Sign In


Take a look behind the scenes and read some expert advice
How to spend your event budget

How to spend your event budget

Whether you’re an experienced events organiser or a total newbie, keeping control of your event budget is always a challenge.

As with most events roles, the experience is what matters – but the money comes first.

Take control of your event planning from the start, with this foolproof step-by-step guide to setting your next event budget.

Set up your event budget template

Person marking a chart with a pen

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel with specialist software. A standard spreadsheet program like Excel or Google Sheets will do everything you need.

While you can use pre-made templates, setting up your own sheet is just as simple, and gives you more control.

For a simple event like a private dinner party or one-off meeting, a single sheet will probably suffice. For bigger events like conferences, large meetings, exhibitions and grand celebrations,  you’ll want to use individual sheets for distinct areas: venue hire, catering, transport, marketing and so on.

To create your event budget spreadsheet, you’ll need four main columns.

  • Item
  • Estimated expense
  • Actual expense
  • Item details

Estimate wisely

laptop and calculator on a desk

Initial rough estimates are a great place to start. But how do you come up with them?

If you’ve held a similar event before, use that experience. Remember to apply an appropriate percentage of inflation if the event was a year or more ago; many event suppliers, particularly in the food and beverage industry, have raised prices by up to 20% in the course of a single year due to rising costs. If you’re holding a repeat event but with greater numbers, apply the appropriate multipliers.

If you’re less experienced, that doesn’t mean you’re flying blind. Use the knowledge of those around you to support your estimates. Ask vendors about past events with similar predicted numbers: suppliers will be happy to show examples of their work when you’re asking for quotes.

Include everything

It’s tempting to use broad strokes when you’re updating your ‘item details’ column.

Don’t do it. Clear itemisation means you can hold your event venue and suppliers accountable – and yourself, too. You’ll know exactly what’s included, and which expenses you still need to cover.

It also means you can more readily adapt your plans as the event evolves. Spiralling event budget? Cut out the champagne reception, or change the hot served breakfast to a simple continental buffet. A client who cares more about fresh flowers on the tables than you expected? If you’ve properly itemised your budget, you’ll be able to see immediately where a corresponding cut can be made.

Build in a contingency

umbrella in the rain

No event budget should exist without a firm contingency: ideally between 15% and 20%.

Once you’ve identified those funds, ringfence them. A contingency fund isn’t spare money to splurge on nice-to-haves in the months before the event. It’s your back up in case of emergencies: sudden cancellation, which may mean paying penalty clauses; disappointing ticket sales; an unexpected heatwave that means you need extra outdoor space and parasols – or rain so bad you need a shuttle bus because your planned car park is underwater.

Shop around, then be decisive

Celebration champagne toast cheers at party

It’s essential to do your research thoroughly. Once you know what type and size of event venue you’re looking for, gather a selection of quotes.

Bear in mind not all your quotes may be like for like. Pay close attention to what it and isn’t included. Will there be additional cleaning costs? Does the catering package include service and linens? Do you need to account for tips and service charges? If you need to extend the hired space or add a marquee to account for a rise in numbers, how much will that cost?

Make sure your final decision is based on estimate of the total costs including all these extras, so you’re making a fair comparison. Remember: this single cost will be a significant part of your overall spend. Establishing this baseline early will help the rest fall into place.

Communicate with the client: not too much, not too little

meeting face to face

Unless you’re planning the event for yourself, you have a customer to keep happy.

Your client might be a micro-manager who wants control of every decision, no matter how minor, and keeps sending you helpful Pinterest links ‘for inspiration’. They might be entirely hands-off. For either, your approach should be the same: regular, pre-arranged, informative but limited contact. Your job is to give them confidence that the task is in hand, and to ensure that major decisions are made in line with their expectations.

It’s also important to manage their expectations from the outset. If it’s apparent early on that they’re hoping for something you can’t deliver within budget, tell them then. Then work with them to establish what is possible.

Be supported

There’s no need to manage all this alone.

The University of Birmingham | Conferences & events team have decades of experience behind them, and you get to benefit. From choosing the perfect event venue for you to selecting the right catering, you’ll have a single point of contact throughout the process. Set your budget, tell us what you need, and leave the professionals to it.

To check venue availability, get in touch today.

Related Posts