I think I need to give some back

banana lover

Girl Ninja and I got the hook up this week as we were asked to house sit/nanny for one of the families I tutor. They have two daughters (10th grade and 5th grade) and a FILTHY AWESOME house in a super nice part of San Diego. They asked us a while back if we would take care of the house and girls this week while the parents are getting crunk in Palm Desert on vacation. Ummm, you want to pay me to eat your food, watch your TV, and sleep in your ridiculously comfortable bed? YES PLEASE!

We’ll be house sitting for a total of five days (Monday through Friday). It’s seriously been so easy. Aside from a few minor chores, we really don’t have many responsibilities. Consider this house sitting job, heaven!

When I arrived to the house on Monday, there was a thank you card sitting on the dining room table. I opened it and was shocked by it’s contents. $740. $100 on a Starbucks gift card (for the girls), $100 for ‘random expenses’, $40 to me for one hour of tutoring, and $500 to me and Girl Ninja as compensation for the week.

Are you freakin’ kidding me? Five hundred dollars for staying in your awesome home and eating your amazing food. The work seriously does not warrant the compensation. This may not be my first time sucking at accepting generosity, but I seriously feel weird about keeping all $500.

Girl Ninja and I have already decided we definitely wont be touching the $100 for ‘random expenses’ and I’ll tutor for free so they can keep that $40. The $100 to Starbucks is on a gift card so we’ll take the girls to coffee every day, and leave the remaining balance with their mom. But that still leaves the $500 check. If it were cash, I’d just sneakily leave $150 of it in the envelope and only pocket $350. Unfortunately, I don’t really have that option.

I’m left with two choices: 1) feel horrible that they paid us $500 for about $200 worth of work (maybe they felt like they had to pay this much?), or 2) leave the check with them and a note that says “Thank you so much for your generosity, but there is no way we can in good conscience accept this check. It’s really nice, but about double what we feel our time was worth.”

Normally, I’d just write off this uneasy feeling, but Girl Ninja actually feels the same way I do. I really think this might be a situation where we should at least attempt to partially refund them. Have you ever felt waaaaaay overcompensated? How do you politely say “Look, there is no way I’m worth $500, gimme $300 and we’ll both feel better :)”? Is this another situation where I need to shut up, quit complaining, and cash the check without a second thought? Why am I so drama!?

63 thoughts on “I think I need to give some back

  1. A- Johnny Drama definitely needs to chill out. Too cute that you want to ‘refund them’, but I think it is totally unneccesarry.
    B- They left you with their children! They obviously trust you with their most precious posessions. I would say the $740 they left on the table is the least of their concerns. It sounds like they can afford it (filthy awesome house, $100 to Starbucks for 5 days -I don’t think I have spent $100 at Starbucks over the last 5 years!) and, honestly, finding a quality person (or debt punching ninja couple) to watch your children is worth every penny. Keep the money, enjoy it, and take the girls out for a fun night with the $100 ‘random expenses’ money.

  2. How about cashing the cheque and tell couple that you appreciate it, but your uncomfortable taking that amount of money, and if they insist that you have it ask if they could take it and donate it to ( i forgot the place where you said both you and girl ninja volunteer at in one of your earlier blogs, i think it was help send kids to camp or what not, if not then to another charity) so that way both you and girl ninja and the family can feel good.

  3. You have some good karma. Go play the lotto and pay me 25% for this advice 🙂

    Seriously, you are too funny! That kind of money is probably chump change for them. How much is daycare in San Diego? How much does a good security system or a guard dog cost? You are helping them more than they are giving you. Just be gracious and accept, that should be enough to clear your conscience.

  4. If I hired a babysitter for my 4yo for 4 hours so DH & I could go to a concert, I’d be paying her $40. In our area, going rate for a non-teenage babysitter is 6-8 bucks an hour – additional children extra. So $500 for two children doesn’t really seem out of line for all-evening & overnight care for 5 days…

  5. I agree with the concensus that it appears this couple can afford the money they left ($100 Starbucks gift card for 1 week? SWEET!!), and you and Wife Ninja have also given them total peace of mind while they be out crunkin’ (I just about spat my coffee when I read what you wrote!). I also like Jennifer’s idea of donating part (or all) to the charity that you and Wife Ninja feel very passionate about. Trina’s idea of taking the girls out for a night of fun with the $100 “random expenses” is also great; a movie night out for 4 ppl will eat that $100 in a snap.

    Don’t stop with the Ninja Drama; it’s VERY entertaining!

  6. while that is a bit of money, it actually makes complete sense. you are watching their children for 1 week. they would give that to daycare (and just for normal business hours) within 1-2 weeks so to me it’s fair compensate for 24 hour 7 days care. however, because it feels as if you’re being overpaid (is there such a thing?) a couple of suggestions:

    donate half to charity
    a fun event with the girls
    an evening out for the 4 of you when they return – i would tell them how much you appreciated their genorosity
    put it in the “one day we’ll have kids and need that sort of vacation ourselves” fund (you WILL need that lol)
    just accept it as is and do something fun for you two. when you agreed to do this you went in from the giving heart, let them use their giving heart

  7. We paid a kid to feed our cats and water our plants for 8 days. We gave him $10 a day (or $80 for those who are math challenged). His mom tried to make him return $60 of it. We said no, he did a good job, and (with Mom’s permission), we told him he could have it all if he agreed to put half away in savings.

    I would cash the check, and maybe donate what you feel is “extra” to the kid who you tutor’s school. That way you are indirectly giving it back to the family. If you give it to the PTA, that is pure profit for them.

  8. Okay, $500 is not that much. If I were to leave my kids with someone, they would expect $8/hr for the entire time they were watching the kids (sleeping time included). I wish you were a local house sitting/babysitting option. You’d be a bargain.

    If you feel funny about taking it, then you should use the money to do something fun with the kids you are babysitting. Take them out to the movies or something else that they’d enjoy.

  9. I say money well earned.

    Leaving my kids with someone I trust and people I adore, seeing as you two were helping them, entertaining them and tutoring them is a steal.

    Childcare per kid, costs around $250/week from my estimates. Two girls for a week is $500. That sounds reasonable to me.

    Take the money and if you feel bad, donate some of it to a charity. Or use the gift card to take THEM out for a coffee.

  10. Keep the $500. These people are fortunate enough to have a couple they can trust to look after their home AND their children. That peace of mind us worth every penny to them and I think you would make them feel awkward if you refused their generosity.

    I house and pet sit frequently. I often get more than I feel my time is worth. But I recognize that I provide value to them just by being there. Furthermore, it all evens out in the end. Next time one of the girls might get sick and need someone to stay home from work, fir instance. You won’t be thinking that $500 is too much iin those circumstances but you also won’t be asking for a bigger cheque, right?

  11. You shouldn’t stress about keeping the money. We used to pay our nanny $400 per week and the hours were only 9A-3P.

  12. I once house sat for my bosses’ mom for one day. Not even a full day, maybe 4 hours. They all went to a funeral and my boss had an estranged husband whose family is psycho and they were rightfully paranoid so you know I like protected the house by being there.

    Anyways, at the end of it I was given a $100 bill. The family is well-off and I genuinely like them so I told them that I couldn’t accept any money. She actually stuffed the $100 bill in my jeans pocket and then when I tried to give it back to her she turned her face away from me and wouldn’t look at me and refused to take it back. I felt bad because I mean they just came back from a funeral! This is something I had volunteered to do for free. I thought we were friends and I went into it thinking I was doing them a favour but they turned it into a business relationship by paying me.

    So, I guess you have to ask yourself: did you do this as a favour for your friends or did you take this on as a job. If it was a job, so what if the perks are freaking AWESOME! It’s not your fault or their fault that part of the perks for this job are free food, free TV and probably lots of free time. You found a job that gives a maximum amount of money for a minimum amount of work! You’re a hero! On the other hand, if you are doing this as friends then give back all the money! Friends don’t pay friends to help them out because it’s a given!

    Uh, so yes, I say take it all or don’t take it at all! 🙂

  13. I think you and wifey are being compensated appropriately for 5 days of work.

    1) you are taking care of their CHILDREN which include daytime/nighttime duties – feeding them, entertaining them, etc.
    2) you are watching their house for them! – I usually charge $25/day for house & petsitting duties
    3) its close to the holidays, and MOST people are little more giving during the holidays, so look at it as a bonus for a job well done.

    I seriously wouldnt bat another eye at it or feel guilty for the money. $500 is an appropriate compensation for your time.

  14. $500 for a week of housesitting and watching children at those ages seems a bit steep, at least for my area, but it definitely sounds like they can afford it, and, maybe it’s almost normal in San Diego. That being said, if you and girl ninja both feel guilty for taking so much, it’s not really our place to tell you otherwise. You’re the ones left feeling guilty for taking it all, not us. How much were you expecting when you accepted the offer to housesit? I’d take out that much and leave the rest.

    Besides, maybe if you were to cash the check (or go to an ATM) and leave $150-200 plus the remainder of the Starbucks card in the envelope, they would use you for housesitting more often and/or recommend you to others. After all, it is a side hustle that could comfortably grow based on word of mouth!

  15. “Is this another situation where I need to shut up, quit complaining, and cash the check without a second thought?”
    Yes. But as an alternative, you can deposit it. Or you can take whatever you consider the excess and share it with all your loyal, long-suffering readers.

    “The $100 to Starbucks is on a gift card so we’ll take the girls to coffee every day.”
    Does the 5th-grader drink coffee? Is

    Bottom line: Unless there was a prior agreement to compensate you at a lower rate, accept what you’re being offered. Who knows, maybe the girls will be more of a handful than you expect (getting them off to school, making sure they don’t get crunk, etc.) So just write a nice thank you note and buy them a nice Christmas gift plus a little something for each of the girls.

  16. I say keep the $500! Don’t think of it as $500 for house sitting, it is $500 for childcare – which is very very expensive. I don’t think you need to feel guilty at all about it.

  17. How about you keep the $500 and return the favor some time later. Maybe when you have kids, you can offer to let them house sit and overpay them or get someone else and “pay it forward.” Sometimes, I think that we don’t want to accept generosity because we are afraid that we will have to return it.

  18. Keep the $40 for tutoring.
    Use the Starbucks card for its intended purpose (the girls), whatever is left over leave for the family.
    $100 for random expenses, only touch it if it’s necessary.
    Take the $500! You are babysitting and housesitting and I actually think that’s not enough for the amount of kids and time you are putting in (I run a daycare myself). If you feel that bad about it, take the girls out for supper with some of that money.

  19. If it was just house sitting that would be one thing, but you’re taking care of their kids. It may not be hard work at their ages but it’s a big responsibility. I would keep the $500, what you’re doing is worth it.

    Because remember, if something happens to those kids on your watch you’ll catch more than $500 worth of wrath from the parents.

  20. 500 does seem steep, and I wouldn’t accept it. I say cash the check, and then withdraw half and return it to them. Keep the rest.

  21. The money is definitely well-earned. If you were just house sitting that would be one thing, but you’re caring for their children! That’s worth $500.

    When considering whether and how to return all or part of the money, remember that they may feel insulted if you give it back to them. I imagine they put a great deal of thought into whether to pay you and how much.

  22. Yes, I have been there. I am the same way when I feel that the compensation does not match the job. But what I’d do before giving the dollars back…maybe use it to buy things for the home or girls.

    You could…buy groceries (so the pantry is full when they return), take the girls to the movies, etc. I think to give it back might be seen as an insult in some way. I mean I can’t imagine leaving my kids with anyone but our siblings/parents…so if I had to, I’d be thinking along the same lines as this couple.

    You never know, maybe they researched and thought that was the going rate. Perhaps they really feel that it was worth it (peace of mind is priceless you know) and that you don’t think you EARNED that much. Since you have a great relationship talk it over with them if you want. Going forward you can agree to the amount up front if it really bothers you. If you don’t want to mention it, try some of the ideas above.

  23. Keep the money! Geez Louise! I will admit that I’ve felt uncomfortable accepting money from people when I expected to get nothing or to get much less than they were giving me. I still ended up keeping it!

    Especially in this case, I think cashing the check and leaving part of it would be wrong. It could backfire and end up insulting the parents. I do agree that you should leave what’s left on the Starbucks gift card, but take the tutoring money! Dude, if they didn’t want you to have what they left for you, they wouldn’t have left it. Accept it as a reward for a job well done and move on.

    OR send the money to me. I would gladly accept all $540 and put it all toward debt. Thanks so much! 😉

  24. Think of it from a finance perspective, 750 is their insurance payment to assure nothing happens to their house, theft or disaster, the girls are taken care of, again theft, disaster, and boys. Is it too much? I dont know, but having your home and children safe for a week so you can enjoy a vacation without worry sounds like a good deal to me.

  25. People rarely get offered more than they think their efforts are worth- in fact it’s usually the extreme opposite- so it’s against our training to accept lower than offered. But if you think the $500 compensation is too much, I would give some of it back. I’ve been in your position before, also for house-sitting, actually, and know exactly what you’re feeling. You will feel more settled and feel better about house-sitting again for them if you do what feels right to *you*.

    You could cash the check and give some of it back, or you could use a couple hundred to buy them a nice thank you gift- something for the house (holiday decoration season is coming up), a nice dinner out, concert/event tickets, etc.
    There’s a good chance they simply have no idea what a good compensation would be, and as you have an on-going relationship from tutoring, they settled on over-estimating rather than risk looking cheap.

  26. Agree with the majority of commenters, esp #2 (Trina). These are their CHILDREN and anyone would no question pay whatever to make sure they are safe and happy! Keep the money. $500 is obviously not going to break their bank at all. Peace of mind is a blank check when it comes to children! 🙂

  27. Being a parent myself, I understand why they wanted to compensate you well for taking care of their children. Once you have a little one you’ll understand why it was important for them to give you this much money! No amount of money is worth more than the peace of mind of knowing their children are being well cared for. Accept their compensation graciously and know they are paying for peace of mind in terms of their children’s safety and security. I would totally pay that much, probably even more!!!

  28. I agree with #2, #10, #11, #27, #29, and #32. I think leaving the $40, and random expenses is a nice gesture. But the $500 for watching their kids for 24 hours a day (okay not technically) is fairly reasonable.

  29. Keep the money, Ninja. It might feel like a lot but they’re compensating you for housesitting and childcare. Also, GN is there too so it’s like 250 per person.

    However to help lessen that uneasy “idontdeservethis” feeling, maybe you can do random nice things to make up for it. Like fill up the pantyr before you leave, invite them out/treat the family to dinner as a way to say thank you orr buy em xmas gifts or sthg nice for the house.

    Or you can donate the money!

  30. I say, if these people ever need a sister and you two aren’t available, please give them my contact info. (Would they also pay for my flight out there? I have a feeling they might!) 😀

  31. It sounds like you didn’t discuss compensation ahead of time, which was very young and sweet of you. I’m guessing that’s because you have a friendly working relationship with the family, and you knew they would not take advantage of you. That’s one more reason to accept their payment – they’ve put some thought into the process and feel this is what they should pay you to be fair. In the future, don’t be shy about talking terms before the job!

    I think the compensation sounds about right for your area, so yes, keep the $500, spend the treat money if the occasion warrants it, and be awesome housesitters/child care providers. As someone who has hired a lot of babysitters over the years, I can tell you from my own personal experience, I was quite willing to pay extra for the best sitters to be their favorite client – it makes it a lot easier to find a reliable sitter, especially for the high demand periods around the holidays!

  32. I’m with Kelly – I’ll come kid & house sit, and I live in San Diego! ;P

    For real though, I’m just agreeing with everyone else that you took care of their kids, and that alone is worth the $500. Just wait until you have kids and need someone to watch them for a week – I bet you’ll feel like you’re getting a deal if you paid them $500, because by then you’ll be used to what childcare really costs, which is an INSANE amount!

  33. I read about half way through all the comments – and didn’t see this suggestion yet…

    You said you’ll be eating their food and whatnot for the whole time – have you considered using say, $100 of that money to replenish the food that you eat? Take the money, but leave them with a well stocked fridge and I bet they’ll ask you again.

  34. In this situation, I would donate some of the money to charity in their name. Then they have made the same expenditure, but you do not take all of it.

  35. $500 is totally appropriate compensation for being responsible for two children. That’s $250/kid for around 120 hours. That’s about $2.08/hr per kid. Your time isn’t worth that?

    Look at it this way, if you had kids how much would you be willing to pay per hour for the peace of mind of knowing someone you trusted was looking after them while you were on vacation? More than $2.08 an hour per kid?

  36. Maybe it’s just me, but you are responsible for two girls here. It’s more than just house sitting, it’s people sitting, you have to make sure they get up, get to school, get fed, ect for an entire week. $500 seems like a fair price to me. You can’t board a dog in SD for a week for that amount let alone two humans.

  37. I pay daycare $130 (midwest) a week for 7:30-5 for one child. To have someone that I trust to take care of my kids 24/7 for a week…priceless.

    I’d say keep the $500.
    Not touch the $100 unless necessary
    Use the starbucks card as you all want…depending on what’s leave with them.
    Don’t take the $40 for tutoring – you’re there anyways so it’s not like a special trip.

    And yes, make sure you’ve restocked the fridge/pantry. Leave the house as clean if not cleaner then when you arrived. Do something fun with the girls….

  38. Apparently I have no concept of the going rate for watching two girls and a house. I probab;y feel guilty because it’s not really babysitting when the girls are 15 and 10 years old. They pretty much take care of themselves. I’m pretty sure Girl Ninja and I are just there for safety etc (if someone gets sick, someone breaks in, etc). I guess the price for peace of mind is rather steep. These responses were super helpful and an eye opener.

  39. Wowzas! Is this La Jolla or Del Mar?! I can totally understand that haha… I live in SD too (UTC) and people live the lavish life. I would say keep the $500 and do lots of tutoring/cleaning and taking the kids out to do fun activities. If their parents hear what a great time they had – homework, learning, hiking, outdoorsy stuff that they don’t normally do – I think it would be worth it.

  40. If you were just house-sitting then I could see how $500 would be a surprising amount of compensation, but you’re watching thier 2 kids for a week! I think any parent would shell out that much to know thier kids are being taken care of but responsible people for a week.

  41. Jessie’s suggestion is a good one – leave them with as stocked a fridge and pantry as when you arrived.

    In general, I do not think you should worry about the money, and you should definitely NOT give any of it back, even the tutoring money. It’s always offensive to return gifts/compensation for work agreed upon. I think it would make them feel even stranger if you left part of the $500, than you and GN feel taking by it all. I say leave them a little note (with any legitimate surplus from the expenses money and gift card) that thanks them for their generosity and leave it at that.

    I know how it feels when someone is clearly overpaying you, but you should be gracious, accept it, and then turn around and do some good with it.

  42. How about a Christmas giveaway to get more subscribers? Ten random people who comment on this post get $50 each from this experience.

  43. Here’s the way I see it: you did provide a service for them for a whole week, and for that you should be paid. Why?

    It’s not just because you took care of their girls. It’s not just because your presence let burglars know someone was home and they should avoid the house. It’s not just because you provided peace of mind.

    It’s because it doesn’t matter that you had a free place to stay that week–you still have to pay YOUR rent and YOUR bills which are still accumulating whether you’re home or not. They are trying to offset those bills and thank you for watching their kids.

    Think of it this way–whenever I’m on vacation, I know full well going into it that I will be double-paying for a place to stay (I have to keep up with rent at home and hotel bills wherever I’m headed). They know that, too, but the bonus here? They not only want to cover their house payments and hotel bills, they want to provide a bit of relief for the bills you’ll have waiting at home. Because you did provide a real service for them.

    I say let them 🙂

  44. As a part-time babysitter, I charge $10 an hour for 2 kids in Houston, TX. I assume the cost of living is higher in your area. You will be watching those kids at least 7 waking hours a day and handle any emergencies that pop up. I think $500 is a good deal for both of you – you get $500 to be a responsible house-sitter and nanny, they get the peace of mind that everything will be well taken care of while they are gone. If you do want to refund anything, cash the check and leave the remainder behind with a thank you note. 🙂

  45. Wow, you must not be around rich people very often. You are live-in nanny for a whole week. That’s nothing. Nothing. A live-in nanny they can trust with their kids and house.

    Maybe you need to raise your tutoring rates. I am dead serious. Sounds like you have no idea what people will pay for others who they actually trust with their kids.

  46. What about keeping some of the money and giving the rest to someone who really needs it? Surely you know someone who’s struggling right now (what with it being the holiday season and all), maybe you can help them out with the extra money you received – paying it forward?

    Also, think of it this way – the couple may have agreed that the “work” you did was only worth a wage of about $300, but the extra $200 was a gift to you. They may just want to bless you, and they’re allowed to do that! Be gracious, accept the money, and use it to bless someone else.

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