Talk to any event planner long enough, and you’ll hear at least one frustrated reference to the b-word. That’s right, budget – the bane of every event planner’s existence. Not unlike the rest of the world, budgeting can be the hardest aspect of any project, but it doesn’t have to be. As financial guru, Dave Ramsey famously said, “A budget is simply telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went.” Creating even just a little structure within your budget during early planning can help remove stress exponentially. Read on to ensure your budget hits all the marks and discover the key budget questions to ensure your event’s success.
1. Cover all your bases
Knowing what you need for your event is the obvious first step in drafting your budget, but it’s usually the little easy-to-forget details that add up (pun intended). Start by writing out the event timeline starting with guests receiving the announcement/invitations to clean-up. Pay close attention to details, outlining all elements of your event and ensuring you do your research for the best quality results. Last minute choices can result in overspending, but so can randomly allocating an overshot large sum of money. To avoid such scenarios, consider the variety of your expenses and then double check that you got them all. Creating an outline for your event early on will establish a sure estimate and little room for second-guessing and last-minute panicking.
Your event budget should include categories for all related expenses including food and catering, decor/set up, venue, permits, service provider fees, delivery fees, invitations, party favours, and entertainment. Larger-scale company events, such as conferences may need an additional expense category for advertising and promotion, speaker fees, speaker accommodations, etc. If your event can yield profit, include an estimate of your overall calculations, but do not rely on that income to cover the large hard costs as it can’t be guaranteed.
2. Prepare for the unexpected
Unexpected scenarios and emergencies are just that- unexpected. There is no way to anticipate all potential emergencies or worst-case-scenarios during events and running through them all is just discouraging. Vendors fall through last minute, late deliveries, weather changes, etc. But you can come to expect the unexpected and prepare for it generally. It is recommended to allocate roughly 20% of your event budget to a contingency fund, to avoid having to cut any items last-minute.
An example of utilizing a contingency budget: Our friend, Tamara hosted an outdoor event, and the weather conditions couldn’t be determined far enough in advance with the venue’s booking policy. So instead of just crossing her fingers, she prepared for the slight chance of rain with her emergency plan funds. The venue she booked could also house all guests for an additional fee. Though it seemed unlikely, on the day of her $20k event, an unexpected thunderstorm came out of nowhere, and the event had to move inside or be canceled. This was no issue for Tamara, however, as she planned for the unexpected and paid the indoor venue fee.
Another element to be cautious of are hidden charges/fees. Hidden charges can be found in every corner of the planning process, and they can really sting when the final bill is due. For example, while music and entertainment is a large part of many events, the hidden fees behind equipment rental are the most frequently overlooked. Venues/vendors can charge for everything from the number of speakers, to microphone usage, lighting, and additional costs of setup and teardown. Be sure to get concrete numbers before hiring your favourite band or booking any other event element.
3. Look for cost-cutting opportunities
Most event planners aim to spend the least amount of money for the highest quality, successful event. The most efficient way to lower cost is to review your budget and cut any items that aren’t integral to the event, even if you are within your financial limit. For example, if flowers were only one element of event decor, instead of ordering full flower arrangements, request more greenery usage- or swap costly flowers for the look-a-like in the season.
Another cost-cutting tip from the pros: never accept the first price. Get multiple quotes from vendors and venues, the power of negotiation is on your side. Often, the vendors will match the price of your found quotes, or lower theirs to find a compromise. Regardless of your choices, be sure to update your budget periodically to keep the numbers accurate: updating the budget after any big purchases and at the end of each day is recommended.
Strategic spending is the best means of ensuring value for all guests, staff, and hosts alike. Being firm on your overall budget will only benefit the planning process, though it does require some time. Planning your event budget early and in the right way will save you stress and panic post-event. If you’re still looking for more guidance, check out our Interactive Spreadsheet
to help you get planning smarter.