hidden holiday costs

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An Available Babysitter
It can be next to impossible to find a free sitter on a Saturday night in December—some have been booked since August, says Mary Schwartz, director of public relations for Sittercity.com. Even if you do score help on New Year's Eve (the busiest night of the year for sitters), you should expect to pay a 50 to 100 percent increase over the normal rate (Sittercity.com's babysitting rate calculator can help you figure out the average hourly rates in your area).

The solution: Organize a babysitter share, which involves hiring one sitter for multiple families. Parents who share a sitter usually pay about 20 to 35 percent less, Schwartz says. "So if you and the other families typically pay $12 an hour, you could reduce this to $8.40 each, and the sitter will still make $16.80," Schwartz says. She adds that these arrangements work best when there's one sitter for no more than two infants or four children, the kids are around the same ages, the parents plan to return home around the same time and the families agree on the ground rules (i.e., TV time, bedtime, snacking).

Next: 8 ways to start saving now

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