We know that many child care providers are struggling to maintain their businesses during these difficult economic times. Here are some tips from our CocoKids staff members, many of whom have experience in the child care field.

Lower Your Business Costs

  • Talk to children about conservation. Take a walk through the house pointing out lights that have been left on and water that is dripping. Encourage them to fill a glass of water half way, and save the rest for a drink later.
  • Go to www.oeconline.org for homemade environmentally healthy cleaning products. Look at the checklist of 25 ways to become an Eco-Healthy Child Care Facility.
  • Play outside as often as possible. It is good for the children and saves electricity.
  • Don’t throw out plastic, zip lock bags. They can be washed with dish detergent and reused.
  • Attend the updated Child Care Means Business or Learning through Play classes at your local area office for new ideas that can help improve efficiency for your program.
  • Freecycle™ is a nonprofit, grassroots movement enables people to give (and get) stuff for free and keeps good stuff out of our landfills. Register at www.freecycle.org to post your free, unneeded stuff or to search for items for your program.
  • Consider applying for a line of credit at your bank so that you can continue to pay your bills on time. Even if you pay some interest on the line of credit, it is tax deductible at the end of the year as a business expense.
  • Save enough money in a slush fund so that when you see an item that you need on clearance sale, you can get it.
  • Raise money for toys or field trips by having a garage sale. Ask the parents to contribute time or household items.
  • Barter your services. If one of your parents is an accountant, you might be able to offer a discount on child care for help with your taxes.
  • Earn extra money by offering to work nights or weekends so the parents can go on a date.

Lower Your Food Costs

  • If you are a family child care provider, join the Child Care Food Program to help pay for nutritious food for the children in your care. By receiving partial reimbursement for food, you will have money to purchase other necessities.
  • Shop at outlet stores like Oroweat in Concord and Grocery Outlet in Concord, Pleasant Hill and Antioch.
  • Buy food items at dollar stores.
  • Plant a garden for low cost fruits and vegetables.
  • Stock up on buy-one-get-one-free grocery items.
  • Pay attention to the foods all the children like, and for the next few months only serve the nutritious food you are sure they will eat and not waste.
  • Buy in bulk at warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s Club. If the amount is more than you can use before it spoils, split the item with another provider or family member.
  • Buy fresh fruits and vegetables at your local farmers’ market.
  • Buy an energy saver freezer and buy all your meat in bulk when it’s 50% off. It may need to be cooked or frozen the day you buy it.
  • Eat less red meat and more dried peas, beans and legumes.
  • Serve less processed food.
  • Thrifty Tips for Healthy Helpings provides ideas for how to feed children nutritiously without breaking the bank.

Lower the Cost of Learning Supplies

  • Make a list of things you need (tape, scrap paper, collage items, cardboard tubes, etc.) and ask parents to help out.
  • Reuse unfolded envelopes and one-sided inserts for drawing.
  • Make your own toys and games. See Homemade Fitness Equipment for Fun Physical Activity.
  • Buy your arts and crafts supplies from the dollar store or garage sales. To make sure items are lead-free, buy a lead tester for less than $10 at home improvement stores.
  • Find used items for your program at Craigslist.org, www.PennySaverUSA.com, or garage sales. Remember to get receipt so you can write off items at end of year for taxes.
  • Buy all your books at the used book store or at library used book sales.
  • Check out children’s story books and adult resource books at the Child Care Council Lending Library in the Learning Institute at 1035 Detroit Avenue, Concord.

Thank you to staff and friends of CocoKids, including child care provider Synnora Bettencourt, for these suggestions.

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