So you’ve been delegated by your company or organization to plan a major event. Management tells you VIP clients or high-level donors will be attending and the event must be top-notch. Your budget, however, speaks otherwise.  

Planning an event with high expectations on a small budget may seem like an impossible task. However, with some careful planning and economizing, those funds can go a long way. Consider the following ideas to prioritize purchases and stretch that budget.

Managing Expenses
As an event planner, the first step is to create a spreadsheet of purchases. Make four columns and label them Item, Projected Cost, Actual Cost and Additional Notes. This will function as your item checklist and keep your expenses on target as the purchases add up.  

Having an event in mind, you’ve probably already considered expenses like site rental, catering, décor and entertainment. But also factor in costs like AV rental (if not already provided), printing (for invitations, programs, place cards, nametags, etc.), party favors and event insurance. You’ll also want to give yourself some wiggle-room for unexpected and last minute costs. It’s generally wise to set aside 10 to 20 percent of your initial budget for such purchases.

On the same spreadsheet list your expected money earned. Depending on the nature of the event, you may choose to sell tickets for admission.  Another way to recoup costs is to seek corporate sponsors. Many companies today are willing to donate money (or products) if it means they can promote their brand to a relevant audience. Reach out to companies with a similar customer base as your attendees.

Offer them various sponsorship levels – from a small ad in the program to a large banner across the stage. You might be surprised how many are willing to contribute.

Making the Most of Your Budget
Once you have your budget, revenue and donations figured out, the task is making it last. Stick to your spreadsheet as closely as possible. Avoid impulse purchases and always shop around for the best deals. Also, mind your quantities. When it comes to catering and beverages, first-time planners often order too much. Not all guests will arrive on an empty stomach. Consider having a buffet instead of a multi-course dinner and reduce your food order by about 10 percent.  

Also consider what jobs can be filled in-house versus outside hiring. For example, can a member of your company make the keynote address instead of a guest speaker? Do any of your co-workers play in a band or perform comedy? Finding talent within your company could save you the hefty cost of outside professionals.  

The same goes for decorators and photographers. More than likely, guests will be posing and snapping photos throughout the night. Ask them to upload the photos to a company Flickr page that guests can view later. Also, with permission, you can use the photos for the company newsletter, press releases and future events.  

While some guests may prefer an invite sent in the mail, many are just fine with an Email or E-Vite. If appropriate, take advantage of these cost-saving mediums. Promote your event to relevant circles on Facebook. This can be effective even without advertising credits.

With the above tips in mind, you’ll be on the way to budgeting like a pro. On a final note, don’t discount the effectiveness of word-of-mouth communication. When it comes to promotion, the best budget-saving tactic can be speaking often and enthusiastically to peers. Get them talking! 

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