24 Mar

The Basics of Building an Event Budget

Creating a budget should always be the first step when planning an event. The hardest part about staying in the budget is to be sure to include a line item for everything you’ll need. This is an important step in order to stay on track of creating a realistic budget for your event, and while it might seem like a daunting task, it really isn’t as challenging as you might think.

The most simplistic budgets focus on four key areas: what the item is, the projected cost, the actual expense, and the details of what is included. To help, we have created this basic event budget to help you get started and understand how a template can be set up. We encourage you to make changes as you see fit for your own event. This is a working foundation that can easily be adapted to add more line items or remove the ones you don’t need.

The template auto-calculates the estimated and actual totals so you have a better overall view of your projected and actual event costs.

Photo courtesy of  Swan Luxury

Understanding Estimated vs Actual Cost
Estimated costs is exactly how it sounds – the estimate of what the event will cost to execute. It is possible for there to be minimal variance between the estimate and actual invoice, but it is also a possibility for these numbers to change somewhat dramatically based on event factors such as increased guest count, higher than expected beverage consumption (for consumption bar events), or even unexpectedly low guest turn out. We tend to repeat ourselves quite a bit when it comes to important event planning aspects that impact budget, but guest count, yet again, is a major component on where the numbers could end up. All of your estimated costs will be based on your estimated guest count. From the total catering costs to the number of center pieces and tables you’ll need, guest count can dictate quite a bit in terms of how on track you are to stay on budget when it’s all said and done.

Managing an Event Budget

Track site rental costs. As you plan the event itself and as you meet with venue managers like our partners at our exclusive museum venues, track all projected rental fees for the event. Dependent on your venue, this could include the venue fee, security, housekeeping charges, or set up costs. Many venues include these items in their fee, however some do not.

Estimate catering costs. Many caterers can create a proposal for you that outlines the costs you will pay for all food, beverage, tax and security charges.

Transportation expenses. Whether a corporate event requiring shuttle transportation for attendees or a wedding that needs transportation for the wedding party and family members – record the expense of the rental, any taxes, service charges, or fuel surcharges.

Add décor expenses. Most events include expenses for centerpieces, florals, tent rentals (for off-site events), pipe and drape, ceremony décor, etc. This is the section where those costs are listed.

Entertainment & equipment fees. Common expenses in this category include any A/V equipment that is needed but not included with the venue cost, costs for speakers or entertainers such as musicians.

Printing charges. Often the most overlooked element in budget creation, the cost to design and print paper materials such as invitations, name badges, program booklets, event signage and banners. This is also an area to include shipping fees for those invitations and event reminders.

Line item for gifts. Some events offer swag, other events like weddings offer guest favors. So, whatever gift of gifts you provide, including those given to the parents of the bride, groom, or even a VIP person like the president of the organization, should all be listed here. You’d be amazed at how these item expenses can add up.

Identifying activates expenses.  Between corporate, wedding and social events these vary but will be familiar. Corporate activities could include a local tour or team building activity. Wedding activities may include rehearsal dinner or a wedding party outing like a round of golf with the guys on the wedding day.

Post other expenses. If it doesn’t fit into one of the above categories, miscellaneous expenses will be reported here.    

Contingency fund. Every event should have one. Depending on the size and complexity of the event, this could be as much as 20% of the event budget. Despite the best planning, charges may exceed projected plans with expenses you have never considered. This will keep you from going over budget every time.

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