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Day Care Accounting Software: How To Pick The Best

Aug 18, 2007
Running a day care center is challenging enough without financial accounting problems. Picking the best day care accounting software is an important decision, as it will store all of the critical business accounting data and client data of your day care center.

The first step in picking the best software is to survey what is currently available.

There are many generic financial accounting solutions available, but they will not provide the day care industry-specific features that specialized day care accounting software may provide.

Start by researching in industry publications and talking with other day care owners, but also use the power of the Internet to find and research all available options.

Look at the system requirements for each of the software options you have found. If any of them will not run on your current computer system, you will eventually have to either rule them out or factor in the cost of upgrading your system. But first, you need to determine what features and benefits you really need your day care accounting software to provide.

Ease of use is an important benefit. Unless you are very computer savvy and have no other employees who will need to use it, you need your software to be extremely user-friendly and intuitive so that little or no training is necessary.

But there is often a trade-off of ease of use versus power and flexibility. You need the day care accounting software you pick to be as easy to use as possible while still being powerful and flexible enough to provide the general financial accounting capabilities you need as well as specialized features to fill the needs of a day care center.

Obviously you need your accounting software to provide financial accounting capabilities like:

- General ledger

- Balance sheets

- Profit and loss statements

- Billing

- Invoicing

- Accounts receivable

- Payroll

- Tax forms and reporting

You may also want your accounting software to provide extra features like:

- Automated billing

- Automated invoicing

- An online bill payment interface

- Instant receipts when payments are recorded

- Employee work schedules

But day care accounting software also needs to be flexible enough to deal with more complex billing. For example, your rates may vary depending on the days or hours a child is in day care, or you may have to split bills between two divorced parents.

Your software will need to maintain contact information and a comprehensive payment history for every client. You may also need to be able to provide families a detailed statement of their yearly childcare expenses for their taxes.

In addition, specialized day care accounting software may be able to provide extra features like tracking:

- Immunizations

- Attendance, with automated recording of check-in and check-out times

- Food programs

- Calendars of events

System requirements, features, and benefits are not the only consideration when picking the best day care accounting software, though.

You need to be fully aware of any possible licensing issues, software add-on or upgrade needs, and support details. These can all affect your initial or long-term cost.

You need to consider:

- How many client records can the software handle?

- Is there a limit on the number of clients per family?

- How often is the software upgraded?

- Do software upgrades cost extra?

- How long is technical support available for old versions if you do not upgrade?

- Will you need to purchase extra modules or add-ons to get the features you need?

- If you have more than one computer that will run the software, do you need additional licenses?

- Is any training necessary? If so, what will it cost to train your entire staff?

- Is there a charge for technical support?

- How do you contact technical support?

- What are the hours for technical support?

- Will the software provider do any necessary custom programming?

- What is the charge for custom programming?

- How do you get the software (disk, download, etc.)?

- Is there a free trial of the software available before you purchase it?

You should also research what others think of the day care accounting software you are considering. First, check if it is recommended, accredited, or certified by any accounting agencies or accountancy organizations. Next, go to your favorite search engine and enter the name of the software along with keywords such as:

- review

- problem

- bug

- complaint

Do not skip this, as it can save you from a potential disaster! Software always sounds great on the vendor's site, but you need to know if there are many end user complaints.

No complaints? Great, but now you need to find out whether you can get a better price on the day care accounting software you have chosen.

Go back to your favorite search engine and again enter the name of the software or software vendor along with keywords such as:

- discount

- coupon

- coupon code

- special offer

- rebate

Now repeat the search with the same keywords with the term "site:" followed by the vendor's domain name, like in this example:

discount site:www.example.com

You might be surprised how often you can save 20% or 25% on any online purchase with these two extra steps.

Purchasing day care accounting software is a major investment. Your decision, good or bad, may affect your business for years. Following the steps above, you should be able to pick the best day care accounting software to fulfill your needs. And you should be able to get it at the best price possible.
About the Author
Mike Adams writes on a wide variety of business topics. You can read many more accounting articles in his popular article directory, ElectricText, in the accounting articles section .
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