Why You Shouldn’t Round Up Your Au Pair’s Weekly Stipend

by cv harquail on January 12, 2015

What is “One Hundred Ninety-Five Dollars and Seventy Five Cents“?

P1000288A:  The amount of an Au Pair’s weekly stipend, or
B: An awkward, not-round number?

Both. Which is why many families ’round up’ from $195.75 and pay their au pairs an even $200 per week.

Rounding Up seems to make sense.

If you pay your Au Pair with cash, it’s just easier to give her/him a hunk of $20 bills from the cash machine than it is to find nine 20’s, one 10, a 5, and then three quarters. I get that.

Or, if you pay your Au Pair with a check or electronically, you might ’round up’ because you don’t want to look stingy.  I get that, too.

But when you round up for any reason, it means that each week you’re paying your au pair an additional $4.25 each week.

I know– it’s like giving your Au Pair a grande Frappucino every Friday.  whoo-hoo.

Is there anything wrong with that?

Yes, actually, there *is* something wrong with rounding up.

3398297675_394057b421_zYou’re frittering away an opportunity to reward your au pair.

Instead, you’re pushing your au pair to go just a little faster on the hedonic treadmill, making it likely that s/he won’t even notice, much less appreciate, that extra week of pay.

Yes, you heard me. “… That extra week of pay.” 

Over the course of an au pair’s year, that $4.25 adds up to $221.

Two Hundred Twenty One

That’s a lot of dollars to go unnoticed.

Instead of rounding up that extra money into a weekly stipend to save you some energy, you could roll up the money into one lump sum of $221.

Save that money over the course of a year and give it to your au pair as completion bonus or as extra mad money when s/he goes on vacation.

Then, that $4.25 per week would feel like a reward for a job well done.

Alternatively, you could save that money up as a security deposit. It could cover any damage to your house (hair-color stains on bathroom walls?) or to pay for the deductible in the event of a car accident. At the end of the year, any remaining money could be given to your au pair as a gift.

Whether as a reward or a gift, I’d rather have $220 than a year of Frappuccinos.

Round Up or Roll Up?

Scientifically — and I speak as a management professor here — it makes more sense to roll up the extra cash into one or two bonuses than it does to round it up to an even dollar figure.

 The ’rounding up’ strategy is merely convenient.

The ‘rolling up’ strategy has motivating power.

Since folks have already weighed in on this topic in an earlier comment thread, I’ve moved the comments to this new post. Fire away, below!


Update: Let us know what happens with your family:


Amelie January 12, 2015 at 12:38 pm

I really don’t want to be disrespectful, but from the au pair’s point of view (and I speak as a former au pair), not rounding up just seems petty. I get that it’s more than 200 dollars at the end of the year, but it’s 4 dollars each week!

I was paid 200 (actually, after a few months, I started doing some extra hours each week – mutually agreed – received 240). And I got 100 for my birthday and 200 when I left.

Some of my friends got the exact amount and, although they couldn’t say anything or complain about it, they felt like they’re host families were either very stingy or unappreciative.

You may be planning on giving the au pair the 200 at a later time, but your au pair doesn’ know that and might thinking that you just wanna spend the bare minimum on them.

I’m not saying anything like you’re wrong or if you don’t round up or anything (and of course, I don’t know each family’s financial circunstances), I’m just saying that chances are that this will reflect the way your au pair think of you as host parents/employers.

Should be working January 12, 2015 at 1:33 pm

I also would feel too petty if we did not round up to $200. We try to model from day 1 generosity (not financial, but personal), not being petty, etc. So far, knock on wood, we have gotten mostly the same back. One AP even said it was life-changing to spend the year with us and realize that, unlike in her petty-minded family, people really sometimes just do nice things for each other without it being a tit-for-tat arrangement each moment.

I can imagine the $4/wk would burn me up if I felt the AP were not being generous to us (as in, pitching in) but then that would also be a signal that I need to reset or rematch.

Returning HM January 12, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Interesting. All I can say is that we used to round up but stopped a few years ago, and I am 100% sure that our APs since then have not considered us cheap (nor, as i noted in my original post, do think the APs before then considered us “generous” FOR having rounded up — I don’t think they noticed one way or another and certainly never thought about the WEEK’s PAY that this added up to in the end). On the contrary, our APs since we have stopped doing this have – like the others – said frequently that they consider us very generous, but then again, they may have been thinking of generosity as including BOTH the things we buy for them that make them feel as though they are important and included members of the household and ALSO things like the flexibility we give them, the thanks and appreciation, the inclusiveness and warmth of our family. They haven’t just focused on whether they get an additional $4.15 per week as a matter of course.

Honestly, if we had an AP who judged our family for giving the amount they agreed to in their contract by thinking that this meant we “wanna spend the bare minimum on them,” and therefore ignored all we DO do in favor of (over)valuing the additional $4.15, then my guess is that this person wouldn’t be a good fit for our family anyway.

Amelie January 12, 2015 at 1:53 pm

Of course it adds up to other things, I’m pretty sure some host parents who pay the $195.75 show appreciation for the au pair in other ways.

I’m just saying… This is what I often read in au pair foruns and communities and how my friends who received the exact amount felt. Just trying to offer the point of view of the au pairs.

It really can seem petty/cheap.

Host Mom in the City January 12, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Thanks, Amelie. You’ve made me re-evaluate how I feel about this, and reminded me why I started paying $200 when I first started out – because of the message it sends to the au pair. It’s hard for me as a host mom to not let my previous poor experiences with au pairs weigh into decisions I make with future au pairs, but I think you’re right that starting off from a position of generosity serves you best. Then of course if the au pair takes advantage of it (been there, done that), then you re-evaluate by mediation or rematching, rather than begrudging a few dollars (though as I mentioned below, it’s frequently not just a few dollars, but hundreds that we lose out on when an au pair flakes). Thanks for this feedback!

BearCo HM January 12, 2015 at 6:11 pm

I can definitely see this a few ways, and I wonder if it makes any difference depending on how the pay is given.

If you’re paying by check or electronic transfer, $200 is really just as arbitrary of an amount as $195.75 (except that $195.75 is actually NOT arbitrary and calculated based on specific factors). Why stop at $200? Why not $205? It’s just another $9.25 a week ! It seems kind of silly to up it to $200 just because people like round numbers. What if the minimum wage goes up and the new mandated amount becomes $214.75 – then do you round to 215 or 220 or 250? Where then does the line become between what’s stingy and what isn’t ? My employer doesn’t round my paycheck up to the nearest dollar, let alone nearest $10 dollar, and I don’t think of them as stingy (not for that anyway!).

On the other hand, if you’re paying cash, then I could see it would feel petty because you would likely have to go out of your way to NOT pay an even $200, and if I was an AP I would probably roll my eyes at that.

Amelie (or any other AP or ex-AP reading), do you think this makes any difference as far as the psychological effect? (i.e. physically seeing the cash vs direct deposit)

I guess what I’m saying is, I haven’t been rounding up because I didn’t see any point in doing so. The stipend just is what it is based on what the State Dept. says it is, I honestly never even thought to round it up on the e-transfer request form. Our APs get plenty of extra ‘perks’ – free meals out, car to use, free phone, tickets to shows, taken on trips with paid-for activities, etc.), and if they want to compare that to what other APs get they can always find others who get more or less “all-in”.

That all said, if I knew for a fact that not spending that extra $4.25 a week is going to make a truly appreciated AP feel like we think she doesn’t “deserve” to be “topped off” to the point it would sour her year or experience or relationship with us, and that this was a universally held view across the majority of APs, then in that light I could see it being a small symbolic gesture worth doing.

Amelie January 12, 2015 at 8:16 pm

I haven’t thought about that… But yes, in terms of psychological effect, I think it could be worse to pay in cash. (now that I’m thinking about it… I remember some friends getting really annoyed at receiving the three quarters…)

hOstCDmom January 12, 2015 at 5:03 pm

Another perspective – my boss doesn’t round up my salary, nor do my teen children’s bosses round up their salaries (i.e. teen kids who work for minimum wage. they get paid a straight calculation of hours * pay/hr). The $195.75/week is based on a specific calculation tied to federal minimum wage, and I actually spell this out (and lay out the math per the State Dept calculation of same) in my handbook.

Host Mom in the City January 12, 2015 at 5:38 pm

Ha – this is a good point. It never occurred to me to think my organization is cheap because they don’t round up my check. It’s just what my pay is – the pay that I agreed to when I took the job.

hOstCDmom January 12, 2015 at 5:43 pm

I do think it can make a difference if one pays by cash vs. cheque or direct deposit. If the former, I could see how counting out the change could seem cheap (even if money is money is money, and quarters are real money!), but when doing a cheque or direct deposit it may feel less petty or cheap to pay the exact amount (probably because most of us are used to our pay being done by direct deposit or pay cheque and involving a non-exact amount). I do find it helps having a section in my handbook spelling all this out, including where the $195.75 comes from, writing out min wage * hours – [40% of amount for room and board] etc., so they understand that their pay is based on a government dictated calculation, and not just a random number!

Amelie January 12, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Again, I’m just sharing what I know being a former au pair.

BTW… I think it’s interesting that host parents compare au pairing to any other job when it suits them, but say it’s completely different when it doesn’t.

BTW… I have a person who cleans my house twice a month. I round up the amount I pay to her. She’s a person who I hired to do a service, but also someone who goes to my house, who I talk to and exchange christmas gifts with, who plats with my cats… We built a relationship. I trust her with the key to my house. I personally like her. I couldn’t compare our relationship to that of a company and an employee.

hOstCDmom January 12, 2015 at 6:15 pm

Amelie – I appreciate your perspective and do not doubt its veracity – I believe that some/many APs might feel that HP should round up and/or are annoyed if they do not. But as you are, I am sharing my perspective on why I do not do so, and what informs my reasoning behind why I pay the exact amount (and, as you will see in my comment below, why I prefer to use the 4.25 a week that I do NOT round up to go toward other monetary/monetary equivalent (i.e. gift cards) gifts for my AP.

I do think my APs notice and appreciate them more, and I like that it is optional. (cv’s emphasis here– this is exactly my point in the post)

I do compare this aspect of au pairing to other jobs because the pay is governed by the same laws that other jobs are governed by (federal minimum wage laws, taxes etc.). I have older teens who have jobs that pay minimum wage — and they make $9.15/hour (state minimum wage) — not $9.25 or $9.50, and not $9.00. They made $8.75 (not $9.00) until 31 December 2014, and as of 1 Jan 2015 their employers had to pay them $9.15…and that is what they are paid. Their weekly pay cheque/direct deposit is never a round number, and no one rounds up.

I don’t think that is petty or a slight — but I do take your point, as former AP yourself, that many au pairs do consider it petty or a slight that their HPs do not pay $200/week. But I can live with that.

Amelie January 12, 2015 at 8:23 pm

That’s alright, hOstCDmom, I’m sorry I’m my last comment was a little harsh. You have all the right to do it the way you do it and of course there’s nothong wrong in paying the exact amount. I was really just sharing some thoughts, just saying that if the idea of saving the four dollars was to save up to reward the au pair later on it could backfire.

I truly believe that most host moms here are trying their best to mantain good relationships with their au pair – just the mere fact that you’re here is proof of that. :)

Host Mom in the City January 12, 2015 at 8:43 pm

I’d like to hear more about this:

“BTW… I think it’s interesting that host parents compare au pairing to any other job when it suits them, but say it’s completely different when it doesn’t.”

I don’t understand this comment.

Returning HM January 12, 2015 at 11:55 pm

Amelie – You are absolutely right that I don’t tell APs that they (may) get a departure gift of the cash I “save” by not overpaying by $4 per week. I don’t tell them because not everyone will get it, or, if they do, not everyone will get it in the same way. The rockstar AP who tore his ACL and had to leave at six months left with a $200 visa giftcard that worked in his home country. His replacement who drank and drove and crashed the car with three weeks left of his time with us got nothing. The two other APs who have completed their years with us since I stopped overpaying both got giftcards over $200 plus departure gifts. But my doing of monetary gifts for them is about what I do; it’s not about what an AP should be expecting. After all, they are not “entitled” to the $4 per week extra that I don’t pay them, so I am not obligated to give them these or any other gifts or to tell them that these may be coming.

I find it sad that some APs, according to your account, seem to link their host families’ giving of an extra $4 per week to their own sense of whether they are appreciated or not and whether their host families are generous with them or not. I would be very sad to know that our AP – who has already taken at least two weeks off and is scheduled to take at least another two weeks off, not to mention all of the other things we do for him to show him how much we appreciate and value him and his time here – were stressing about not getting an additional $4 that others seem to feel entitled to (because I know him, I know there is zero chance he feels this way). Generosity comes in many forms, and I think it’s a little narrow-minded to make blanket statements about host families who don’t overpay each week being “cheap” and “petty,” without regard to other things that families may or may not do for and with their APs.

Host Mom X January 15, 2015 at 2:32 pm

Amelie – I guess I find it surprising that the overall AP attitude about this issue that you have shared is that an extra $4.25/week makes APs feel appreciated and that their host parents are generous and not just doing the bare minimum. $4.25 extra per week actually sounds insulting to me as a gesture of generosity. I hope none of our APs have felt this way – we do automatic electronic funds transfers, and we just set it up at the beginning of each AP year with the stipend amount. We don’t think about it again after that; the weekly stipend is not an expression of our feelings toward our AP, or of our generosity overall. As many host moms on here have mentioned, we give extra money to our APs at a variety of different times of year – as spontaneous gift cards, before our AP goes on a trip, for birthday and holiday bonuses and gifts, for a departure bonues, etc. And that all adds up to a lot more than the $220 of an extra $4.25/week. I guess it just seems odd to me that paying someone the money they agreed to be paid rather than $4.25 extra is viewed as “stingy.”

My guess, though, is that APs who complain about this probably have other issues with their host families. Or, Amelie – is that not the case? Do you find that your AP friends who complain about this think that their host parents are stingy for not “rounding up” even when the host family is otherwise a great host family and generous in other ways?

Seeing the pic picture May 8, 2015 at 10:12 am

I don’t think that rounding up sends the right message. You never get to have your salary rounded up, or annual increase. With our first au pair we rounded up to 200, she had a weekly allowance of $20 to buy dinner out, she travelled first class with us (internationally), we paid her trip to Rio de Janeiro and gave her pocket money on the local currency, beyond her weekly stipend. We never received a thank you, or any sign of appreciation. We felt she felt entitled to, because we could afford, not because she though we were being generous.

One of the few times we asked her to baby-sit, because we had some friends that stopped by on their vacation, we had to hire another babysitter, because she didn’t want to change her plans to of to the mall with her friends. At the end of the year, we gave her a dinner party and her friends, again no thank you or appreciative. She never replied to our emails or maintained contact with us after she left.

With the following au pairs, we didn’t round up, but made sure to be generous when she went beyond her duties. We all talk about how meager the pay is, but we generally forget to add the real amount that the au pair gets. In our case: the au pair gets the third floor (1 big size bedroom with in suite, plus another medium size sitting room), cleaning services once a week, cable, internet, a cell phone with unlimited texting and minutes, a small SVU with gas, $20/week for a special dinner or when she goes out with her friends, no restrictions on grocery shopping (if she does, but I am responsible for that) at Whole foods or Trader’s Joes.

Breaking those expenses down if she would pay for them: Rent a 1 bedroom with utilities in our neighborhood: $1650; rent a car with insurance and gas: $900/month; organic food: $600/month, plus $20/week extra, comes to $3230/month. At the end of the year, including an international trip in first class, staying at a five stars hotel, with meals included, $500 education allowance, and weekly stipend, comes down to a gross total of $54,656/year.

Still a little bellow the cost for a nanny in our city,$55K is the average, but we are talking about a nanny with several years of experience, education, not a couple of hours working as babysitter, but we feel that we shouldn’t be seen as cheap for now just pay what we are supposed to pay. We need to see the whole/big picture here. $783/month as pocket money is not shabby, and very few will have that kind of disposal income when they start working and paying rent, food, utilities, etc.

HRHM January 12, 2015 at 1:07 pm

We’ve never rounded up and after 7 APs, none until the current who were “rock stars”, I’m always glad that I don’t! With current amazing AP, I’m not rounding up either but am trying to decide about a “raise” if we decide (mutually) to extend. Any thoughts on this?

Repeataupair January 13, 2015 at 1:17 am

I would not advise it. If I were you I would offer to pay for extension fees and celebrate her if she decides to stay if she truely is that good. But I wouldn’t want her to stay for money or so.

SwissAupair January 13, 2015 at 1:32 am

The Aupair would be happy to get more money, for sure. But if I were you, I would rather give her/him a “one-time-gift” somewhen in the middle of year 2. Instead of giving her an extra 10$/week, you could save up that money (500$ a year!) and give her something she really wanted all the months she was with you. “We know that you really wanted to go to XY and because you have been such a lovely, nice, (other kind words) Aupair for our kid(s), we are happy to give you XYZ.”. (Musical Tickets / Weekend +2 days-Trip / ….). I would love that so much more than just the extra ammount of money per week that I for sure would “invest” in Starbucks or other shops.

Bmore Mom January 12, 2015 at 1:40 pm

We have rounded up with the specific distinction that the extra cash is for either a) the cheapest phone plan around just so I can get a hold of you while you get to keep your fancy phone or b) the round trip bus fare to take the host kids to the museums downtown once a week (we have a membership to the kid’s museum also for this purpose). AP 1 was cool with it being towards her phone fees and we added a bus card. AP 2 wanted the phone separate and then kept meticulous track of how much she used on the busses to go out and billed us anything over $4.25. We still aren’t sure where she was going because the kids say they never went anywhere. Worst 4 months ever. AP 3 uses it towards her phone fees and uses the bus card when they go out.

dcaupair January 12, 2015 at 1:47 pm

I have to agree with Amelie- although you might be intending to give the difference in money at a later date, to an au pair who most likely has friends who all receive $200 a week and won’t know what your intentions about the money are, this just seems petty, and can subconsciously suggest poor performance on the part of the au pair, which is extremely unfair if that’s not the case.
Personally I have found that I regularly spend my own money on little things when I’m with the kids- a bottle of water or a bagel for the kids, parking meters etc which adds up over time. I’m happy to let the little expenses go, but if HF is going to be so exact with my stipend, I would be less willing to pay out my own pocket. If the relationship is good, a few dollars here and there doesn’t make much difference, and the willingness to round up often makes little difference to a HF, but a surprisingly big difference to an au pair who likely has very little money of her own if she/he intends to make the most of the experience.

Of course, you have no obligation to pay more than $195.57 but cultivating a good relationship with the au pair is really important, and with a mature hard-working au pair, willingness of the HF to do a little bit extra to make the au pair’s experience better will be reciprocated with added flexibility, doing extra things to please the family etc. If you give the minimum, don’t be surprised to receive the minimum back.

hOstCDmom January 12, 2015 at 5:01 pm

I don’t round up either, because the extra $216.75/year (4.25 *51) = ~ ten $20 “thank you for doing a good job” gift cards. So, essentially, I can give a treat, or gift card, or gas money or something once a month for the year for the same cost as rounding up….and these extras are WAY MORE APPRECIATED by the AP than the extra $4.25/week! They are also optional for me, so if things aren’t going well I don’t do them. But if they are going well, then I have mentally budgeted in these extra “thank yous” for work well done, going above and beyond.

I pay by direct deposit, so I pay exactly $195.75/week, I don’t even round to $196. I have a small section in my handbook about pay (i.e. that we pay the State Dept mandated stipend, we pay on Fridays, we pay by DD so AP must open a bank account the first weekend with us; I also mention taxes in this section (i.e. statement of the law and the requirement that they file and that it is their responsibility, not mine.)

WestMom January 12, 2015 at 5:50 pm

I have gone both ways—paying exact, and rounding up, and as I mentioned in another post, I feel petty not to round up (we are not talking about rounding up a salary with thousands of dollars here). To me rounding up sets the tone for ‘It’s ok to not always nickel and dime (whether hours or $) and I am setting the example that I am willing to give a little extra’. I do expect the same from AP. An AP who will give me the evil eye if I come if 15 min late because of train delays will not do so well with me. A little give and take goes a long way.

Host Mom X January 15, 2015 at 2:55 pm

I guess I just don’t view mandated stipend payment as give and take, though. If we arrive 15 minutes late, we pay our AP for the extra time – we don’t expect that she give us that extra time out of the goodness of her heart (because even when we pay for it – it still puts us over the 10 hours/day or 45/week depending on our schedule that week and the timing). And I DEFINITELY don’t think an extra $4.25/week “covers” those kind of “extras” that we may expect of our APs. The going rate for babysitting in our area is about $10-$15/hour (perhaps more for nannying / professional childcare, lower end of the spectrum for high school babysitters) – so $4.25 barely covers fifteen minutes of lateness in a week. I do feel that with hours – we MUST nickel and dime (in the APs’ favor), or we are unfair to our APs.

CAmom22 January 12, 2015 at 6:36 pm

It never would have occurred to me in a million years to round up!! Although if I were paying cash I can absolutely see how it would seem awkward to hand over 3 quarters but I don’t (I set up direct deposit on AP’s arrival). If only my salary were rounded up!! :-) Our generosity comes through in many other ways but this one never occurred to me: the contract says $195.75; that’s what I pay. Honestly if an AP thought we were being stingy because we pay the contracted amount I wouldn’t know what to say! Except that that wouldn’t be the AP for us.

HRHM January 12, 2015 at 10:26 pm


I realize that not all HF’s can afford to do it, but we pay for lift tickets and gear rental for skiing (also rented a bigger house for the season than we’d otherwise need…) paid for pretty expensive tickets to events (plays, nature tours, pretty swanky meals) included her on family vacations to include an extra hotel room, an entire week of food, ridiculous park tickets (she was not working). If she thinks we’re cheaping out because we don’t round up on her stipend, her vision is seriously skewed!

Emerald City HM January 12, 2015 at 10:29 pm

Yeah I was just thinking that we are taking our au pair to Disney and she can bring a friend to stay in the room with us (friend has to pay for her own tickets and food, but rooming alone saves a significant amount of money).

old au pair mom January 13, 2015 at 1:25 am

wow that is so nice to let her bring a friend along. What a great idea. We have traveled with more than one AP or babysitters at a time and it has always worked out great for everyone. I loved watching my DH trying to get our darling teen babysitters up early one morning at Disney. They bossed him right out and he was so bemused that they would rather sleep than ride rides at 7am. Now that his own kids are older, he gets it! You get top marks for this!!!

Host Mom X January 15, 2015 at 2:55 pm


AussiePair January 12, 2015 at 8:47 pm

I think the problem arises because some host parents do round up making au pairs with host families that don’t round up compare their situation and then feel slighted.. I’ve had both arrangements and I wouldn’t particularly feel any resentment toward the family that didn’t round up or that they were being petty, however they began rounding and then changed a few months on when they decided they didn’t want to give me money for anything (no reimbursement for gas, things children needed etc.).

I would just say be consistent, if you’re au pair is feeling hard done by because of the $4.25 per week I would be worried more about the au pair being petty, than thinking you’re being petty.

Mimi January 13, 2015 at 1:23 pm

This is a hot button topic for me– the way APs compare their families/situations to others based on material criteria. I understand why it happens, but it drives me to distraction.

cv harquail January 13, 2015 at 2:07 pm

Mimi- I’ll put up a post about this in the next two weeks or so. In the meantime, you might enjoy this oldie: Host Family Advice: Resist the Amenities Arms Race http://aupairmom.com/tip-resist-the-amenities-arms-race/2008/06/17/celiaharquail/

Mimi January 13, 2015 at 2:15 pm

that’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout! :)

ny aupair January 12, 2015 at 9:26 pm

As a current aupair, I never even thought about this. My hostparents take turns when it comes to paying me, and my hostmom pays the exact $195,75 and my hostdad pays $196. I’ve never thought anything about it to be honest, because $195,75 was the amount I agreed to when I took the job. I know some of my aupair friends get paid $200 and even more than that if they do “additional” work, but it hasn’t bothered me at all.

I don’t think my hostparents are petty even though they pay me the exact amount, because like I said before, that is the amount to which I agreed to and even more importantly, it is defined by the US government. Of course it would be nice to get that extra $4,25 every week, but it’s not something I’ll lose my sleep over. I rather get the $20 gift cards or some other little gifts every now and then, it somehow makes me feel more appreciated than just getting $200 on my bank account every Friday.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 12, 2015 at 11:55 pm

DH pays in cash – we round up. We give a little extra if we’ve used the AP car and didn’t have time to top the tank, but want her to fill it so it’s not on E the next time we need it. We give Christmas bonuses most years and a box just before the end of the year. If she’s been fantastic, I pay a fortune to ship it airmail so it arrives home before the end of her travel month. I rarely buy gift cards, but I do say thank you frequently (like the other day “Thank you for being flexible when the unreasonably small amount of snow closed school! Surprise! And welcome to our city.”) APs have almost always been invited to travel with us to visit family (some of whom live in destination cities). Nothing that the stipend is minimum wage minus room & board (in an average American city), giving a few extra dollars once a week in an expensive city like mine seems like nothing (and yes, I do receive a location bonus where I live).

old au pair mom January 14, 2015 at 12:25 am

So this raises a question. If your AP works on a snow day, and you go to work or work in your office or continue on with the appointments you have and s/he stays home with the kids, then what how do you account for those extra hours? I don’t live in the snow, but I just wonder.

Host Mom in the City January 14, 2015 at 6:59 am

Not sure about TACL, but we just add it to her total hours for the week. Not
Sure what else you could do? We’re normally only at 35, so adding
A few isn’t an issue. If a snow day happened to take us over 45, then we would take off work ourselves or somehow adjust the schedule to make sure we stay under 45.

AlwaysHopeful HM January 14, 2015 at 7:17 am

I telework, work shorter hours, or supplement with back up care. Scrambling on school days is the worst!

WarmStateMomma January 13, 2015 at 12:42 am

Another host mom here once referred to cleaning up her APs dishes (or vice versa?) as “rounding up” in a more abstract sense. We round up on the stipend and probably will continue to do so for that reason. Using the extra money to buy thank you gifts along the way sounds nice, but I just probably wouldn’t get around to following through on that idea after month 2.

MrsMouseketeer January 13, 2015 at 3:39 am

We pay our AP electronically and pay exactly what the State Dept stipulates — because thats the law and we want all records to reflect that. The AP is well aware this is the stipend and the law. We do supplement and give her extra cash along the way for watching the dog while away, bdays, trips etc.

SwissAupair January 14, 2015 at 1:02 am

The State Dept set the minimum wage, but it is not against the law to pay more.

Pennsylvania AP Mom January 14, 2015 at 1:15 pm

SwissAupair you’re right that it is not against the law to pay more, but legally Au Pairs are required to claim ALL of the money they are paid (this is supposed to include any monetary gifts from an employer) and it could put the Au Pair into a higher tax bracket. I do not believe gift cards need to be claimed.

WestMom January 14, 2015 at 9:52 am

SwissAP is correct. As long as you pay a minimum of 195.75, you are within the law. It doesn’t mean you can’t pay more. But of course that might mean additional tax liabilities for the AP.

SwissAupair January 14, 2015 at 1:49 pm

I absolutely know that. I was just not happy about the “thats the law and we want all records to reflect that” sentence. It would also be “the law” to pay 500$ a week, if they would like to, and it would not reflect that the family does not respect the law. Of course my boss does not round up my income and I’m absolutely with the HP who do not round up, specially when they pay online.

BearCo HM January 13, 2015 at 11:43 am

I like what WestMom said – “To me rounding up sets the tone for ‘It’s ok to not always nickel and dime (whether hours or $) and I am setting the example that I am willing to give a little extra’”
I think this is a really good way of putting it and it makes sense to me.

Again, I don’t think of paying the exact amount (when you’re paying electronically) as “nickel and diming”, because you just typed a number into a form and the number was the number you were told to pay as per program guidelines. I honestly don’t pay the exact amount to ‘save’ the $4 (for myself or for later), because that implies the $4 is expected. But it sounds like after reading all these comments it’s kind of like the 20% tip rule, where “everyone knows” you’re supposed to (based on unwritten rule) calculate 20% and then round up — not actually count out exactly 20% in pennies and leave that on the table unless you hate your waitress.

Also , dropping $ in her account in less than $20 intervals effectively makes it so that she couldn’t take it all out at the ATM at once – which is probably annoying now that I think of it.

So taking that into account, I think I will change the payment amount to $200.

Host Mom X January 15, 2015 at 3:11 pm

But I don’t think it’s like the 20% tip and rounding up rule that “everyone knows.” I think there is disagreement within this post that “rounding up” the AP stipend is something everyone knows and expects.

(And see my post above for why I don’t like this as an example of not “nickel and diming” and of setting a tone for flexibility. To me, flexibility in an AP-host family relationship is primarily not about money – because I do not feel that an AP should EVER have to be flexible about money: an AP must ALWAYS be paid what she is owed, and should NEVER have to spend her own money on room, board, buying things for the children or household, etc.)

nyhostmom January 13, 2015 at 1:46 pm

We always round up but we pay cash. If we did direct deposit, I would do the exact amount, but with cash, to get that exact amount seems like you are going through a lot of effort not to pay them another $4. Our first au pair asked if we needed change when we gave her $200 and we said no. She seemed happy. While $4 over the year does add up, I feel that giving the person that takes care of my children an extra $4 is not unreasonable.

AlwaysHopeful HM January 14, 2015 at 9:37 am

I don’t round up. I tell out APs before they arrive that i will pay the amount set by the State Dept. That is my expectation and theirs– why would I that and pay a different amount? Essentially, give a raise just for showing up? With that said, I do end up paying a round number, because I add an amount of gas money to the stipend to cover my son’s transportation. That is a looser, more malleable number, so I don’t mind rounding that up. I’m clear with our APs though, that the stipend portion is the State Dept amount. To me, it’s the same as doing whatever I need to do to stay within the hours.

Where the program has already established a structure, it is easiest to stay within the structure, rather than start to move this line, but not that line… that is all unnecessarily confusing to me and can lead to mixed expectations and resentment.

(AlwaysHopeful– I’ve snatched this section for a new post. Stay tuned. cvh)

Old China Hand January 14, 2015 at 2:06 pm

We don’t round up. Never occurred to me to do so because the contracted rate is the contracted rate. Our cleaning lady gets kind of irritated seeming when we have to figure out her hourly rate after my husband rounded up $2/day for her to make things easier (she gets cash). I do give our ap a generous red packet for Chinese new year, which is right after she arrives, and a more generous one if she extends and is here for a second one. We will pay by direct deposit now that I have it set up for this ap. we had to get a new bank account for it, so I am pretty excited to not have to worry about checks or the ap cashing them or remembering to pay. Checks are very unusual in China, but direct deposit is not, so this should be much better for everyone. As a side note, we also didn’t give our ap a raise for her 6 month extension. We didn’t save any money on the extension and didn’t see a reason to give her a raise. She didn’t seem to think she needed one either. We did give her a few generous gifts through the time and she appreciated those.

imabusybee January 14, 2015 at 11:23 pm

I’m in the “I don’t round up” group. I agree with the idea that you get paid what you get paid. I only made $20,000 my first job out of college and I guarantee that my boss did not round up. She did however buy me lunch on occasion and I really appreciated it and remember it to this day.

I think rounding up is teaching these APs that they should get something for nothing which is not a good lesson to be taught. In real life you earn a bonus.

APs hear that some of the others get more money but they forget the perks in their own house that may be even greater. Our current AP has said things like “X’s HPs buy her a lot of things.” and “Y’s HPs let her…” My AP seems to forget that we do an extensive amount of traveling that she is involved in and will see and experience more than all of the APs her cluster combined.

I also think that the opportunity to give your AP a something extra will present itself and it’ll be much more appreciated. My APs phone from her home country broke this week. I know she’s been wanting an iPhone. I just upgraded mine so guess what, not only did we decide to give it to her but I pulled it from eBay to do it. Just because we did it doesn’t mean everyone else should and our next AP (probably) won’t get one. But will most likely get something else special that is better suited for her.

If you are gonna give something extra I think giving that pay would be much better all at once right before they take a vacation or their 13th month. $4 a week probably will go to something silly like a latte but all at once right when they need it most will probably go much further.

I think the important thing to remember is that this year shouldn’t be about what THINGS they get but the EXPERIENCES they get. So paying for something or an event that is unique to the country you are in (USA for me) is a much better thing to give in my opinion.

Anonymous January 17, 2015 at 11:59 am

We rounded up all last year, our aupair just went home . I dont think our aupair realized we paid Her an extra $221 for the year. If we had thought moré About It we should probably said something, extra income, save for taxes….. Be cause our aupair came in december and finished in december Her Tax bill was High. If she had thought of this as extra money then she wiuld have had less financial worry At end, second i realize First week they get no Pay, and they cant be alone First 3 days and as we all know some of us need additional childcare help the First week or so and if your like me paying for double help. So At the end of the aupair year you get them 2 days then pay a full week . So i feel better now just paying normal stipend , we do alot for our aupair, we arent cheap and in saying our new plan we also always invite to dinners, events, family vacations, etc. She has access to a car 24/7 all food etc, i give extra days off after long tríps, i buy food she likes etc. Yes i may give a Little extra inthe end for doing a great Job, But for now we are going to pay the legal stipend and continúe to provide extras as a family because we like our aupair and treat Her like family. We Housed our out going aupair for 2 weeks after Her contract Ended and she was a great help orienting our new aupair. She was worth Every extra penny and more! I think for book keeping its better to do legal stipend and give extras sepárate in case so there is no potential problem for aupair related to taxes. That just my two cents. Jen

Taking a Computer Lunch January 17, 2015 at 6:58 pm

We don’t pay for a full week for the last week of the AP year. Our APs usually only work on Monday, and our LCC sends us an email with the fee for one day of pay. (I purposely have a 3-day gap, so I can scour the AP suite.) There, too, we round up, because it’s usually $39 and change.

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