For the inexperienced, budgeting for an event can seem a daunting and intimidating task. With so much to think about, where do you start?.
Our first useful tip is to download a suitable template. Check out our website out for a downloadable budget template document you can use (free!).
So, when it comes to budgeting how do you avoid making costly mistakes? In the latest instalment of our ‘Top 10’ series below, we look at the key elements of how to control your event budget. On this occasion within our Top 10 we’re going start our first couple of points by mentioning the trivial elements, which although obvious, are extremely important. There would be no point in giving tips on practical control of a budget if these elements are not also actioned.
1. Ask someone to check your formulas
The first rule of thumb is to actually use formulas! The second is to double and triple check them! The risk for error on a calculator is huge. Always ensure your cells link up – literally every cell. This minimises the risk of error as you can copy and paste a formula easily. It’s also easier to change if you notice a fundamental figure has changed.
2. Cross check
Always cross check your budgets with fresh eyes. When building your budget initially, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and to overlook. Ask a colleague to cross check the figures input. This doesn’t have to be done at every stage, but certainly at the initial inputting stages or for any long-itemised elements. Two pairs of eyes are certainly better than one.
3. Don’t complicate it
Including VAT, excluding VAT, quantities, days, total costs, unit costs – the list could go on. Keep it as simple as you can. If you can reclaim VAT on the event, then consider if you need an inc VAT column. The easier it is on your eye the easier it will be to view and therefore maintain control by minimising error.
The follow concentrate on practical elements which assist in maintaining control of your budget.
4. Update it regularly
The more you look at your budget the more familiar you are with it. The more familiar with it you are, the more you have control and the more you know the ins and outs of where you can chop and change. Now, by looking ‘regularly’ this doesn’t mean every hour of every day. It’s just as important to take a break and relook at it with fresh eyes in the morning, but at least you’re looking at it daily.
5. Start with a contingency
I can’t imagine there has ever been an event where there hadn’t been some form of addition or removal of an item in the planning process. It’s just the nature of the beast – things change, however we can minimise the impact this has on our bottom line by building in a contingency. A recommended amount is usually 5 – 10% of your overall figure. More printed signage? Not a problem boss!
6. Be generous
If predicting any costs in your budget, then be generous on the figure. It’ll only come as a pleasant surprise later if the costs come in lower than estimated. It’s also common to find elements cost more than expected, if you are not too familiar with what you are looking to book. This also protects you against any variable costs (see below) in case of a dramatic numbers change.
7. Be conscious of fixed and variable costs
Either highlight or take a conscious note of which items are likely to fluctuate in cost depending on the number of people attending. Your fixed costs are those which won’t change – this could be room hires, agency costs etc. The ones that have potential to dramatically change your bottom line are the variable costs such as catering, transport even AV should more people sign up than expected.
8. Include all expenses
If suppliers quote and say “plus expenses” then ensure you add these in. Ask them for a generous estimate as to what they expect the cost to be. Expenses tend to be charged post-event, so building this into your budget now will prevent any nasty surprises once the event has concluded.
9. Ask for multiple quotes
You’ve got to make sure you aren’t being overcharged and the fee’s quoted are considered normal within the area you are booking. A quick tip is to ensure any quotes are like-for-like (i.e. quoting for the exact same thing) as this could be a fatal error down the line if not. Take extra time on AV quotations as often AV companies interpret requirements differently.
10. Have an overview page
You’ve created your long list of expenses, all itemised out in great detail and it looks beautiful. The problem is, the more items on your budget, the harder it becomes to view errors. If items are grouped together e.g. Venue, AV etc. then it is often hard to see any anomalies when looking at the breakdown as there is too much information for your eye to take in. The solution? Make your first tab your ‘overview’ tab. Ensure it only contains overall costs for each group, and none of the detailed breakdown. This should enable you to see costs as an overall. If your AV costs are looking far too high, you can then look into it further to see if it’s a formula error or a chance to reduce the budget by negotiating / removing.