Ah, numbers, numbers, everywhere. Those pesky little things have a way of cropping in and spoiling all the fun. Maybe if I just don’t think about them, not only will my party be fun to plan, but everything will work out in the end! The trouble is, this is true. Your party will be fun to plan and everyone will have a great time and so will you. But, then the last guest goes home, the adrenaline slows down and you’re left with paying a little bit more than you had anticipated or wanted to.
“Have a budget and stick to it” is something that we have all heard and we all know, but while we think we have a budget, it usually is a number that stays firmly in our heads and we let our brain track it and it usually gets lost with all the other elements that you are thinking about.
The key to any successful party planning, where you feel in control, are having a good time and are happy after the fact is to have a budget and write it down.
I know what you’re thinking; you’re just having a few friends over for dinner or it’s just you family for a birthday party, really I don’t need to budget that strictly. True; you can always loosen the reins a bit and modify carefully as you go. But after the second trip to the grocery store where you’ve spent another $100 which you hadn’t planned, you may feel differently.
When you commit to paper and write things down, something triggers your brain to become more aware and committed to it. I don’t have any scientific data on this, but I know it’s a fact, somewhere, well, at least for me. It also gives you a subtle nudge to take the time to plan things out. Like, for example, if you are budgeting for food, it helps you formulate your menu or if you are budgeting for florals, you begin to think about colours. Suddenly your theme is developing and things get exciting.
So, how do you do it? Where do you start? First, decide for yourself how much you are willing to spend on this party. Is it $300, $5000, more? For most, the size of the party dictates the level of expense, but there are no rules. Your party, your budget, your comfort level. Then, get yourself to the computer and begin a spreadsheet. It allows you to instantly see where you are spending and where you can make changes if need be.
Itemize your top expense first, probably food and beverage. If you are providing alcohol, think about the type and separate out the beer from the wine from the spirits as all have different price points. How much do you want to spend per person? Once you have a general number per person, think about all your other elements like florals, linens, music, gifts, staff, venue etc.
Keep in mind that the cost of certain elements doesn’t change with the number of guests. Things like a DJ or band, the venue, or photographer are fixed costs that do not fluctuate with your guest list. Work to keep those costs manageable and you’ll have more freedom with your overall plan.
Once you’ve allocated what you are comfortable spending in each area, you can start getting some real numbers from quotes. Caterers work best when they know what they have to work with so budgeting beforehand really helps this process. Sometimes you just have to spend more on something than you thought, so you can make the necessary adjustments to your budget and take a little from one area to pump up another.
The idea is that when you have a budget written down, it becomes almost impossible to get off track or get surprised with the spending. You can add more to your budget or work to come under your budget, but the manipulation is easier when it’s written down and you know absolutely where you stand.
And it does get a bit addictive, well it does for me at least. It’s a challenge for me to find things that work within my budget; I can be creative and imaginative and it really does help me to think a little outside the box. And you’ll feel more in control and probably have a little more fun planning everything out.
Try it, and let me know what works for you. And, as always, if you need some consultation or help putting a budget together, we can help with that. Just hop over to our Services page and get in touch.