Cutting costs, not corners: A guide to planning an event on a budget.

We like big budgets, and we can not lie! However, we don’t always have as much money as we’d hope for. Being a savvy event planner means knowing how to get the most out of your budget, no matter how big. 

Having a strict budget doesn’t mean limiting your creativity. In fact, this challenge can push you to discover unique solutions that result in a memorable event experience. Weddings, conferences, trade shows, and other events can benefit from this “limitation.” 

Achieving a stellar event on a budget requires keen strategizing, partnerships, and, as we’ve already mentioned, buckets of creativity! It’s similar to planning an event with nearly unlimited money but also completely different. 

Our guide to economic event planning gives you the tips, tricks, and inspiration for crafting a spectacular experience. Your attendees won’t believe you only spent that much!

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Put your budget in order.

Start by getting to know your budget. There’s hidden potential in there if you can find it. Organize expenses into categories, labeling them in terms of their expense necessity (i.e., where is it okay to go for a more affordable option). This way, you’ll know where to be flexible and where to accept the hefty price tag. 

Budget categories 

  • Venue rental 
  • Decor/interior 
  • Catering 
  • Marketing 
  • A/V and digital support
  • Entertainment 

Some will be fixed costs, and others will be variable costs (which fluctuate depending on the guest count). The variable costs present the greatest opportunity for savings but don’t underestimate the power of negotiating well to lower your venue rental.

Start with your most significant expenses and work backward. Find your venue, A/V, and other essentials before moving on to catering and event entertainment. 

It’s essential to include contingency plans. While this is the first thing you’ll want to omit if you’re on a shoestring budget, you’ll be happy you kept it when and if something goes wrong. Remember, money empowers you to provide quick solutions. 

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Finding affordable venues.

There’s no way around it. Your venue will cost a pretty penny. However, there are savvy strategies to lower or cut costs in other categories, such as choosing an event venue with extra perks, like A/V support or furniture. 

Non-traditional venues like schools, churches, local parks, and community centers provide ample space at a lower cost. These spaces may lack the chic charisma of pricey venues, but they can be transformed by strategic decor and lighting. 

Speaking of decor, you can save money on interior design by choosing an event venue with an aesthetically pleasing interior. It may be a more expensive rental, but your savings on decor can offset the extra cost. 

Searching for venues outside major downtown areas or during off-peak periods can also lower the rental cost. Who knows what hidden gems lie outside the city limits?

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Leverage sponsors and partnerships.

Sometimes, getting more out of your budget means…well, getting more money. Leveraging sponsorships can help you expand your budget by tapping into partnerships with rising brands. 

Seek out companies that align with your values. Your partnership will seem more attractive and intuitive if you’re aligned on the big-picture ideals. You don’t have to partner with A-list brands to get the most out of your sponsorships. Seek out companies that will benefit from partnering with you, like those trying to increase their exposure. 

Negotiating with vendors can lower the cost. Again, if you align on what matters most, vendors will be more likely to strike a deal. Offer special promotions on your social media channels, like a social media takeover with their brand, and other incentives to reduce costs. 

Sometimes, you can eliminate the need for specific vendors. Outsourcing A/V may be unnecessary if your chosen venue already has everything you need.

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Cost-effective catering.

Catering costs can fluctuate slightly depending on guest count. For this reason, working hard to gain an accurate count will prevent unnecessary spending and waste. AI tools and attendee data can help paint a more accurate picture of your needs. 

Work with local companies and prioritize in-season food options for the most affordable and sustainable planning options. The more you can get from around the event location, the less you spend on shipping and travel. 

The buffet style is more budget-friendly than plated or family-style. It’s also easier to organize! It reduces labor costs and allows attendees to go at their own pace. However, managing portion sizes is essential for reducing waste. 

It may not be caviar, but you can treat your attendees to a memorable catering experience without breaking the bank.

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Market like a master.

We live in an age where marketing is cheaper than ever! Social media allows you to build an audience without spending a penny. Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook provide the most budget-friendly means of event promotion. 

Document your event planning process and share it on social media. You’ll drum up excitement for the event by giving attendees a peak behind the curtain. Share tips for success for or inspiring stories in the market or industry that your event caters to. 

Encourage attendees to engage with digital promotions by creating polls, questions, and games. These serve the double purpose of providing insight into your audience’s personalities helping you plan a more personal event experience. 

Partner with influencers working in your event’s niche to expand your reach. Offer them discounted tickets or a free ticket to the event if they can offer enough exposure. Focus on influencers who are still trying to build their brand. They’ll be more likely to strike a deal. 

Email may be the old man of marketing tools, but it’s still effective—and cost-effective! Build an email list of attendees and potential attendees, then send invite emails, updates, and reminders to help get the word out there.

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Accessible entertainment.

Like with catering, community partnerships can drive down the cost of entertainment. You don’t need to fly in a superstar performer to give attendees a memorable event experience. Tap local talent for live entertainment that attendees will love! 

Independent musicians seeking exposure may do a deal in exchange for a social media takeover or lower their price. You never know what hidden gems you’ll discover out of a garage or at the local bars. You may hire the next Beyonce! 

Organize affordable entertainment options like a scavenger hunt around the local area or trivia nights. Integrate these activities into the event’s theme or give attendees a break from the technical info and host a pop-culture trivia night. 

Affordable entertainment options 

  • Local artists 
  • Craft stations 
  • Photo booths 
  • Selfie stations 
  • Karaoke 
  • Open mic sessions 

Bringing in members from the local community will give your event a cozy, homegrown feel. You’ll expand your network of vendors, suppliers and entertainers while improving your reputation as a company that cares about the communities they enter. 

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Go high-class on a budget.

Savvy planners know that a low budget doesn’t have to limit the experience. A little research and organization reveal opportunities to save, while creative strategies allow you to maximize your resources. You’ll be a better planner for the challenge. 

Remember, attendees don’t know what your budget is. As long as they have a fun, lively, enlightening experience, they’ll go home happy. Attendees will talk about the experience as if you planned a million-dollar event! At the end of the day, it’s the impression that matters. 

Successfully planning a memorable event experience on a budget gives your brand credibility, earning you a bigger budget in the future.

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