Budgets. You’ve probably laid out a budget multiple times in your life. Going on vacation? Making a big purchase? Starting a new job? Budget time. When you started thinking about opening a child care center, a daycare, or a preschool, you may have had the premonition that this day was coming: the day you needed to build a budget for your preschool or ECE center.
Just like any other major life decision, starting a business requires a thorough budget. The chances that your center opens its doors and achieves maximum enrollment in the first month of operation is relatively slim. Creating a detailed budget will not only help you cover the startup costs, but will also ensure you have the funding needed to operate while you’re waiting for your first round of enrollment fees to come in.
This article will help you consider several things to include in your budget. Remember, every business is different. You may have expenses to consider that won’t be outlined here, so feel free to personalize these tips for your business.
Think of these costs as the costs needed to keep the children you care for engaged and excited to come to your center. These expenses can include the toys, books, art supplies, outdoor toys, educational materials, hygiene needs, and much more. Make sure you account for things that the children will use or consume within this section.
Speaking of consumption, be sure to consider how you plan to feed children within your care facility. On top of offering full meals, snacks are a must. Have you ever seen a three year old that didn’t get his daily fruit snacks?
Many child care providers have started using official curriculum packages to their centers. These packages are much more thorough than pre-school readiness programs, and can come at a significant cost. Many of these programs include a true set of lesson plans for your teachers to implement. These programs could give you an upper hand against your competitors. Spend time to find the curriculum package that fits your needs and build the cost into your budget.
Furniture, fixtures, and improvements
This portion of your budget could be relatively large, especially if you plan to move into a new building. Within this section, consider if you will rent or buy the building you plan to use. If you plan on running an in-home daycare, factor in the costs to make your home ready for inspection. If you plan to run a child care center, you may need to update the building you choose to buy or rent. There will likely be improvements required in whichever location you choose in order to pass inspections and be child-ready.
You’ll also need to plan to buy various pieces of furniture. The kiddos will need places to take naps. You’ll need to purchase cribs, cots, sheets, etc. If you plan to have an office, you’ll likely need a desk, shelving units, and filing cabinets. Providing a space for your employees to have a kid-free moment during their break can help to boost morale. Do you want your teacher lounge to be a kitchen table and a water cooler or would you like to provide your staff with a more relaxing space?
Kids love to eat. Having the appropriate kitchen equipment to accommodate your meal plans is important. Some centers cater in every meal, but you’ll still need to keep the food warm and have the appropriate eating and serving utensils. If you plan to make your food in-house, you’ll need the appropriate kitchen appliances such as a stove and a fridge.
Outdoor play can be a great way to take a break from the typical classroom setting. It not only gives the children a chance to release some built up energy, but it also provides countless educational opportunities. Make sure you build in protective fencing, playground equipment, outdoor toys, and outdoor classroom areas into your budget.
Safety is, and should be, your main priority within your child care center. You’ll want to have various policies in place to deal with emergencies, but it’s very important to have the tools needed to identify possible threats. Smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, safety gates, child-proofing locks and tools, and first aid kits are just a few of the items that could fall within this category. What do you need to help ensure the children in your center will be safe and secure?
Think of supplies as the items that you need to run your center. You can decide if some items in this section should fall under Child Care Costs or if you’d like to keep them here. You could start with this easy-to-use template that considers supplies to be the items that are not typically tied to a specific child.
For example, food and snacks can be broken down per child enrolled in the center, while cleaning supplies is more an an overarching supply. Additionally, most child care providers require parents to bring diapers and personal hygiene items. Since they’re expected to bring the supplies needed for their own child, back-up diapers would be considered a supply. Other things to consider here are eating utensils, back-up sippy cups, and plates as well as kitchen supplies that you would need to replace frequently.
This section could easily be the largest section in your recurring budget. This is where you factor in your salary and your teacher’s pay and benefits. You’ll also want to include items like your business phone and professional development for staff here.
Fees and inspections
To become a licensed child care center, you will need to pay a licensing fee, complete background checks for workers, and complete physical examinations. You’ll also need to pass several inspections, most of which come with a fee. Contact your local licensing agency to find out the fees associated with the licensing process.
Insurance is an important factor to consider before opening your doors. Having protection against accidents can save you significant trouble in the future. Consider adding your center to your current insurance policy or finding a specialized provider for child care businesses. Also, consider the cost of time and the training programs you’ll need to provide to your staff members before opening your facility.
Putting the plan in action
While there is a lot to think about, your child care budget isn’t meant to be overwhelming. You can group items together and create categories that best represent your own center’s operations.
Your budget also isn’t set in stone. It’s a guideline. Make educated predictions when creating your budget, but remember that not everything goes as planned. You can adjust your budget after you open your doors and see how your center truly works.
Ready to start planning? You can access our budget template here, but remember to edit the form based on your care center’s needs.