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How to Prevent Event Budget Blowouts


Has this ever happened to your event planning team? You set a budget and were careful with vendor contracts, accounting for every penny. And then, a day or two after the event, you start receiving all these extra invoices and your budget has already been completely spent!

That’s a classic event budget blowout… and it feels awful. In addition to these helpful tips to get more bang for your buck, to use our handy checklist to help avoid future budget disasters.

prevent budget blowouts

Leave a 10% to 20% “Emergency Fund”

Even the most meticulous event planners will eventually encounter a problem beyond their control. Venues flood, caterers get the flu, keynote speakers end up double booked, the bartenders don’t show up. Having extra funds available lets you pursue alternatives without going drastically over budget.

Likewise, the prices of items – such as food or flowers, depending on the season, change. This will usually be noted in your contract with a caterer or florist, but it’s easy to overlook. If prices increase between the date you signed the contract and the date of your event, it pays to have some wiggle room for those costs.

Tier Pricing

Ask Vendors for Tiered Pricing

The original plan may have called for a plated dinner and an 8-piece jazz band. But if a scrumptious buffet and a jazz quartet cost 30% or 40% less, it’s worth re-evaluating. The same goes for an open bar for the full event vs. an open bar for specified hours.

6 breakout rooms instead of 8, self-parking vs. valet parking, private town car transfers from the airport vs a shared luxury van – these are all small adjustments that can add up quickly in terms of budget savings.

Check Budgets Early and Often

Get in the habit of making budget check-ins part of your regular status meetings. This should include discussing and tracking of deposits paid to date, what payments are still left/outstanding, and what variables to watch out for.

It can also be helpful if you compartmentalize budgets into different “sections” and have each section remain responsible for just that portion of the budget,. Doing so prevents people from mistakenly assuming that “there’s plenty of room left in the budget” when it has actually been spent or promised for other purposes.

Don’t Forget About the ++

Taxes and gratuity can sneak up on the best of us, and it can be very tricky if different providers have different tax and gratuity structures. Make sure to read the fine print and account for these costs from the beginning, or ask vendors to specify them as part of their totals in estimates.

The other way the ++ can sometimes sneak up on event planners is when a less-than-ethical member of the event staff asks for a gratuity payment, even though it’s been pre-paid or will be billed after the event. This leads to double billing; sometimes, third-party workers take money that doesn’t belong to them.

Guest list

Keep a Watchful Eye on Your Guest List

Besides following our advice on managing the size of your audience,ensure to keep a running tally of RSVPs. Some venues and service providers will provide addendum invoices if your pricing is based on per-guest figures and exceeds your totals. To avoid turning people away at the door or being hit with hefty overages, look at your attendance totals beginning at one to two-months out for out-of-town gatherings, and then look again at the 2 week and 1 week intervals.

Send reminder messages to those who have yet to respond, and be clear when and if a guest list is “closed” after reaching a certain capacity. If you have only 100 seats, say so from the beginning. This is easily done when RSVPs are digital, as it allows an auto-response to be created after all guest spaces have been accounted for or after the time vendors have requested final guest totals.

“We’re sorry we’ll miss you this time around, (GUEST), but early response to our event was so overwhelming that all of our available seats have been filled. Please join us for our next event…” is a perfectly acceptable response for late RSVPs.

When used skillfully, these tactics can do more than prevent budget blowouts; they can also save you money overall. Imagine ending up with a budget surplus to apply to a future event!

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