Saving money in the teaching studio - Best tips

Talk with other teachers, exchange tips, participate in polls regarding a teaching studio business

Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Mon Jan 02, 2006 12:01 pm

It's both hard and undesirable to skimp on the quality of the lessons a teacher provides, but running a teaching studio has a lot more costs associated with it than just giving the lessons. Printing of newsletters and other informational documents, buying supplies and music, paying for refreshments and hall space for recitals, and many other aspects consume time and money. For the benefit of all teachers who read this forum, please share with us your best tips for reducing costs in your teaching studio. If they work for you, chances are someone else will find those tips useful, too. :)
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Postby Beckywy » Tue Jan 03, 2006 6:57 pm

Buying books - most music stores give discounts to teachers of between 10% to 25% off.
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Wed Jan 04, 2006 4:39 pm

25%! I do get 10% but that is the most. Now if postage from Canada was free, I could order from there! :laugh:

I type and copy letters and notices to parents so the only cost is time and paper. I make many of my own theory sheets and items and copy them. (I have a copy machine at home).

I found a site Enchanted Learning and for $20.00 a year, one can copy all information. They have some pages on music - composers. calendars, theory, and instruments to make. You can check it out without paying. I have used it a lot for music and for my grandchildren (history and geography, a train story for my 5 yo., and some Spanish sheets for my 10 yo. and more.)

I took an old wooden puzzle with missing pieces (the old fashioned kind 1/4 inch think) and I drew the grand staff on with marker.. YEARS ago and it is still good. The students find notes with pennies on it. I also took some plastic pieces from a cereal box (LONG ago) and wrote rhythm symbols - notes and rests on them and a domino-type game can be played (with one or more).

Be creative! As a former nursery school teacher, I saved everything! It still pays off although I do have too much "stuff" in my condo! Look around - paper plates, oatmeal boxes, cardboard, old picture frames... two spoons, etc,.use your imagination. or go to a museum where they often have a 'junk' pile. You can make many items that will last.

Ask your students to come up with things. Have them make a "pizza" from a large circle and then make halves, quarters and eighths..make a Circle of Keys make up note-stories, and on and on.

Have fun




:D
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Postby Stretto » Wed Jan 04, 2006 7:42 pm

Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Editor wrote:It's both hard and undesirable to skimp on the quality of the lessons a teacher provides, but running a teaching studio has a lot more costs associated with it than just giving the lessons. Printing of newsletters and other informational documents, buying supplies and music, paying for refreshments and hall space for recitals, and many other aspects consume time and money. For the benefit of all teachers who read this forum, please share with us your best tips for reducing costs in your teaching studio. If they work for you, chances are someone else will find those tips useful, too. :)

:laugh: Do you mean we are suppose to make money teaching piano? Just kidding. But on a serious side, I've heard teachers several times over say they are in it for the love of it more so than to be a money maker. However, I have heard of a suprising number of teachers recently that are using teaching private piano as a sole source of income. I stand in awe of those who do.

I have always used private teaching to supplement our income and I'm sure there were a few times I came out "in the red". I have become more serious recently about cutting down costs, increasing number of students, etc. to turn teaching a little bit more into a money making venture. It beats working outside the home because I can earn income doing something I enjoy so much so that I could do it without "getting paid".

Here are some of the big "money eaters" or costs for me:

-Tuning: Around $70 twice a year (but would need to have done even if I didn't teach)
-Paper and computer ink for copies (I write my own worksheets some and make copies)
-Notebooks and folders to ensure students keep their papers organized
-Little prizes/stickers for incentives
-Paper products when refreshments are served at recitals or group activities
-Books, or other sources of information I might buy to improve my teaching abilities or stay up on musical knowledge
-Fees and dues for being in teacher's associations (I'm looking into joining this year)

Here are some ideas I have thought of to cut down on expense:

On copies I make for students, I'm planning to charge new students an upfront fee for "additional materials" and may also charge a one time yearly fee for worksheets. What I would like to do I haven't accomplished yet is compile a workbook for theory of worksheets I would write and then have a copy store put them together with a cover and spiral binder. Then have students pay a one time fee for the workbook. The student would have all the info. I want to teach compiled in one neat organized place instead of papers here and papers there. All too often students fail to complete worksheets or lose them, so it's best if they pay a fee for copies or incorporate it into the weekly lesson fee.

On prizes, I could cut costs by only giving stickers or even writing a star or smiley face with a colored pencil on music or using a stamp. I was thinking of only using prizes at group activities and not as incentives in conjunction with lessons. Instead of giving out stickers and cheap little "trinkets", I've also bought a few nicer prizes at a little higher cost and students have to reach a loftier goal thus little prizes are dished out less frequently. Another money saving idea is to give out certificates or inexpensive ribbons for accomplishments.

I also have found places that haven't charged for holding recitals at their facility - my home and a local university. I've had trouble finding churches willing to let me hold recitals but I don't blame them. There are probably some out there that would if I kept checking around. Nursing homes and retirement centers may also have pianos for holding recitals.

For refreshments at recitals or group activities, I don't think a teacher should fork out the cost alone. It is better to ask the parents to bring snacks. If there are no volunteers, then perhaps schedule each person on a rotating basis.

For anything one needs one could make a teacher's wishlist for the studio (school classroom teachers have this). One could list books, teaching materials, prizes - anything that would benefit everyone. One parent offered to give me a bunch of 3-ring notebooks they no longer needed from their business.

One of the best ways I've saved on teaching piano is when I purchased my piano, I started teaching so I was able to depreciate the cost of the piano on taxes spread out over 7 years. I saved a lot on taxes doing this. I may be incorrect, but we figured that depreciating the cost of the piano on taxes practically paid for the piano. (The piano was about $2000 ten years ago). Except that reminds me of another hidden cost in teaching. To pay someone else to do the taxes for me on teaching private piano as a business costs $60 just for the extra forms- ouch! One might want to learn how to figure the taxes yourself.

Wow, Loveapiano! You are really innovative! You have some great ideas. I'm going to start thinking more in terms of turning things around the house that would otherwise be discarded into something useful for teaching. You should really write a book of ideas!




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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Thu Jan 05, 2006 8:18 am

Stretto wrote:One of the best ways I've saved on teaching piano is when I purchased my piano, I started teaching so I was able to depreciate the cost of the piano on taxes spread out over 7 years. I saved a lot on taxes doing this. I may be incorrect, but we figured that depreciating the cost of the piano on taxes practically paid for the piano. (The piano was about $2000 ten years ago). Except that reminds me of another hidden cost in teaching. To pay someone else to do the taxes for me on teaching private piano as a business costs $60 just for the extra forms- ouch! One might want to learn how to figure the taxes yourself.

While I certainly don't want this thread to become to become a treatise on tax law and don't claim to be an expert (are there any experts in tax law? :laugh: ), your comment reminded me of a relatively little known and completely legal aspect of Federal tax law that is useful for many small businesses.

You can deduct the full purchase price for capital-like equipment (your piano would probably qualify for a teaching studio business) in the year of purchase (i.e. no depreciation to worry with) up to a limit of $22,500 a year (as of the last time I checked). Since most of us make large business-related purchases in good years when we have higher tax liability, this is a neat way to expense off things like computers, etc. that cost a sizable chunk of money. Of course, you can only do one or the other - depreciate over time or deduct the full purchase price (up to the limit) in the year of purchase.

By the way, you can download all the IRS forms for free from the IRS site - no need to pay for them, so long as you know what you need. Also, I can't think of any fully sane person who "wants to learn" to figure Federal taxes themselves! :laugh:
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Postby Beckywy » Thu Jan 05, 2006 8:50 am

To offset the cost of tuning my 2 pianos twice a year, I arrange the tuning of a few of my students' pianos on the same day. For arranging 4-5 other pianos for him to tune on the same day, he does mine for free.
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Thu Jan 05, 2006 9:25 am

I really have to think about moving! I pay over $100.00 dollars for my tuning twice a year and more if a problem. The piano is a very old Steinway studio, Free tuning? i have given my tuner's name to people - but no discount ever suggested. I don't think he would - even if I arranged same day tunings...but I will try.

I have all those same costs, Stretto, as I provide notebooks and folders and even inexpenxise brief cases (it is worth it to try to have all the music arrive at the lesson..dry and in somewhat good condition!) I also give gifts I guess I have always factored all those things. I have never tried to support myself with teaching. I probably never could, as it would be hard to change the way I do things. I used to charge for copies, but I do not like the 'book keeping' side of teaching. I probably should!
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Postby Stretto » Thu Jan 05, 2006 12:46 pm

Wow, Beckywy! That's great that you found that way to get your piano tuned. I suppose it's great advertising for a tech. as those families who use your's would tell someone else, would tell someone else . . .

Along the same lines of saving in taxes, I was told initially that one could somehow take a deduction if a room in one's house was used primarly or soley for a small business operation. Except it seemed a little more complicated if the room would be used partly for personal use and partly for business use, one had to figure percentages. I didn't try that but if one had a room of the house used exclusively or almost exclusively for piano, one might want to check into if a deduction could be taken. Maybe it would be worth it to check on small/home business tax laws for other savings.

By the way when I deducted the cost of my piano, I had a huge loss (loss of profit in income) the first few years! :laugh: The person doing our taxes kept asking (joking) every year, "When are you going to start making a profit?"
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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Fri Jan 06, 2006 12:00 pm

I've been trying to stay out of this thread a little, because I want to hear the insights of others. Many of you know that I have a long list of money-savers for the teaching studio, some indicated in my posts in other threads. However, the conversation about saving on tuning and music purchases reminded me of some things I've heard done elsewhere.

Check with your local music teachers association to see if they have arranged for member discounts for tuning and music learning materials. Most providers of services and materials won't discount for individual teachers, though there are some exceptions, but will almost always discount for members of a group of teachers - in exchange for a leg up on that chunk of business.

If your local group hasn't made such arrrangements, then pester them to do so! It costs you or them nothing and most relevant providers are willing to cut such deals for the asking. You just have to make some phone calls. :cool:




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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Fri Jan 06, 2006 6:07 pm

Before my wife joined the part-time faculty at NMSU she had a large private studio here at home. Our house has an add-on room at the back with a separate entrance, and she used that and the adjoining bedroom--large grand in the back and six new Wurlitzer electrics in the bedroom. We deducted depreciation on seven pianos, plus tuning and maintenance, the two rooms, utilities (pro-rated for those two rooms), advertising, and a separate business phone.

Tax laws may have changed since then. By the way, I've had good luck with Tax Cut, the H&R Block preparation software.

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Postby Dr. John Zeigler - PEP Ed » Sat Jan 07, 2006 10:51 am

Stretto wrote::laugh: Do you mean we are suppose to make money teaching piano? Just kidding. But on a serious side, I've heard teachers several times over say they are in it for the love of it more so than to be a money maker. However, I have heard of a suprising number of teachers recently that are using teaching private piano as a sole source of income. I stand in awe of those who do.

You're absolutely right about this. Teaching piano as a sole source of income is the real test of the teacher's abilities as a teacher and a business person.

With most studios across the U.S. full with waiting lists, you would think that teaching would be a reasonably easy occupation to earn a living in. However, that's not the case, because most piano teachers aren't good business people. They usually don't charge enough for lessons and don't know how to cut costs in the studio to increase their net profit. When you have to survive by teaching alone, reducing costs and getting adequately remunerated for your time become not merely goals, but requirements. We have tried to address many of these issues in our Teaching Studio articles, but there is a lot more to be said on it. We will do so in the coming months.

In some senses, it's a shame that more piano teachers don't have to survive on their teaching alone. I think it would make it easier on those who do if all teachers had to face the real economics of a teaching studio - not just those of short term survival but long term things like saving for retirement.

In truth, I started this thread with a particular eye to those heroes of piano teachers who do it as their sole income source. Of course, all teachers should be able to benefit by increasing their net profit from their studio business. :D
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