How to Manage an Event Budget

Event Planning is a dream job, but event budget planning isn’t on anybody’s list of highlights for this role. Still, as unappealing as crunching numbers and negotiating prices sounds, just remember that the quality of your event budget will determine the ultimate success of the entire process. A thoughtful and carefully compiled event budget is your insurance policy protecting you from nasty financial surprises, stress, and perhaps even a public meltdown or two.

What is Budgeting in Event Management?

At its core, an event budget is simply an accounting of the money you will spend on hosting an event and the money your event will pull in through ticket sales, fundraising, or other means.

The level of detail you choose to put into your event budget will differ based on the scope of your event, the wiggle room in your budget, and your tolerance for detailed budget planning tasks.

As professional event budget planners, we are strong advocates for detailed budgets. The more detail that you can provide in your budget, the finer control you will have over spending and the more energy you can devote to being the ultimate host.

7 Tips to Manage an Event Budget

If you are going to manage your event budget on your own, you do not need to attempt the granular level of detail expected from the professionals. We have an entire team at our disposal, you will be a one-person show. So, let’s create a plan to cover the basics of a simple event budget that you can easily manage on your own.

  1. Establish Expectations Early
    Start with a brainstorming session to get all of the details for your event down on paper. This is where you will establish the scope of your event. The details that you establish here will dictate the remainder of your budget plan.

    You will need to know:

    • What type of event will you be hosting?
    • How many attendees do you expect?
    • Where will you host the event?
    • Will you be serving food or drinks?
    • Will there be entertainment or speakers?

    Knowing these basic details will help you get a general idea of how much your event will cost.

  2. List Your Expenses

    Now that you have your ballpark framework established, go through your list and write down the potential costs that you anticipate spending on each item. Take your time with this step and be as thorough as possible. Call venues, restaurants, caterers, and entertainment to get accurate estimates rather than guesstimating. Be sure to ask about fees, deposits, permits, and parking costs. This will prevent any surprises for you and your guests on event day.Remember to add a little padding to your budget in the form of a contingency fund too. This extra bubble of cash will be a lifesaver when your cash flow gets caught up at the start of the event and deposits still need to be paid.
  3. List Potential Money-Makers
    You have identified the money that will be going out to fund the event, now you get to calculate the money that you expect the event to bring in. Make an itemized list of all of the sources of income associated with the event and an estimate of the amount that you expect each to generate.

    Income-generating events might include:

    • Ticket sales
    • Sponsorships
    • Merchandise sales
    • Donations
  4. Draft a Budget Proposal
    Take the lists of expected income and expenses you have just created and use them to create a detailed budget, or a budget proposal if you will not be the one footing the bill for the event. You are essentially going to combine your expenses list and your revenue list into one document and calculate the totals to get a ballpark idea of the total cash flow needed for the event.
  5. Cash Flow Considerations
    When determining and securing the cash flow for your event, you will need to remember that even if your event will be an income generator and you expect to make a profit, you will likely still need to have the full cash flow for the event up front to pay for vendors and other expenses before collecting the revenue at the end of the event. Plan your cash flow accordingly so that you have all you need, regardless of what you will earn later.
  6. Prepare to Pivot

    Be flexible and expect that your event will not follow your plan to the letter. Be prepared to roll with whatever the day or night brings and ready to make changes to your budget to reallocate resources on short notice. This might mean cutting dinner service early if your attendance is lighter than expected, or sending an assistant out for supplies if you find yourself running low on soft drinks or appetizers mid-event.
  7. Review Your Performance
    After the event, sit down with your cash ledger and your original budget to review how close you were to your financial goals. Compare your estimated expenses and expected revenue to your actual costs and revenues. Identify any areas where you overestimated or underestimated your totals. Use this information to dial in your future budgets.

How to Create an Event Budget: 11 Steps

At the start of this post, we went over a simple event budget plan, but what happens if you are planning a large event, with a solid amount of lead time to prepare for the event?

Perfect! More time means a more accurate budget. Follow the steps below to create a more comprehensive event management budget.

  1. Determine Your Bottom Line
    Start by gaining a basic understanding of your business’s bottom line. You can do this by calculating your total business expenses for a specific time and then subtracting that cost from the total revenue that your business generated in the same period. This simple calculation will give you a ballpark idea of your business cash flow and help you determine how much capital you have on hand for event costs.
  2. Review Past Events
    If you have hosted other successful events for your business in the past, take a look at any records you have related to those events as well. Data collected from past events can help you identify patterns and remember key details. Past data might show that events held in the summer generated twice as much revenue as events in the fall. You might also refresh your memory about your over-estimation of food needs last year.
  3. Create a Wishlist of Event Expenses with Costs
    Much like you did on the basic event planning budget template, you will want to list any possible expense, no matter how small, that could be associated with this event.  Because you have more time for planning and no specific deadline (…yet)  you can make this more of a wishlist for your next event. 

    Start by listing all of the known expenses with their costs in a “must have” section of your event planning sheet. This list would include expenses like venue rental, catering, staffing, security, and your contingency fund. You also add a “nice-to-have” list for things like a specific well-known entertainer, AV equipment, lighting effects, or a new speaker system. 

  4. Factor in Marketing & Advertising Expenses
    Marketing and advertising will usually be one of your largest expenses, but without quality marketing and advertisements, nobody would ever find your business or your events. Factor in your marketing and advertising costs early in the process. The earlier you can get marketing materials distributed, the more time you will have to hype your event.
  5. Allot Money for an Emergency Fund
    Set aside a robust emergency fund to ensure that you can take care of any unexpected business expenses or extra costs associated with the event. This will be your contingency fund and you can use this money to cover any last-minute costs as the event draws nearer.
  6. Prioritize & Organize
    As the event begins to draw nearer, review your preliminary event plans and prioritize which aspects of the event are most important. Concentrate on setting up and funding these priority sections first. If there is money remaining in the cash flow afterward, then additional portions of the event agenda may be implemented.
  7. Set a Deadline
    Set a deadline for your event budget and stick to it. A deadline holds you to a set amount of time and it helps you keep your event spending in check. When the established deadline has come and gone, there is no more spending on the event. This makes it much easier to resist those at the last minute.
  8. Perfect Your Pitch
    Event sponsorships are one of the best ways to generate revenue from your event. Spend some time polishing your sales pitch to help you nab those lucrative sponsorships. Aim for a pitch that is clear, concise, compelling, and highlights the benefits the sponsor will receive by supporting your event.
  9. Nurture Sponsorships
    Once you have secured a few lucrative sponsorships for your events, be sure to nurture these relationships with care. These relationships are valuable and reassure your investors that they will see a return on their investment.
  10. Vendor Selection
    The right vendors will be critical to the success of your event. Choose vendors that fit in to the environment well and those that are likely to resonate with your customers most. Choosing the right vendors is crucial for the success of your event. Consider factors such as cost, quality of service, reliability, and past performance when selecting vendors.

  11. Estimate the Expected Outcome
    Estimating the expected outcome of your event can help you set realistic goals and measure the success of your event. This includes forecasting the cost of the event as well as the money it might generate,

Event Budget Planning & Management Expert in Austin, TX

Of course, there is an even easier way to manage your event budget planning. Have one of our event budget planning and management experts manage the whole thing for you.

Panacea always starts every event with a budget and is known for adhering to budgets. trust us to get the money right planning your next event.

About The Author

Haley Elander

Haley earned her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) majoring in Radio, Television, Film from The University of Texas at Austin. She focused on editing and screenplay while interning at Broken Lizard Industries and The Ellen Degeneres Show.

After college she gained experience as a Project Manager, Marketing Director, and Day to Day Manager in the music industry, working with international touring bands at Triple 8 Management. Before joining Panacea she excelled in event production at Roadhouse Live, Luck Reunion, and Texas Monthly. When she isn’t making events come to life, she is a Trip Leader hosting international group travel at Legit Trips, or catching her favorite bands at Stubb’s.