Creating a budget for an event is the most critical part of the event planning process. A solid budget ensures you have enough cash for all of your expenses and that you spend your money properly.
In a perfect world, your budget would always be large enough to throw the perfect event. But that isn’t always the case. Sometimes you get stuck with a budget smaller than you’d like. In other cases, you have to deal with a big expense you didn’t expect and can’t avoid.
Resourcefulness, therefore, is important to event planning, especially when you need to make a tight budget work. In this article, we’d like to discuss some useful strategies to stretch your event budget.
1. Control the Budget
Your first step to stretch an event budget is to make sure you have complete control over spending. A sure way to blow through a budget is to give multiple people the authority to spend money, especially if those people disagree with how it should be spent.Resourcefulness is important to event planning, especially when you need to make a tight budget work. Click To Tweet
If you work with the team, remind them that you are the only one who can approve purchases, and any unapproved purchases will not be reimbursed. This approach will make sure your budget doesn’t grow any thinner than it needs to be.
2. Pre-Sell Services and Products
If you intend to sell services or products at your event, an easy way to boost your budget is to pre-sell those items before the event starts. This is a great way to infuse your budget with cash that you would have collected anyway.
For instance, if you plan to sell food, alcohol, or tickets at an event, you could ask your attendees to fund a special account that’s linked to a card or wristband. They could use the card or wristband for their purchases. Promote this as a convenience so they don’t have to deal with cash at your event.
If you plan to sell merchandise or souvenirs, list them on a basic online store before the event starts. Promote the store to your email list and across your social media profiles. This will help you raise some cash to fund the event and get more people wearing your logo.
You should also consider selling special access to parts of your event. For example, you might charge a special ticket price for seats in the front row of a presentation, access to the dining area before everyone else, or a VIP meet-and-greet with a presenter.
3. Find Sponsors and Create Partnerships
Sponsorships and partnerships are important tools to collect revenue. They usually won’t cover the cost of the whole event, but they can help you stretch a thin budget. Entertainment sponsorships are particularly useful ways to cut costs.
You can be as creative as you like when it comes to finding sponsorship opportunities, but they usually happen in two ways.
- Sponsor pays for a sponsorship package. They give you cash and you post their branding, let them set up a table, give out their swag, etc.
- Sponsor donates goods or services. A local restaurant might donate the food you serve or a bartender’s labor. A speaker might donate his or her time.
Using sponsors and partners to stretch your budget isn’t free of challenges. Working with sponsors can be complex and time-consuming. Keeping sponsors happy can be a chore. But if you need the cash, you might have no other choice.
4. Reconsider Your Venue
Choosing a venue is the most important decision you’ll make as an event planner or host. The process is also time-consuming and complex. So once you choose a venue, you really don’t want to revisit the decision.
Unfortunately, your venue also represents the largest line on your budget. If you’re worried that you won’t have enough cash to throw a decent event, the venue is your best place to trim some fat. See if the venue will reduce their price if you drop from two bars to one, if you nix the coat check, if you provide your own signage, etc.
Don’t be afraid to reconsider your venue to stretch your budget, even if you have to pay a cancellation fee. Sometimes the fee to cancel is smaller than the money you’ll save by switching to a more affordable venue.
5. Adjust Your Catering Spend
When it comes to catering, you have a lot of ways to scale down your cost without sacrificing the quality of the event.
For instance, buffets are usually cheaper than sit-down meals due to the labor cost of plating and serving individual dishes. If you’re serving four or more courses, you can eliminate one without anyone noticing.
As you know, different foods come with different price tags. Explore ways to serve the same purpose in more affordable ways. For instance, bacon-wrapped shrimp serves the same purpose as a mozzarella plate, but it’s significantly more expensive.
Finally, limit choices at the bar. Most people aren’t picky about the kind of vodka in their martini or the age of their whiskey. Only ardent connoisseurs demand top shelf alcohol. Work with your caterer to serve more reasonably priced booze.
6. Commit to Vendors for Future Events
A great way to reduce your cost with your vendors is to engage in long-term contracts for future events. If a vendor knows they will work with you in the future, they may be willing to reduce their rate for each individual event.
For example, let’s say an A/V company wants to charge $2,500 to set up your event. If you commit to hiring them for three events this year, they may be willing to drop their price to $2,200 for each event. That’s a $900 savings over the year.
Of course, this only works if you are sure you will plan multiple events within a reasonable time frame. The main point here is that you can save some money by working with the same people.
7. Accumulate Equipment Over Time
If you host a lot of events, it’s smart to accumulate your own equipment over time, rather than continually renting equipment for each event.
Chairs, for example, are items you’ll need at almost every event. If you spend a little more today to buy chairs, you’ll save money on every event going forward. Every glass, tablecloth, catering dish, table, centerpiece, and sign is an opportunity to save money.
Unless you work for a large company or wealthy benefactor, purchasing equipment isn’t something you can usually do all at once. Make small purchases over time to build your collection.
8. Use Volunteers Whenever Possible
Depending on the type of event you are throwing, you may be able to use volunteers. Free labor isn’t appropriate in all cases, but sometimes it makes sense.
If you’re throwing a wedding, for instance, it would be appropriate to enlist the help of the couple’s families. In many cases, these parties want to help, so take them up on their offers to save some money in your budget.
If you charge people to attend your event, consider compensating volunteers with free admission, VIP access, or other free opportunities. Promote these opportunities early so your fans and followers know they can get a deal by providing some labor.
Volunteers aren’t entirely free, however. You’ll need to invest some time to train them. You may also have to provide meals and accommodations. But these expenses are usually cheaper than hourly wages and salaries.
A small budget (or a budget that suddenly shrinks) doesn’t mean you have to throw a poor event. With a little planning and some innovative solutions, you can throw a quality, engaging event your guests will love. If you grow skilled at throwing great events on small budgets, your clients will come back to you over and over.
If you find yourself constantly running over budget, we recommend taking a hard look at your budgeting process. Check out our event budgeting guide.