes offer discounts for getting multiple services at once.
How much do I tip?
This is a very personal thing. My husband and I tip 20% at a restaurant, but I've never heard a blanket standard for haircut tipping. But  I would suggest tipping no less than 10%, and no more than 20% as a base standard.  If your stylist goes above and beyond, by all means, tip them whatever you feel comfortable tipping. I get my hair cut/colored for $45 I usually tip between $7-$10.
So there you go!
Now standards are set. Run free my little birds, and spread your frugal wings! Give these new price-points a try, and you will save your family tons.  Just remember that you need to PICK AND CHOOSE in the frugal world. You shouldn't spend full-price, top-dollar on everything, and you shouldn't stress, fret, and cut corners with everything.
It's all about balance.

Want to learn more about living a balanced frugal lifestyle? Join me and 6 other amazing guest speakers at my first annual Frugality Boot Camp on June 23rd. More information HERE.

Keep me posted on how it goes, and good luck!


Babysitting photo source HERE
Two girls playing photo source HERE

Groceries photo source HERE
Grocery bag photo source HERE
Woman getting haircut photo source HERE
Woman with bangs photo source HERE
Passing the gift photo source HERE
Woman with gift photo source HERE


  1. Megan

    The babysitter pay is still kind of confusing – some qualifications put people in between the babysitter and nanny categories. It’s been my experience that the factor people usually use to distinguish between the two is that a nanny comes at least weekly, and usually 2-5 days per week. A babysitter who doesn’t come regularly might still have CPR/First Aid training, child development education or even a degree in child development, all of which are worth a pay increase but not specifically mentioned above – unless you’re defining nanny more on those factors than on frequency of use. I considered myself a babysitter but did all of the things you would expect a nanny to do, and charged what you suggest paying a nanny ($12-15/hr depending on number of children and whether or not I had to be there before 8 am).
    I also think if a babysitter is old enough to drive him/herself to the job, and is worth hiring, you should consider minimum wage as a base pay – because at that point they’re able to get a steady job and are caring for your child(ren) instead of or in addition to that. Of course, I also expect a babysitter to at least warm up food for dinner, not let the kids watch more than an hour of TV (at absolute maximum – I never allowed any TV unless the parents specifically told me to, on that particular occasion), and play with them or at least pay attention to them. In my book those are bare minimum qualifications. So maybe I would never even hire a babysitter, by your definitions?

  2. Lindsey @ DishingUpHope

    This was great! Thank you! We love to eat healthy around my household, but on a budget. These breakdowns help.

    • FunCheapOrFree

      Good, glad you like it!

  3. Cathy

    Thank you. I have proof now that $20 is acceptable for gifts even for Christmas. I don’t get why my fiance wants to give $50 to extended family members when that is a lot of money and we really cannot afford to give that much for birthdays and Christmas.

    I just want to say that I am totally addicted to your site. I ran into your site when I found the Valentine’s Giveaway. I can’t wait to see who won and read up more on your past posts and of course new posts. GREAT JOB and once again Thank you because everything so far has made me rethinking how I deal with my finances and of course shopping.

    • FunCheapOrFree

      I’m so glad you like it, thanks for taking the time to comment – and welcome to the FCF family 🙂

  4. Monica

    Those numbers are out of date. Please see a recent babysitting rate survey results here:

    Click on ‘Babysitting Rates’ on the right hand side. Then look for the city nearest you.

    The rates listed above in this article are way way way too low.

  5. Sarah

    Hi Jordan. My biggest caveat with money spent on groceries is the type of foods that affect the price paid. My husband and I have to have a gluten free, dairy free, mostly organic diet for our livelihood. We’ll physically feel MUCH better if we do. However, my grocery bill has skyrocketed since we had to make the switch. But in the end we feel it’s worth it because we’re healthier and happier about how we feel, regardless of the cost.

    So my question is: Do you think that your estimate of $100/person/month of groceries is realistic for individuals that have to purchase more expensive foods, such as gluten free or organic? I mainly shop at Smith’s because I have found they have the largest variety of these types of groceries without having to go to a more expensive Whole Foods store. Does Walmart and Costco have this type of selection as well?

    I recently discovered your site and love it! I can’t read all that I want to fast enough for it.

  6. Ashton Barker

    Hey Jordan!! I pretty much have this page memorized, but I am trying to plan out my gifts budget for the whole year of 2015. I’m hoping that by doing so, I can stick to my budget without feeling cheap by getting some great deals!! I have a couple of major weddings coming up this year. I am the maid of honor in my youngest sisters wedding, and my husband is the best man in a childhood friends wedding. Normally I stick to the $20 range, but these are major exceptions in my opinion. How much would you spend on a gift in this situation?

  7. erin

    love this post! i wanted to add– i think the best cuts i’ve ever gotten were at the beauty school! it does take a long time, but that is because they care a great deal about making you happy/not messing up. Stylists out of school sometimes (not all!) have a tendency to believe they know what is best/cut some corners (no pun intended)/not pay very close attention to your requests. I had a tight budget in law school and went to the beauty school instead of the salon! It does take a lot of time (two hours for what is 1/2 hour at a regular salon), but the price is so wonderful and they do a great job!

  8. Wanda

    Do you include household items (i.e. cleaning products, toilet paper, light bulbs, etc) in your grocery budget amounts?

  9. Heather

    I just found your website. I totally LOVE you, I feel like we are close personal friends. You had me laughing so hard about the children going to the salon (I am a hairstylist, I went to school to work my way through college, which only got me half way because I got married and put my husband through (which has been such a blessing because we were able to graduate without student loans), but I couldn’t agree more with everything you were saying…I am probably the only stylist that feels that way.) So excited to by following along and hoping to take your budget class.

    My question is about the Christmas spending? When you say $50 is that clothes, toys and stocking stuffers? I just usually buy my kids their winter clothes for Christmas (mostly my older boy and girl that don’t have the hand me downs) and let them use their “old stuff” until Christmas. So I am wondering if if that is an everything budget or just for “toys”.

    So excited to be new to your website! Thank you for all you do!


  10. Katie

    Hey Jordan! Just an FYI, the link to your video for the segment you did for KUTV doesn’t work. I did a quick search on their site and found it and it’s at

    • FunCheapOrFree

      Thank you!!

  11. Ashley

    That babysitting pay seems really low. I have been getting more and more calls for babysitting and I am just accepting what they pay me. I was trying to get an idea of what I should say when they ask how much I charge. (granted I am 24, Advanced first aid/ CPR certified). My last two jobs the person gave me $120 for two nights. It was supposed to be for 4ish hours each night. They came home early both nights but still gave me the full amount. I was happy but felt kind of silly because the baby was asleep when I got there and then stayed asleep the whole time. And this last one I was paid $50 for about 5 hours.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *