Tips For Saving Money On A Daycare Budget

Child Care Providers & Parents Share Suggestions

daycare art supplies

Budgets for supplies in daycare facilities are limited. Child care providers have to think of creative ways to stretch their limited supply dollars as far as possible. For many providers, it's a balancing act between whether to charge a supply fee, build it into the weekly or monthly charge, or to charge on a "per-activity" basis. Regardless of the choice a provider makes, finding ways to extend the supply budget as far as it will go (without raising the price of daycare) may take some creativity and smart shopping.

Here are tips from childcare providers:

  • Buy supplies in bulk (non-perishable foods, cleaning supplies, etc.).
  • Ask parents or even businesses for donations (toys, books, art supplies, extra clothing, bottles, even some furniture). Just be sure it is safe and in good condition.
  • Find a great children's consignment store, and rotate items and trade them in. A provider wrote: "Our units are theme based, so I box up things from one theme, keep the very best and trade in the ones the children were not really interested in or that I won't ave trouble finding the next year. It's also a great way to rotate books and puzzles. Those items are usually really inexpensive at consignments!"
  • Consider making certain items mandatory for parents to bring. Schools require certain supplies, and it is not unreasonable to have some expectations at daycare, in-home care, preschool and other child care settings.
  • Frequent garage sales for daycare supplies. Says one family provider from New Jersey: "I get most of my toys, outside play equipment, books, etc., from garage sales. I got a book the other day for free. She was charging 10 cents and she said enjoy both books for free. Usually they are 25 cents. Usually, everything is usually under $15. Last summer we got a toddler pool for free. it was at the end of the garage sale and she was dumping it. A lot of times people just want to get rid of stuff. The 99-cent store is a great place to pick up art and crafts stuff."

    Here are tips from parents:

    • Ask parents to rotate snacks or implement a take-home "snack basket." The concept is that the basket goes home on a Friday, the parent and perhaps child "shop" for some acceptable snacks that provide the occasional opportunity for a child to bring personal favorites to all, and then the basket is brought in filled on Monday.┬áParents are typically willing to assist with snacks, and child care providers can even offer suggestions or create a list of snacks on the "do's" and "don't's" list. (i.e. some may not allow peanut products if a child has an allergy or no chocolate).
    • My provider has instituted a "special" month for each child. Since I use an in-home setting, my child gets two "special months" each calendar year with her so-called Nanny. The provider privately asks parents to help support a special activity that is outside of her standard fee/budget, and parents can help create a memory or plan something special for all. Activities have been as simple as ordering pizza or purchasing Happy Meals, attending the zoo, going to a $1 movie, making a special craft (supplies provided by the parent), or even renting a special video.
    • Consider a "helping hands" request. At daycare, the teachers periodically post hands with above-and-beyond supplies that are being requested (such as glitter--certainly not a necessity but kids love it on their crafts). There is no pressure; parents can opt to pick up a "hand" and return the item on their own schedule.
    • Don't wait--just ASK! Everyone wants the best for their child, and if an additional enrichment activity, supply, or snack is possible because of spending a little extra, it is well worth it.
    • Take photos of children and ask for parents to take turns developing the film. Request materials for scrap-booking projects as well. Explain that it is for an end-of-the-year memory book of their child, and parents will eat it up. It's good PR for the provider too! This is what my provider did for her "kids" last year and it is my daughter's favorite treasure.

      Updated by Jill Ceder