Event Operations

How to Create an Event Budget (+ Free Event Budget Template!)

Reading time: 13 min

Creating a budget for your event is an essential step in your event planning process. It's the roadmap that guides event planners through the financial landscape of event planning, ensuring that every penny spent is accounted for and driving towards a successful outcome. Want to manage event budgets like a pro? We've got the tips and strategies you need for creating an event budget that'll fully prepare you for your next event, along with a free template for you to use!

What is an event budget?

An event budget provides you the full event cost breakdown of your anticipated expenses against the revenue you expect to generate. Having an event budget proposal fleshed out will help you determine how much you should spend on things like venue booking, marketing, and staffing to stay within those budget constraints. Depending on how much revenue you plan to bring in, you'll need to be realistic with your spending in order to make a profit. With the help of a smartly-made event planning budget, you'll have a blueprint for what's feasible and what's not!

a person in a purple shirt, looking at financial graphs next to a piggy bank with coins

Benefits of event budgeting

With an event budget spreadsheet, you'll have way more control as an event planner over the financial aspects of your event. That way, you can ensure you're not overspending and know when you have wiggle room to spend a little more in certain areas. Managing expenses forces you to prioritise what you’re willing to pay more for by sacrificing something else. You can also see how much cash flow you have to cover expenses as they come in.

With an event budget to keep you in check, you'll keep a clear record of all the actual expenses you're incurring and the revenue you’re bringing in. Now more than ever, budget planning is super important as event planners' budgets get smaller amidst prices continuing to increase across the event industry. The decisions you make for your upcoming event will rely heavily on what fits into your total event budget.

Then, by the end of your event, you can gauge your event's financial performance to see if you got the return on investment (ROI) you were shooting for. Your sponsors will also appreciate seeing their ROI from supporting your event as well. Plus, tracking all your revenue and expenses in a corporate event budget will also be extremely helpful later when tax season comes around!

When should you create a budget for your event?

The sooner, the better! Your budget should be drafted as soon as you've confirmed that you'll be putting on an event, ideally during the brainstorming phases of your event planning. This early financial planning ensures that you're well informed that all major decisions are accounted for in your available total budget, preventing any potential overspending and allowing you to be strategic in how you use your funds. Most importantly, you'll want to get your event budget proposal finalised before making the major purchases for your event, such as venue rental, speaker fees, and other larger venue costs.

woman holding a tablet at an event

Essential steps for planning event budgets

Ready to build an event planning budget, but not sure where to start? We'll walk you through each event budget step, so you feel more prepared when you create your own. Let's jump right in!

Step 1: Define your event goals and objectives

When organising an event, it's crucial that your financial planning aligns with the overarching goals you've set out to achieve. Your budget should be structured in such a way that it supports these targets, whether you're wanting to make a profit or simply need to break even. Think about the big picture of your event. What are your overall objectives? Is the purpose of this event to raise brand awareness? To bring your community together? To fundraise for a cause? Understanding the necessary costs to achieve these goals is essential in creating a budget that not only aligns with, but actively supports your event's success!

Step 2: Assessing your event’s scope

As you build your budget, it's crucial to account for the size and complexity of your event when projecting its related costs. You'll also want to get a good estimate of how many people might show up and get a sense of who they are. Predicting attendee numbers and understanding their demographics will help you forecast the more variable costs like food, drinks, and seating accommodations. Determining this now will help you prepare for the extent of your event's needs, from how many staff members to recruit to how big of a venue you'll need.

Step 3: Identify and allocate funds for all potential event expenses

To start off, list every possible cost your event might incur, including but not limited to:

  • Staff costs
  • Venue costs
  • Equipment rentals
  • Entertainment
  • Event marketing
  • Food and catering services
  • Volunteer expenses
  • Travel and accommodation
  • Security services
  • Waste management
  • Decorations
  • Insurance costs

Once you've gotten those costs outlined, review data from previous events, or if this is your first event, do some market research to ballpark each expense. You'll want to sort your costs into two buckets: fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs are those like the venue or equipment rental, which don't change whether you're hosting 10 or 100 people. On the other hand, variable costs, like food or staffing, definitely will change depending on the number of people you have. Remember, it’s totally cool if your initial estimates aren’t spot-on. A rough estimate is way better than no estimate at all. Plus, you can always tweak those numbers once you start getting actual quotes from your vendors. Keep things flexible!

a dining table set with a spread of dishes

Step 4: Identify all revenue streams

Next, time to figure out how much cash you might bring in from different sources like ticket sales, donations, and sponsorships. Depending on what your costs are compared to your projected number of attendees, this will help you determine the ticket price levels to make a profit. You'll want to set your prices such that you're able to cover your expenses, but still low enough that people will be willing to buy them. Feel free to pick the brains of seasoned event pros to double-check your estimates. Then, with TicketLeap’s powerful reporting tools, it's super easy to gauge how well your ticket sales are doing at different price levels, once they're on sale.

Step 5: Establish a realistic budget

With all your projected expenses and revenue in a row, it's time to plug all your estimates into a template. During the early stages of your event planning, it could be helpful to create a few versions of this budget that adjust your variable expenses according to different numbers of attendees you may expect (e.g., costs for 100 vs. 300 people). To turn a profit, you'll need to keep your expenses lower than your revenue. For example, you could look at boosting your income through various channels like sales, sponsorships, exhibitor booth fees, and merchandise. On the flip side, think about ways to cut costs. Could you use a venue your organisation already owns instead of renting one? What about opting for organising a potluck instead of splurging on catering? And don't forget to evaluate your options for entertainment or speakers carefully. Every decision counts!

Get a FREE event budget template! Simply click the button below, and it’s all yours!

Step 6: Track expenses and make adjustments

It might take some extra work now, but keeping track of every dollar spent and earned is going to pay off big time down the line! We suggest having your team hold onto all receipts and make sure every expense or bit of revenue gets documented in a spreadsheet either within or separate from your event budgeting template. Remember to keep your budget flexible so you can adapt to what you thought you'd spend and what you actually spend. Trust us, it's a smart move to hold onto your receipts and keep detailed records, not just for budgeting reasons. They'll be super handy when it's time to do your taxes down the road!

How do you stay on budget for an event?

It's one thing to create a budget for an event. It's another thing entirely to stick to it. Having a solid event plan template in place is the essential first step to greater financial control, but there are also some other ways to ensure you stay within your margins. Here are some tips to help your event budget management!

1. Compare and negotiate vendor quotes

To get the most bang for your buck, research and collect detailed quotes from various vendors of your major expenses, such as the venue you'll book. It's all about comparing their estimated prices to make sure you're getting the best deal. And remember, never just go with the first quote that comes your way! There's always room for a little negotiation with suppliers to snag better rates or packages, especially when you've got options to compare. Don't hesitate to tell the vendors you're comparing prices to try and work out the best offer for your event.

a woman writing on a clipbaord

2. Consider do-it-yourself alternatives

Wanting to save some extra money? Take a moment to think about what aspects of your event you can handle on your own instead of paying someone else to do it. Managing tasks yourself (and with your event staff!) like post-event cleaning, traffic control, or handling merchandise sales can help keep costs low, even if it takes a little more time. You could also get creative with various DIY decorations for your venue. It's all about figuring out what you're capable of doing yourself versus what you might need a little help with!

3. Utilise free or low-cost options

Take advantage of the resources you already have available! When it comes to staying on budget, tap into your local community for vendors, venue locations, and more. Rather than hiring a team to help at your event, you could scout out volunteers who can lend a hand in exchange for free admission into your event. You might also want to check out public venues or look for local partnerships that could offer you services at no cost.

With needs like audio visual equipment or other event technology, the big question you'll ask is whether to buy or rent. To determine what's best for you, think about if buying will save you money in the long run, especially if you plan to use it at future events. Otherwise, renting for a one-off event may be more suitable for your needs. When it comes to your ticketing, pick a powerful platform that's also super affordable. TicketLeap offers completely free ticketing software to event organisers, which means one less expense for you to think about!

a platter of cupcakes at an outdoor event

4. Plan for unexpected expenses

As your event planning becomes reality, you should always set aside a contingency fund to cover unexpected costs that arise. Even for the expenses you're anticipating, the actual costs you may incur could be more than you initially planned at times, especially if it's your first time hosting an event. Plus, it's always wise to have a little extra cash tucked away just in case! A good rule of thumb? Set aside around 10-15% of your total budget for these unexpected expenses. It's like having a safety net, ensuring you're covered no matter what comes your way. And hey, if you don't end up needing it, you've got a little bonus left over!

It's your turn to build an event budget!

Now, you know how to create an event budget! Remember, the perfect event budget is one that flexibly accommodates the twists and turns of event planning while keeping your financial goals clearly in sight. Looking for some help to get started with your budget? Be sure to download and use our free event budget template!

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