Seven Hidden Costs That Eat Up Event Budgets

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When we’re putting together a budget for an event, it’s helpful to make it both a right-brained and left-brained activity. The spreadsheet, math and planning are left-brained, but the way to make sure you’ve got a robust budget that really anticipates everything is to brainstorm – literally shake loose all the things in your brain that you know could end up costing money.

Here are some of the little things that can really add up to big bucks. Even though they may seem obvious when listed, they are also easy to forget if you aren’t careful.

  1. Administrative stuff – Setup charges for printing, delivery or shipping charges for printing, collateral, supplies. Postage to mail invitations. Phone calls and cell phone minutes. Meals, mileage or parking for volunteers and staff. Thank you gifts for speakers, VIPs and volunteers.
  2. Onsite – Delivery (sometimes you’ll get charged for staff bringing a cart of materials to your meeting room – ask ahead) or storage charges. Tipping the staff! Coat check. Cancellation charges. Gratuity. Taxes. Room setup or “flipping” fees (when you change the room from theater-style seating to banquet seating midday, for instance)
  3. Audio Visual – Podiums. Cables. Projection screens. Microphones. If it’s built-in, ask if there’s a charge for it. If it’s not built-in, find out what is included in room rental.
  4. Corkage! Foodies know, this is what you’ll pay for bringing your super special bottle of Sancerre to a restaurant. But even at large event venues, and where the wine may not be special but it has been donated, the fee a venue will assess to open wine or beer donated from another source. It can cost as much as the wine would cost retail, and is designed to discourage you from bringing in outside beverages. This is often negotiable, and if you’re planning a nonprofit event, this can be reduced by 50% or more.
  5. Food, beer, wine and champagne. Don’t underestimate what your crowd will drink. ‘nuff said.
  6. Random rentals – Are linens included with those tables? Does the venue have enough of the type of tables you need for your event? If they rent them, they will likely pass that cost on to you!
  7. People – Also known as labor, of course. Overtime charges for union or non-union labor. Security – check to see if starting earlier or ending earlier could eliminate off-hours security costs. Bartenders – sometimes it’s not spelled out that the liquor, wine and beer package comes with a four-hour minimum bartender – that’s an ugly surprise when it shows up on your bill! Parking valets. Bellmen. Coat check staff. Make sure you build the cost of tipping these folks into your budget. And your volunteers – they need to be fed and watered (and loved)

Neglect these cost categories and you could be caught completely unaware. Think and plan ahead and you’ll be the savior to your committee, boss or client.

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