For the past few weeks I’ve been discussing the top 25 event blunders and what to do to fix them. Today we arrive at number 11: not sticking to the budget. Creating a budget is key to meeting your event’s goals, but the real trick is staying within the boundaries of that budget. Unexpected events, such as rain, more guests, more chairs or extra food can crop up and make you change your event plan. These snags don’t have to blow your budget if you have all this built into the event plan at the start. The budget belongs in the event plan and is there to help you be prepared for the unexpected.
Like in life, overspending for an event is easy. You want the best, right? Planners can overestimate their funds and underestimate the costs of what they need for the event. This can lead to unpleasant surprises toward the end as it becomes apparent that the event planned is simply not affordable. In my blog, Alexander’s Magic Finance System I covered some great techniques to help you stay on budget in your personal finances. There’s also a great site called Lifehack that has some tweaks worth writing down in terms of budgeting. Not surprisingly, staying on an event budget is much the same. It’s just that it’s (usually) the client’s money. Some of these points may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often they’re overlooked.
Assuming you have an Event Plan to work with already, it should go without saying that tracking your spending by category is essential. If your budget is unrealistic, you need to know as soon as possible. If you’re running out of money in one category, you might need to re-allocate funds in your budget to match your actual expenditures. Tracking each purchase and categorizing it helps you see at a glance where your budget is working and where it might need tweaking.
If you’ve got similar events under your belt, you can use them as a guideline to set this event’s budget. All things being equal, it should fall within the same range. Determine which line items were the most expensive for the other event and why. Did the party rental vendor raise prices? Was the client dissatisfied with the DJ, so you want to find a better one?
If you’re a visual person, use budgeting software, like Mint or YNAB to help you see exactly where the money is going. This is a sure fire way to stay on budget that many new school Event Planners are starting to use. Of course, keep two copies of every receipt (original for the client). Get curious and ask other event planners for the real skinny on obtaining items at cost. They know!
Review your budget frequently. Keep it by your bed. Check with all team members to make sure they’re keeping within lines too. Keep your event outcome constantly fresh in your mind. Remember, if the client doesn’t want it, you don’t need it. This is not the time to plan the “Party To End All Parties” if the client doesn’t want it. Do you want to win major points with the client? If you come under your budget, save the excess and pass it on to the client. I’ve heard of some planners over-quoting budgets and then pocketing the difference. This is just wrong, and you may get away with it a time or two, but not forever. People talk and events are ALL about relationships.
Unless your business has unlimited resources, you’ll need a budget. So start by deciding what items are most important to the event before you – be it a nice venue, good food, or outstanding decor – then plan accordingly. Don’t be tempted to spend more than your budget allows— the consequences aren’t pretty. Instead, plan to go under budget and you’ll usually come out right about even. If you know how to use these simple tools and, you have the ability to focus on the event, you will reach your goals, stay on budget and go to sleep a happier and richer Event Planner.