The Baby-Sitters Club was the book series that defined any pre-teen girl in the 80s and 90s (otherwise known, in my experience anyway, as the gateway drug to Sweet Valley High).
Every single book started the same way, with a rundown on each of the characters: Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey and how the club started.
It also outlined the rules for the cash they made, like members paying back part of their earnings every week, which were then pooled to buy babysitting supplies for their individual ‘Kid Kits’.
But what were their earnings?
As Nicole Dieker from The Billfold recently pointed out, readers never actually found out what the sitters earned per hour or how much they contributed to the weekly pool.
So she worked it out.
The only clue Dieker had was a conversation between Mary Anne and her dad, who thought that her putting $3 of her sitter income towards a club-sanctioned pizza party was a “big deal”.
“Kristy’s Great Idea was first published in 1986, so that $3 would be $6.59 in today’s dollars. I wouldn’t be surprised if it represented more than an hour of babysitting work, especially considering that the 1986 federal minimum wage was $3.35,” Dieker wrote, keeping in mind this is all in US dollars.
The four sitters had three club meetings a week, and each sitter got roughly one babysitting job per meeting – so three jobs per week.
“If they’re earning $1.50 an hour for what I’m going to estimate is six hours of weekly babysitting work, that comes out to $9 a week,” Dieker sleuthed.
She guesstimated that the girls paid $2 per week in dues (for the Kid Kits), which left $7 in income, which would make the $3 for pizza such a big cost.
Seven bucks isn’t a lot, even for 1986, so Dieker gave their earnings a little more wiggle room and came up with $12 per week.
“Even if you do the math a little more generously, giving the sitters $2 an hour and only $1 in weekly dues, that still means they only earn $12 per week and keep $11, and spending $3 on pizza means giving up more than 25 per cent of their income.”
No wonder why Mary Anne’s dad was so cross.