When it comes to creating the perfect event budget, several important questions have to be asked first, like what type of event you are planning, who is setting the budget, and whether or not it’s a one-off event or an annual event.
And while all of those questions matter, there are some basic guidelines that apply to almost any event budget. That’s what we are here to talk about today.
Because money is finite, and events can be incredibly expensive, one of the most critical parts of event planning is creating the perfect event budget.
You don’t want to be known as the event planner that always goes over budget, but you also don’t want to be known as the event planner that constantly cuts corners to save a penny.
You don’t want to have a penny-pinching reputation for a few reasons.
One reason is that an event that is cheap, feels cheap.
And another reason is that vendors and venues won’t want to work with you if you are constantly trying to squeeze them.
7 Steps to Create the Perfect Event Budget
It’s important to give yourself plenty of time to create the perfect event budget, and make sure you create one that is realistic, flexible, and all-encompassing.
Create the Budget Early
It is imperative to create an event budget early on, if not first. The budget will act as a guideline for every single decision you make, from which venue you book to what level of marketing you can afford.
In order to accomplish this, it’s important to do your research first, like calling a few catering companies, venues, entertainers, etc. for quotes.
Once you have a better understanding of what things cost, creating an initial event budget is much easier.
And even though creating the budget first might seem unrealistic because, as we all know, events often change and grow as they evolve, that’s okay.
The budget can easily change and grow too, as long as you start by listing and estimating every single expense you, your team, and your clients can think of.
2. Include Every Single Expense
From venue rentals to printing, and catering to gratuities, you should absolutely account for every single expense.
In fact, sometimes it’s the little things adding up that can eat the biggest chunk of your budget.
Not only do you want to make sure you record every single expense, but you also want to make sure that you are tracking each expense as they change.
And while it would seem easier to set aside some time each week to do these updates, in my experience, making the updates in real-time is the best way to ensure nothing gets missed.
Updating the changes as they happen will also help flag areas where you need to cut back, or highlight areas where you might be able to spend a little more to make the event even richer and more memorable.
Making the event something that people remember and talk about for years to come is no easy task. It requires digging deep and figuring out how to make people feel special.
Sometimes finding that “extra touch” won’t happen until the event has grown and evolved, allowing you to have a better and fuller understanding of the attendees.
But “that extra touch” probably won’t be free, which is one of the many reasons padding your budget from the start is imperative.
3. Pad the Budget
It’s a good idea to pad your event budget to make room for unexpected expenses. It’s advisable to create about 10-15% wiggle room.
Creating this wiggle room will mean that you have a budget range instead of a strict and inflexible budget.
However, some clients will have a stringent cap, so you need to make sure you respect that. Although, even though you want to respect the cap on your client’s budget, you need to let them know – immediately – if that cap is unrealistic.
More often than not, if you let them know that they aren’t going to get the event they want or need, they will be willing to increase the budget or cut some of the fringe benefits of the budget.
But you want to make sure that they are cutting the quantity and not quality.
4. Cheaper Vs. Less Expensive
You might be tempted to get within or under budget by going with a cheaper venue or vendor, but you must understand the difference between cheaper and less expensive before making this decision.
Going with a cheaper alternative often means that you will be sacrificing quality, potentially leading to spending more in the long run when it becomes evident that you need to “do it right” to get the job done and done well.
Going cheaper could also result in an event that actually feels cheap, and that’s the last impression you want to give the attendees.
5. Past Events
Making the event feel cheap is an especially undesired outcome if it’s a corporate event that’s run for a few years.
It will have people wondering if the company is in financial trouble.
This is why it’s critical to look at every single detail of the event from previous years.
At least look at the past events to create the initial numbers, and go from there. This is especially helpful if you are using the same venues and vendors.
In fact, you might be able to secure better deals if you keep using the same venues and vendors, helping to lower your actual, vs. projected, numbers.
6. Record Projections vs. Actual
As discussed, when you’re creating the initial budget, you might not have all the exact numbers, but that’s okay. Adding an educated estimate is better than nothing.
Once you have all the actual numbers, make sure to add them to the spreadsheet so you have an accurate budget, not just for accounting purposes, but as a reference point for future event planning.
This will make post-event settling and evaluation a breeze.
7. Post-event settling and evaluation
After everything is said and done, you want to make sure you stayed within your budget, and that everything and everyone got paid.
This happens after the event is over. The best way to go about doing this is to subtotal the invoices, and document the actual budget.
The best case scenario will be that you’re able to highlight and identify savings in the actual budget vs. the projected budget, demonstrating the monetary value you brought to the event.
Because, while people love a feel-good event, they also like knowing they saved money, and that can’t happen without the facts and figures to back you up.
So, as long as you create a budget early on, be realistic, and stay on top of it, creating an event budget can be fairly stress-free.
Especially if you opt for straightforward budget planning options, like Excel, or a professional (and super easy-to-use) event planning budget to track all expenses.
(PLUS: a pricing strategy so you know exactly how to charge for your services).
Because, at the end of the day, you want to make sure YOU’RE making money too!
I’d love to hear from you…
In the comments below share what tips or strategies you use to stay within your event budget.