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Procrastinating can be expensive when it comes to buying airline tickets, filing taxes and paying bills. Add "hiring a babysitter" to that list.
For almost two-thirds of families, babysitting costs exceed $500 per year, according to new data from Care.com. One in five families spends more than $2,000 per year on sitters.
Nationwide, the average hourly rate for a sitter in 2016 was $13.97, Care.com found. But there are times when sitters are more in demand than others.
These five circumstances may warrant booking early or paying more — or both:
Average hourly rates run $15.97 for before-school care and $15.92 for after school, according to Care.com data.
That roughly $2-an-hour premium reflects parents' willingness to pay more for consistent help during important times, said Joyce Hodel, a data scientist for the site. Another contributing factor: the extra tasks sitters take on during those periods, like getting the kids ready for school, supervising drop-off or pick-up at the bus stop, and helping with homework
"Before and after school can be demanding times," she said.
Half of parents say they'd spend at least another $3 per hour to book a sitter at the last minute, Hodel said.
But most are looking further ahead. One-third of families books their sitter one week in advance, and a quarter books two or more weeks out, according to Care.com.
The most expensive holidays to hire a sitter are those where they are most likely to have their own plans, and those that coincide with popular vacation times, Hodel said. New Year's Eve is the most in-demand night, and hourly rates are higher, too — an average $14.25.
The priciest day? Christmas Day, when rates average $16.10 per hour, she said. Fourth of July is also pricier than normal, with an average hourly rate of $14.87.
Other holidays are more about planning ahead than being prepared to pay a higher rate. Valentine's Day, for example, is the second-most popular time to hire a sitter, Hodel said — but the typical rate is actually a little lower than normal, at an average $13.15. The Saturday before Halloween ranks third by popularity, but has a below-market average of $12.99 per hour.
"August is the most popular month overall for hiring a babysitter," said Hodel.
Rates aren't substantially different than other months, but parents may want to plan ahead to make sure they're covered. Demand tends to be higher as parents look to fill the gap between summer camps and activities, and the start of the new school year, she said. At the same time, sitter availability tends to be lower as young sitters head back to college or are away on vacation.
Parents looking to blur the lines between sitter and tutor pay more. The most in-demand topic: math, said Hodel.
"The average rate in jobs where parents want some help with homework is $14.76," she said.