Guide to Event Budget Management (+ Event Budget Template)

The events industry has been hit hard over the past few years – facing everything from international unrest, to a global pandemic and now a cost of living crisis. While many industries have mostly recovered since COVID-19, 1 in 6 music festivals have gone under and with supplier costs continuing to rise, the event industry is still in the midst ofuncertainty.

Events not only have to contend with the impact these economic factors have on themselves, but also the way they are impacting their attendees buying behaviour – recent studies suggest that 20% of people are attending fewer festivals than in 2019, largely due to having less disposable income and the rising ticket costs of events.

This is why it is more important than ever before, that event organisers and accountants have watertight event budget management tools and strategies in place to ensure they are effectively managing their event budget and ensuring the financial sustainability of their event.

In this guide, we explore principles of event budget management, how you can effectively manage your event budget, what tools and systems you need in place (including our downloadable event budget template), and what the future of event budgeting looks like.

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What is Event Budget Management

At its core, event budget management is the process of planning, monitoring and controlling your events budget before, during and after the event. It’s less of a single process, and more a series of exercises that ensure the financial stability of your festival throughout its entire lifecycle. The main features of event budget management are:


Reviewing historic event data in order to form a better picture of the expected financial performance of your upcoming event. With increasing complexity and changing considerations year to year, many events are reviewing their approach to forecasting and moving away from linear forecasting to regression model forecasting.

Budget creation

Once you have an overall budget established, you are then able to allocate budget on a department level. This is where you will start making big decisions in terms of what you are looking to deliver within your budget.

Scenario Planning

Scenario planning allows you to plan for the unexpected (or should we say the expected, providing you do a good job of this part). You’ve set your budget and know ideally where your expenditures are – but what if something happens that throws a spanner in the works? It rains and suddenly your drainage and infrastructure costs increase drastically? You only manage to sell half as many tickets as you expected? View your budget as your most likely outcome, and the scenarios you should be creating as plans B, C and D.

Revenue Management

Your revenue streams are not static – they are constantly fluctuating. A key part of event budget management is tracking and managing your revenue in real-time so you can make decisions based on the reality of your situation, good or bad, rather than relying solely on a plan.

Purchase Orders and Payruns

In addition to making sure your books balance, you also need to keep track of your purchase orders and payruns, making sure your suppliers are paid correctly, on time, everytime.

In its simplest form, event budget management can boil down to a basic financial equation where income exceeds expenditure. Basic business logic, right? Unfortunately, simplicity is rarely a word that fits the events industry, especially in recent years. With evolving challenges from supplier costs to environmental legislation changes, diversified revenue streams and changing buyer behaviour, it has become near impossible to dial back event finances to this level of simplicity.

How to Manage your Event Budgets in Adversity

When the chips are down, successful budget management could be your silver bullet to ensuring the financial stability and ultimately the future of your event. But how exactly do you ensure you’re setting yourself up for success? There are two key areas you need to consider: strategy and execution.

Building a Robust Budget Management Strategy

Historical Events and Forecasting

It can be tempting to dive straight in with planning your upcoming event focussing only on the task in front of you. We get it, you’ve done this before, you’ve got rough figures in mind and you can’t wait to start making your creative vision a reality. But you need to take a step back if you’re going to pull off the most successful event possible.

Before you can start allocating a budget to different departments or pulling together plans, you need to have an accurate total budget to work from.

You can do this manually by reviewing your most recent P&L (profit and loss) statements for your event, adjusting revenue based on typical growth rates (E.g. your typical YoY growth historically) and costs based on trends and forecasts (e.g. 48% of event organisers predict food and beverage costs to increase between 20% and 50%). This will give you a baseline of your expected P&L for the upcoming year. However this can be very complicated in practice, so it is much easier and more accurate to use an event budget management software to do the heavy lifting for you on this.

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Budget Creation

Now that you know what you have to play with, you can start building out your budget. In most cases, it’s best to start with your costs. Typically, these fall into the following categories:

  • Production ( e.g. AV, sets, acts)
  • Staffing
  • Marketing and promotion
  • Venue/site expenses
  • Operational (e.g. insurance, accounting, administration)
  • Other (e.g. land registration, sustainability initiatives, first aid facilities)

The biggest danger areas for overspending are the ‘other’ costs and variable costs, where the number of attendees and amount of revenue you generate will impact how much of your budget needs to be/can be allocated to these line items.

Once you have an idea of your costs, you can then determine how much revenue you need to generate in order to deliver a financially successful event.

When creating a successful event budget, the devil truly is in the details. While you can pull together top line budgets for departmental spend, in order to ensure accuracy and be able to plan your scenarios more effectively, you need to be getting down to the line item. This can become challenging when working with multiple spreadsheets, because the more data you’re looking at, the more likely you are to fall victim to human error – even more so when you’re juggling multiple events.

Scenario planning

With so many moving parts, some of which are totally out of your control, you can almost guarantee that your beautifully crafted budget and event plan will not go 100% according to plan. That’s why absolute diligence when it comes to scenario planning is a must.

Start your scenario planning by brainstorming – use your own experience and every expert you can get your hands on to map out every scenario you could find yourself facing. The more scenarios you plan for, the more you minimise the risk of being caught off-guard and derailing your event completely.

For every scenario that you have mapped, consider the financial implication. E.g. if we sell 30% less tickets than we expect, that will result in an X% reduction in overall revenue, leading to an overall event loss of X. By getting on-top of these scenarios at this stage, as cynical as it may seem, you’re giving yourself a fighting chance of overcoming them if they come to be a reality and being able to deliver a successful event.

Note: It is just as important to plan for positive scenarios as it is negative. As they say, “make hay while the sun shines” – if you sell 30% more tickets than expected, what impact does this have on your revenue? Is it all absorbed in providing infrastructure for additional attendees or is there scope to add another act, offer a VIP experience or allocate more budget to marketing and promotion to further grow revenue?

The Right Tools for the Job

Ensuring that you are not only planning effectively, but managing your finances throughout the event lifecycle is absolutely essential, but it can also be strenuous. The ongoing time investment required to stay on top of everything is one of the main reasons that people miss things and end up straying from their budget.

You can make the whole process of event budget management easier by ensuring that you have the right tools for the job.

Spreadsheets are the classic event budget management tool, however they are increasingly becoming a poor solution. With so many variables moving at pace, what typically happens is you end up buried under a mountain of spreadsheets, all at different levels of ‘up to date’, with no single source of truth allowing you to see the wood through the trees.

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Shifting Priorities and Evolving Processes

As those in the events industry navigate everyday challenges, new priorities are emerging in the event budget management space. By keeping up with the latest industry trends and priorities, you are able to ensure your event is ahead of the curve, so your budget isn’t impacted by afterthoughts and last minute strategy pivots.

Increasing emphasis on cost-cutting

With supplier costs increasing, there are two viable strategies for events to remain financially sustainable: pass on the cost to the consumer, or look to reduce their own costs wherever possible.

Some festivals, like Glastonbury, have chosen to do the former, passing on an approximate 20% increase in ticket pricing to attendees – which will allow them to continue operating as they always have. And they’re not alone, many other festivals including Boomtown and Secret Garden Party have followed suit.

However, others, like Reading and Leeds Festival, have kept their pricing the same from 2023 to 2024. So how are they staying afloat when costs are increasing for some festivals by as much as 20%? Cost-cutting will be a key strategy.

In order to make cost-cutting an effective strategy, you need to make sure it doesn’t impact the overall event experience too much. Check out our guide on increasing event profit without limiting delivery for more details.

You also need to have comprehensive visibility of your historic, current and forecasted costs from your event budget management solution to ensure you can see in real-time where your budget is being spent, where you have historically overspent and where you can afford to cut back without compromising or even jeopardising your event.

Longer term forecasting

With it taking between 8 and 12 months on average to plan a festival, there is often little time to pause for thought between annual events – however longer-term forecasting allows you to view your events’ financial security on a more holistic level.

By looking beyond the next event to future years, you are able to implement a longer term strategy that can help to ensure not only your event’s survival, but also put it on a trajectory to thrive in the mid to long term .

Sustainability budget

Sustainability has become far more than just a buzzword in the events industry – it is now a core consideration when planning and budgeting for an event or festival. Beyond being a consideration to meet local councils and government guidelines, it is increasingly becoming a factor for attendees deciding whether they are going to attend an event and which ones they will/won’t attend.

Take Kendal Calling Festival for example – they made headlines with their groundbreaking ‘Leave Nothing but Memories’ sustainability campaign. While the campaign certainly benefited the environment and earned the festival some well earned PR, there was, of course, a cost associated with pulling this off.

By factoring this sort of initiative into your event budget planning from the beginning, not only are you not caught out by it being an afterthought, you can also give yourself the time and creativity to be able to introduce something innovative.

As these priorities become more and more prominent in the industry, you need to ensure that you have the processes and infrastructure in place to accommodate the additional complexity, which will prove critical in event survival. This may look like:

  • Optimising processes
  • Leveraging integrations
  • Automating where possible
  • Minimising inaccuracies
  • Reducing wasted time and resources

Event Budget Templates vs Event Budgeting Software

Event budget templates have been a friend of event planners and accountants for years now. They allow you to allocate all of your costs in one place – you can download our event budget template here – which has been built by our event accounting experts.

But times are changing. These static templates, however, are rapidly becoming the enemy of event planners. With the additional complexity we’ve discussed in this guide and the increasing squeeze on event budgets across the board, spreadsheets simply can’t offer the functionality required for effective event budget management.

We’ve included below a checklist to measure your current event budget template or tool against – if it isn’t delivering against these points, it’s time to look for a new solution.

Event Budget Template or Tool Checklist:

  • It provides a clear end-to-end view of your event finances in one place.
  • You can access data at a top level and drill down into the weeds as needed
  • You have access to accurate, real-time data (that isn’t dependent on manual input)
  • You rarely (if ever) notice inaccuracies in your budget
    You can view historical data alongside your current budget
  • Your team shouldn’t hate using it. No solution should cause bloated workflows and increased miscommunications
  • Your sign off and approval processes are crystal clear and fool proof
  • You can plan for different scenarios in one place
  • You can integrate it with all of your other platforms, allowing for a seamless end-to-end workflow

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The Future of Event Budget Management

As with planning your Event Budgets, it is just as important to look to the future as it is to the past. We all know the past few years have been tough on the events industry as a whole, but that doesn’t mean the next few years have to be the same.

Initiatives like the 5% for Festivals campaigns from the Association of Independent Festivals offer lifelines to many smaller independent festivals that may not only see them survive another couple of years, but grow into pillars of the UK events and festivals scene.

But ultimately, the power to evolve and thrive once more in this industry is in your hands. Now that you are aware of the risks of not effectively managing your event budget, and relying on outdated, over simplistic solutions like spreadsheets, you can take action to ensure you are setting your event up for financial stability.

In fact, you can get started right away. Book an Eventwise demo with one of our team of experts. They’ll walk you through the platform, how you can manage your budget more effectively and lay the groundwork for getting you up and running on your new event budget management software right away. Then you can delete that event budget template we gave you, for good. As Ratchet says in Robots ‘Upgrades people, upgrades!’

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