Budgeting for an event isn’t easy. As well as the initial venue costs there are many more additional costs to consider, including catering and entertainment and the scramble to make savings or minimise contingency pay-outs, among other things! Careful and calculated planning is an absolute must for your next event, no matter how big or small it might be.

Getting your budget right means the difference between a stress-free event and one marred by missing equipment or the thought of the extra payments you may need to come up with afterwards. This is why I’ve compiled a short but detailed checklist that should give you a helping hand when deciding what to put in your preliminary budget plan.

First, the planning:

1) Identify all areas of expenditure

Events are about much more than venue hire, and having it all identified and categorised is an ideal way to clear your head, get organised and calculate as accurate a projected expense as possible. Even smaller elements like pens, paper and flip charts all add up in then end and need to be accounted for to avoid any shortfalls.

Here are a few of the main factors in event costing for you to include:

– payments to speakers, entertainment and other 3rd parties

– printing costs for leaflets, running orders and other paper elements

– additional equipment such as AV, projectors and staging sets

– decorative and theming elements such as table decorations

– promotional and marketing costs

– catering costs

event insurance

2) Set a realistic total budget and ROI measurement

After noting down all possible areas of expenditure, you’ll end up with your estimated total budget. Take into account the cost of your venue, the time it’ll take to organise and implement your event and the additional costs of smaller things like snacks, leaflets and more to establish your total budget, then look at what you hope to achieve from the event and how this will be measured. For ticketed and profit orientated events carefully consider the entry price tag to ensure maximum attendance and minimise losses; too high a ticket price risks scaring away potential attendees by reaching too high.

3) Put aside a contingency budget

Sometimes, no matter how hard and how accurately you budget, something will happen to incur additional costs that you couldn’t originally account for. From medical costs and cancellation fees to broken equipment and extra transportation, there’s a whole roster of things that you could end up footing the bill for. Typically allow an extra 10 to 15% of total budget for contingency funding.

4) Download some helpful apps

Whether at your desk or on the go, chances are you’ll need to keep track of your event plans and budget throughout the day, which is where mobile apps come in. You might want to carry out some preliminary tests on a few different ones before you make your final choice, so here are a few ideas to get you started:

Account Tracker: Account Tracker has received 5 star reviews from almost every customer in the iTunes store, and rightly so. Incorporating expense management, account tracking, multi-currency support, bill reminders and the ability to export reports and budgets to CSV and PDF files, this app provides a good all round service to users.
Money Owl: Money Owl takes a slightly less formal approach to event budgeting, coupling budget management capabilities and graphs to monitor spending with the ability to link photos and videos to your expenses so you can visualise your spending.
Event Budget: Event Budget works in much the same way as Account Tracker, allowing you to compare your real expenses to your estimated budget, export expenditure reports and share your budget with others by email, all in one handy app.

Then comes the saving:

Managing the funds for an event doesn’t stop at the initial budgeting; there are plenty of savings to be made during its lead up as well.

1) Avoid spur of the moment purchases

When you’re caught up in the excitement of finally making all of the purchases for your event, it can be easier than you think to see something that you ‘just have to have’. Extra decorations, bits of stationary and even food are all additional elements that can stack up and leave your budget looking a little scarier by the end of it.

2) Search for alternative venues

The term ‘alternative venues’ refers to places you might not otherwise have singled out as locations for upcoming events. Public attractions such as cinemas, zoos, museums and out of season sports venues are often places not many other event planners have considered booking, leaving you room to make an enquiry that could save you a valuable chunk of your budget. Just bear in mind that utilising these premises out of hours and out of high season is the best option, meaning you can often book them at a fraction of the cost. Mondays, Fridays and Bank, Summer or Christmas holidays are often the best times to book, as venues will be glad of the money due to lower visitor numbers.

3) Conduct a site inspection

Every event planner knows that conducting a site inspection is the best way to find out whether a particular venue is all it claims to be on the web. However, many don’t know site visits can also provide great potential for a reduced hire rate. Taking time out of your busy schedule to actually visit a venue in person tells the owner that you’re ready to make a commitment and aren’t just shopping around.

4) Order 10% less food than you originally wanted

Organising the catering for an event can end up like organising the food for Christmas – a lot of event planners order far too much. You never know who might not show up or who just isn’t that hungry on the day, so ordering less food than you’d originally planned for helps reduce not only wastage and leftovers, but the initial cost of ordering too much.

5) Record all expenses

Keeping a close eye on every expense – no matter how big or small it may seem – throughout the whole lead up to your event ensures that you’re constantly in the loop, becoming immediately aware of any drastic changes to your budget or anomalous expenditures sooner rather than later. Being on the ball and nipping any unexpected costs in the bud as soon as they occur should be one of every event planner’s priorities.

6) Monitor those in charge of spending

This might seem like an extreme move, but the truth is you never know what your employees could do, whether unintentionally or on a whim. You’d be surprised where your money could go if you don’t keep an eye on who’s spending it, so best practice is to set targets for when each payment should be made, always request receipts and invoices and check whether the correct amount has been paid out on its designated date. Trusting expenditure solely to an employee might be easier, but make sure they regularly report their progress back to you. Just imagine arriving at your venue to find they’ve hundreds of balloons and not an ounce of food.

7) Enlist the help of a DMC

DMCs, or Destination Management Companies are commonly used by event planners to find their perfect venue overseas, or in locations they are not 100% familiar with, but many DMCs also help organise additional elements like restaurants, entertainment and promotional staff, among other things! It’s their job to know which are the best and most cost-effective, so enlisting their help and informing them of your budget is a great way of making savings along the way.

Budgeting correctly doesn’t just help you prepare for the worst case scenario; the savings you make along the way can play their part in covering any unpredictable costs that could occur during your event. After all, you never know when the Great British weather might bring a flood!

Do you have any budgeting tips of your own to share?


Jo Egan is a Partner at Hotel Desk, a UK based venue finding agency, for 11 years.Prior to thatJo worked on events on the client side for corporates including RBS and Volvo Cars. Hotel Desk provides free venue finding services for meetings, conferences, events etc, to many corporate clients and their specialisation is the volume of venues and hotels they book internationally as well as the UK.

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