The majority of us starting out in this industry are beginning on a tight budget. Unless you’ve got huge savings or an investor – lucky you! –  you’re going to be developing your childcare business with limited cash. So I thought you’d find it helpful if I shared some ideas of how to save money without risking the professional look and feel of your business.

Here are three ways you can begin to grow a wildly successful childcare business on a budget:

1. Plan the flow on a budget

Now is the time to sit down and think about how do you want your childcare to run. What kind of childcare is it going to be? What exactly will you be offering parents? When I first opened up, I decided I’d offer something that other day care centers weren’t – 24 hour care and weekends too. I knew I’d be setting up as a home childcare, so I needed to make it unique and fun, as well as homely. What will your specialty be?

You can write down goals for the future, but for the time being, you’ve got to focus on what is feasible right now. There’s no point overspending on activities or resources that’ll drain your cash and leave you struggling later in the year. So plan activities to your budget.

One of the ways I did this was making exciting trips to different parks with the children in my care. We ventured further than their local play parks, instead taking sentimental trips to my old childhood park on the other side of town. The kids love going on adventures to new places, and your bank account will love it even more!

If trips to the Science Museum are not feasible right now at the start of your business, do science experiments at home in the garden or in the local park. Make a rain gauge or a sun dial with the kids to put outside, or make some erupting art! Kids love fun and are oblivious to your budget! However, you can aim for bigger things once you’re established!

2. Search for closures

This sounds a bit strange, but hear me out! There are always going to be dentists, doctors, offices and other places closing down, so while you’re on a tight budget, keep a look out. Often these closures mean there’s tons of furniture and other resources – even toys!

When I first set up my home childcare business, a friend of mine came by one day with a cute table and chair set that he’d received from his job (which at the time was a doctor’s office that was remodeling).  With a little love and attention, it looked fantastic set up for my kids to play games on or with some coloring activities laid out on it!

And I know plenty of childcare owners who get ahold of some awesome second hand Lego and other sought after toys for an absolute bargain because they’ve taken time to read ads in local papers, spent Saturday mornings traipsing round yard sales or local garage sales. Being thrifty is an excellent way of staying on budget and there’s absolutely no shame in it!

3. Get crafty with some D.I.Y

This is a chance to get really creative!

I’ve already mentioned my little table set upcycling project, but there have been many since! And I love getting the kids involved too! We’ve done decoupaging with photos of all the kids who’ve gone through my childcare over the years; covering table tops with the images and protecting with a couple of layers of PVA glue.

Check out local builders merchants and traders, who might have excess pallets they’re looking to shift. And wow, there are so many ideas online for making fun things with pallets! You could try your hand at making a buddy bench for the garden, or even a wendy house for imaginative play! I love the idea of getting the children to join in the fun and paint. And older ones are capable of using tools when they’re supervised and are taught how to use them properly. Think of all the joy and pride they’d have using furniture they’ve made themselves!

And once you’re more established, you can branch out and get other people to build fun talking point pieces for your childcare. A couple of years ago, I was able to have a whole market play center built by a local craftsman, and it is still going strong! And the kids who attend and their parents love it. People sometimes even ask me, “are you the day care with the cool play market?” and I’m like, “aaaaah yes we are!”.

I hope you can see now that being on a budget doesn’t mean you’re not able to be awesome. You just have to think outside the box and get really creative with the little you have. And the passion you show by spending time creating a schedule that your kids will love and learn from will come across. By using your free time to make upcycled furniture you’re going to demonstrate to families how much you care!

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