Top tips for managing event budgets

Managing your event is stressful enough without facing the dreaded moment when your budget runs dry. But with budgets stretched in most organisations, it is becoming easier and easier to exhaust your cash reserves before your ideas. Failing to watch the pennies puts you at risk of losing pounds, so it’s crucial you stay on top of your budget from the moment you start planning.

Plan, plan, plan

It’s a cliche, yes, but making your event financially viable is all in the planning. Start with a comprehensive list of everything you need to pay for, from venue hire down to name badges, then prioritise the most important items. Venues, speakers, catering, transport and registration are indispensable, but depending on your event there may be other concerns, such as equipment hire. Make sure the list extends right down to the minutiae too - a little attention to detail goes a long way, but you need to be careful not to overspend on the small things.

Set limits

You know what you need to spend money on, and you know how much money you have. Now comes the point where you divide up your budget to make sure you can cover your costs. If you’re new to event planning do some research at this stage to get an idea of the ballpark figures you can expect to be charged for each item on your list and allocate the biggest portions first. If later on you realise there won’t be enough to go around, you’ll have to either do away with minor features altogether or shave money off the larger pots.

Be realistic

One of the biggest mistakes event planners make is being too ambitious. Overly complex and ostentatious ideas can often be more distracting than helpful, and they’re sure to take up funds from your budget that are better spent elsewhere. While this obviously applies to elaborate set dressing and extravagant gifts for attendees, it’s just as easy to overestimate what you can get for your money on a more basic level. Don’t assume you can get lunch for 50 people at £5 per head if you’re expecting cordon bleu cuisine - limit your expectations and keep it simple where you can.

Track changes

Once you have a budget in place it’s important to monitor where and how it is being spent. You may not think that accounting software or spreadsheets are your friends, but reading up on one or the other will be an invaluable help with it comes to managing the allocation of your funds. Most people have access to a spreadsheet application such as Microsoft Excel or Google Spreadsheets, and a short in-programme or online tutorial should help you learn some simple formulae to keep a running total of expenditure. Comparing your budget to your actual spending will help you see where funds have been freed up, which could in turn be redirected to an area where the budget is tighter.

Manage your cash flow

Once you start promoting your event, put tickets up for sale straight away so delegates can start booking - and paying for - their tickets. Once you have some money coming in it becomes much easier to manage your costs and ensure that suppliers get paid on time. To make sure you have regularly updated information about how many tickets you’ve sold and how much cash you’ve raised, invest in an online delegate registration system that integrates into your other applications as well as a secure payment platform. This will make it quicker and easier both for delegates to pay and for you to receive the funds.

Stay in control

The most important thing is discipline. Force yourself to stick to the budget no matter what, negotiating better prices wherever possible to stay within your means. If you’re working with a team, set up an approvals process whereby the person overseeing the project makes final decisions on any spending that goes over these limits - and excessive prices are only approved if enough savings have been made elsewhere. In the end, the best way to keep your event financially viable is to be strict with your spending.

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