Do you live in a city where you're not near any relatives? Well, I do...so it's hard to find someone to watch my kids for me when I need to go to the doctor or watch my youngest son if I want to work in my older son's preschool class. I could pay money to hire a babysitter or ask some friends to help out...or I could be a member of a babysitting coop.
I really can't claim any credit for the idea, since one of my friends started it, but I am a member of a babysitting coop. I have a hard time asking friends for help, but it's a lot easier to ask for help with babysitting, when I know that I will also reciprocate in the future.
Basically, we came up with a group of families from our church who all lived fairly close to each other (and were willing to join). Then, we gave each family a certain number of timecards. When we babysit, we are "paid" with these timecards. We pay full-time for the first child, and each additional child is half-time. For example, I would pay for 2 hours for my older son and then 1 hour with my younger son if I was gone for 2 hours.
When we have a babysitting need, we send out an e-mail to the group to see if anyone is available and willing to watch our kids. I mostly use it during the day, but my husband and I have been able to go out for a couple of date nights, too. Best of all, it doesn't cost us any money (and my kids have fun playing with their friends).
Do you have a babysitting coop? Or do you have other great ideas for getting frugal babysitters?