event budget planning

Event budget planning might seem intimidating, but it really just takes some time and research to come up with projected costs for everything you need to hold a successful event. One of the most important things to keep in mind is that an event budget is a working document. That means you’ll continually update it as your event gets closer. It doesn’t have to be perfect the first time around.

Without an event budget, you run the risk of running out of money too soon. You need to be able to track your profits and losses to ensure you reach your event revenue goals, and you can’t do that without a budget. Therefore, use the tips below to develop your next budget, so you can be confident you’re on the path to organizing a highly successful event.

Identify Your Expenses

Your first step in event budget planning is listing all of your expenses. Begin by creating categories for potential expenses such as venue, food, staff, performers, décor, marketing, and so on. Next, identify specific costs within each of those expense categories. The keyword here is specific.

For example, in the marketing category, you might have line items for Facebook advertising, email marketing, social media marketing, and more. Break out every marketing-related expense that you can think of and include it in the proper category of your event budget. If you’ve already creating a comprehensive event marketing plan, than the process will be much easier for you.

Do Your Research to Estimate Costs

With all of your expenses listed, it’s time to estimate how much each item will cost. If you’ve held a similar event in the past, you can use historical data to create your estimates. However, if this is your first event, you’ll need to do some research.

The easiest way to do this is to send a request for quotation (RFQ) to at least three vendors for each expense. This way, each vendor will bid on the same thing, so you can compare apples to apples when you get their responses back. You can use these quotes to choose a vendor and fill in the estimated cost for each expense listed in your budget.

Budget for the Unexpected

Things go wrong in event planning, so be prepared by budgeting for the unexpected. It’s a good rule of thumb to budget a minimum of 5% of your overall budget for unexpected expenses, but some event planners go as high as 25%. The amount you budget depends on the type of event you’re holding and your risk tolerance.

Furthermore, have a plan in place for disasters. What happens if you need to cancel the event? Document the cancellation cost with all vendors, and remember, the actual cost will also include any expenses you already incurred prior to cancelling.

Document Your Revenue Projections

The next step in event budget planning is to estimate the revenue you expect to generate from the event. This revenue could come from ticket sales, merchandise sales, sponsorships, and more. Estimate the revenue you think you’ll make from each of these sources and include it in your event budget. You’ll need this information to determine whether or not your event is profitable.

If you sell tickets to your event through AttendStar’s event ticketing platform, you’ll have access to the Event Profit & Loss and Budget Report, which can make event budget planning much easier. A sample of this report is pictured below. You can use it not only to plan and track your own event budget but also to compare your event budget to other events (without seeing any personal or private data of course).

attendstar profit and loss

Track and Update Your Event Budget

Finally, you need to update your event budget as you gain new information. Your original budget may have omitted certain expenses, or your original estimates could have been off. That’s okay. Just make sure you update your event budget on an ongoing basis or you could suddenly find your event operating deeply in the red with no hope of climbing back to profitability!

In addition, track every expense as it’s incurred, and update your event budget so you can compare your estimated costs to your actual costs. This will show you if you’re in danger of running out of money and need to make adjustments. It also tells you if your event was ultimately profitable or not.

Your Next Steps for Event Budget Planning

To create your event budget, use the tools available in AttendStar or start an Excel spreadsheet (or Google Sheets spreadsheet) with four column headings: Expense Description, Estimated Cost, Actual Cost, and Difference. Make sure your spreadsheet tracks your daily bottom-line by subtracting your expenses from your income, so you’ll know as soon as your event becomes profitable and if it stays that way.

If you need help with your event ticketing and more, call AttendStar at 615-223-1973 or use the contact form to get started.

And if you want event promotion tips and marketing strategies that help you sell more tickets delivered directly to your email inbox, follow the link and subscribe to the Flashpoint newsletter.


  1. Mike (the pest) Spiva on 01/21/2016 at 3:15 PM

    I love this tool, however I would like to see it even more detailed or space left in sections for me to input items such as “Back line costs” (cost of renting musical instruments, lighting, generators etc.), hotel, meals (which is different than catering), airfare

    I also think this is a tool I would use as I go, therefore the items listed should be reversed meaning the Available seats should go first in the order and budget would go before actual, stuff like that. To me that makes more sense if I’m going to use this planning the event and after the event for evaluation.

  2. Ken on 01/21/2016 at 3:35 PM

    After reading this article I have mixed feelings on how to budget. I believe a budget based on available seats creates a safety zone in the event that more than expected attend. Now, although I believe in “available seats” the demographics of where the event is can greatly affect this also, bringing us into the “expected seat” approach. I would research past events and analyze attendance based on type of event, what event drew the largest attendance. Perhaps advertising outside your demographics will bring more awareness of your venue, attracting a diversity of people.

  3. Gary Bradshaw on 01/21/2016 at 3:41 PM


    Great suggestions on the details to include! I will add those to the design and in the next version, I thought about allowing you to customize your items.

  4. Gary Bradshaw on 01/21/2016 at 3:44 PM


    Another great suggestion!!

    I think the expected attendance what we call Goal is a great idea! You are right it really is a range of figures not a single number.

    And you are right the “type” of the event is already part of our plan along with if the event was outdoors/indoors and if it was reserved seating amoung some other metrics.

    Thanks so very much for taking the time to reply.

  5. Ken on 01/21/2016 at 3:50 PM

    I appreciate the opportunity to give feedback. If we work as a team we will truly help each other, and perhaps relieve some of the stress of event planning 🙂

  6. Kevin McNeese on 01/22/2016 at 12:07 AM

    LOVE THIS! This would be an amazing tool that would save us a ton of time for managing overall budgets for our events. Plus having access to general information from other events would be awesome to have as well.

  7. GRANT KONOPAKI on 01/23/2016 at 2:10 PM

    Very good tool to start with and build from there . Some of the comments I have picked up on also

  8. Anonymous on 01/27/2016 at 2:26 AM

    Increase income to profit more:

    Vendor Space $
    General Parking Fee $
    VIP Parking Fee $
    Business Ads in Brochure $
    Coupon on back of ticket $
    Meet and Greet Back Stage Pass $
    Picture Booth $
    Souvenir Sales $
    After concert party $

Leave a Comment