When it comes to budgeting, it's really all about the tacos. You just remember that. It'll make more sense when you make it down to Tip #4, so just stick with me here.
I took a little Instagram poll, and it turns out that when it comes to event planning, the majority of you are most stressed when it comes to the budget. I get it – things add up really quickly. I’m here to share a few tips on ways you can save a little money when you’re throwing your next bash.
First Things First
I created some handy budget planning guides to help you budget for your next event. I understand that your event may be much more simple than this (or more complex), so please feel free to add & delete rows that don't apply to you. If you need something more customised, don't hesitate to reach out - I can help with that.
Tip #1: The Guest List
First things first, food and bev are usually the most expensive part of any event. Your number of guests are going to determine how much you make and/or order. The runner up for cost is usually your venue (if you're planning on renting a place out). This is also determined by the number of guests attending your event.
First things first: figure out your guest list. Can you narrow it down? Do you really need to invite Great Great Aunt Marge’s cousin’s sister? Maybe not. Narrow it down as much as you feel comfortable – without hurting any feelings. Although, this could be a whole new blog post so more on that another day.
Tip #2: Determine your Priorities
Every person has something that’s most important to them. For some it’s flowers and décor, for others it’s food, and for some the band. Whatever it is, make a list of what’s most important to you, and divvy your budget up accordingly. For example:
Venue (20%) - Venue has to be perfect, this is my #1 priority
Food (20%) - Food is life, after the venue of course.
Booze (20%) - Booze makes any event better. This needs to be top notch.
Videographer (15%) - It'd be great to have content post-event.
Photographer (10%) - Photos would be great, I'd rather have a video.
Flowers (10%) - Take them or leave them.
Music (5%) - I can always use my Spotify, don't need anything fancy.
Now, this won’t always work to a T, but if you do this in the up front, you’ll know where you can allocate more budget, and where you can allocate less. Let’s call it a general guide.
Tip #3: Slush Funds
No matter how well you plan, you’re always going to go over budget in some areas, and under in others. When you’re allocating your budget, it’s important to delegate a bit of a slush fund – so you aren’t surprised when some things run over. Think of it as your event savings account.
Tip #4: The Food | It's All About the Tacos
Now you have to decide: make the food, cater it or pot-luck it.
Making Your Own
If you make the food, you can do something pretty simple like a taco bar. Everyone loves tacos, and by everyone I mean probably 98.5% of the world.
Sidenote: please read the book Dragons Love Tacos. It’s a children’s book but it is my absolute fave. I bought it for my niece and nephews. They also have a ‘Dragons Love Tacos 2’.
With your taco bar, people can make taco bowls, taco salads or actual tacos. It’s good for guests with dietary requirements without having to directly ask them if they have a dietary requirement. It won’t break the bank, and it’ll do well to serve a crowd of 10 or 100.
Sometimes this can be the least stressful option. You can ‘shop’ around a bit for caterers – some will be better priced than others. Many of them will get you with their delivery fee. Make sure to check that out when you’re ordering. It could save you $100 to go pick it up yourself - or delegate the task to a family member. Also keep in mind that even if you’re getting the main meal catered, it’ll be more cost effective to get your own party snacks, apps and desserts. Make friends with someone who has a Costco membership, and head there to pick up your bulk items. Bring them home, throw them in some bowls and you're done.
There’s no shame in that, especially if it’s a casual party with your friends. Create an excel google doc, and send around the link to your Facebook group. On the google doc, make general categories and people can fill in which item they want to bring, with their name next to it. That way you don’t get 20 pans of brownies, and nothing savory. See here for an example of what I'm talking about.
But really people, long story short it's all about the tacos.
Tip #5: The Booze
You have a few options here, depending on what type of party you’re having.
Option 1: Beer & Wine
While you’re at Costco, head to the liquor store there. Or, head to any larger ‘discount' liquor store. Every city has them. Purchase your wine in a box, and don’t worry so much about purchasing the craft beers. Feel weird about boxed wine? Get a decanter, pour the boxed wine in that. Then you look fancy and nobody is going to know the difference. If you’re budget conscious, don’t worry about providing spirits. Beer and wine is just fine. If you want to add a little touch, you could always add one "theme drink" where you make a large batch and have that in addition to your beer & wine.
Option 2: BYOB
BYOB – ask each guest to bring beer or wine. Again, no shame in that.
Option 3: Venue's Booze
This is always going to be your most expensive option. Always, always ask if you can bring in your own booze. They might not let you, but if you can it’s going to save you lots of money. For wine they might charge you a corkage fee per bottle, but still – this will be more cost effective.
Side note: Save your corks from your wine bottles, and write the date + event on them. You can use them for decoration or make something. Pinterest has lots of great wine cork ideas.
Tip #6: The Venue
Unfortunately there aren’t tons of ways around a venue fee. But there are a few things you can look into.
First - can your house, or any of your friends’ or families’ homes fit the bill? That’ll be your least expensive option. If you’re asking friends or family, offer to hire a cleaning service before and/or after the event – chances are this will be less expensive then hiring a place out. And, it’ll take the stress off the home owner.
Alternatively, if anyone you know lives in an apartment building, most of these places have rooms for entertaining, for a small rental fee.
Airbnb. You could look at renting a place for the night. Then, you don’t have to drive home after the party if you want to drink all the wine, you can offer any spare rooms up to your guests, and you don’t have to worry as much about cleaning up.
Tip #7: Capturing your Event
I have an entire blog about how important I think it is to capture your event. BUT, if you’re having a smaller gathering, chances are you have a friend that has a nice camera. Give them a bottle of wine and ask them to capture the evening.
If you have a semi-large event, but don’t want to pay too much, check into someone at an art/photography school.
If you have a large, important event – or big family reunion that you know won’t happen again for years, do not skimp on photography / videography. Ask for your family and friends to chip in. Do what it takes, capture the memories. You won’t regret it.
Tip #8: Event Planners
Well, of course I’ll be a little biased here - but I’ll still be honest. Hiring an event planning company or person can be expensive. But, maybe you just need a day-of coordinator. This is a great option if you’re ok with the planning, but you need someone to run the party on the day of so you can enjoy yourself. When you do this, most event planners will meet with you for 1-2 sessions beforehand to get all of the details, and then they’ll just run with it on the day.
If you absolutely hate planning and the stress is going to kill you, just hire one. You can tell them what you want and you’ll be able to enjoy much more.