In the world of planning on Aisle Planner, we find our planners fall into two camps. Those who plan WITH category budgets enabled and those who do not! Christina, our founder, is a “disable category budgets immediately” kind of planner, while I (Katherine here by the way!) am a ”heck yes – categories all the way” planner.
You may be asking – what’s the difference? We look at category budgets as a focus on mini milestones to hit, to ensure your budget is staying on track piece by piece. On the flipside, budget management without categories leaves you balancing the budget total number at all times, which may allow for a good gauge of your overall spend, and how each item relates to the end goal.
Today, I’m going to walk through setting up your client’s budget with category budgets as your guide. (If you’d prefer to ignore category budget guides – check out how Christina builds her budgets here.)
Before we dive in, make sure you’ve checked out how to prep a budget before your clients have booked to establish the the budget boundaries, your client’s spending preferences, must-have items and overall, budget total. Once you have your list of must-haves in hand, and your total spend limit, it’s time to break down the budget into separate category buckets, to make sure you don’t overspend on any one item.
Step 1 – Prep the Budget
Pro-tip: Most importantly, make sure this happens before your client has been added to the tool. If you’ve already released it out of planner prep mode by accident, visit your “Planning Partners” tab in the top right corner to update your client’s permissions to “no access” to the budget. This will give you the freedom to play around with the numbers to build the perfect budget in advance of your client’s curious eyes!
- If you haven’t added a total budget number toward the top, do this now. The Aisle Planner default will start it at $30,000 if you did not enter a budget while creating the project, but you can click to type in your new information. Your client will need to settle on a number they are comfortable with, even if the it is a loose budget. You can always add extra funds as you go, but you’ll need a true budget number to start.
- Once you’ve added in the number, you’ll see the “Adjust Budgets” pop-up on your screen. Make sure the “Enable Per-Category Budgets” box is checked. Remember, WE LOVE CATEGORY BUDGETS!
- Aisle Planner will automatically create placeholder amounts for each category, based on the budget template that is linked to this project.
- Before jumping in to update budget amounts, take some time to look through all of the categories, and make sure they pertain to your client. For instance, my planning clients rarely asked me to track their honeymoon expenses, so it was usually the first thing I’d delete. The same goes for brunch, if it was not coming out of the total budget number we agreed on – I would delete the category.
- Once your categories are correct, take some time to look through the budgets listed, and prepare to make updates based on your client’s preferences. Keep in mind, this budget is for the ENTIRE category listed. So – when you’re reviewing the Cake category, this budget will need to include the expenses for the cake itself, serving utensils, cake cutting fee (if applicable), florals for the cake, delivery fee, stand rental, gratuity – any and everything related to the cake. This estimation of the total will come from your experience as a planner – and can easily be updated if the line items don’t seem to add up right. But to start, let’s say the cake category should get $1,500.
- Do this for all categories listed. Don’t forget that the budget will need to encompass ALL details under the category, which we will add at a later time. Don’t get too specific on this list, just remember they are umbrella categories only.
- The category budgets should add up to the Total budget listed at the bottom. Once you’re done, click “close”.
Pro-tip: Be careful of the “auto-adjust category budgets” once you have started allotting specific amounts to your categories. If you accidentally click this, and your categories are not “locked”, it will re-shuffle the budget and you will lose all of your work.
Step 2 – Add Line Item Expenses
Here come the fun details! Let’s jump back in to our Cake example. You’ll notice there is a light gray $1,500 estimate above all of the line items (see the image above). Remember – this is for the ENTIRE category, which means you’ll still need to enter estimates for each line item as well.
Then, you can begin to estimate out the total costs for each line item, based on your experience as a planner. $5.00 per slice for 200 estimated guests = $1,000. Cake stand rental is an estimated $50, the kate spade server your bride has been eyeing is $65, loose greenery from your florist is $50, delivery fee is $100 and you’ve added $75 for a tip (see the image below).
- You’ll notice I added the additional line item details that I mentioned before, based on this particular client (lose floral, delivery).
- With these estimates, you’ll see the total comes to $1,340, so the line “estimates are $160 under category budget” pops up – to make you aware of the extra spend you have available. This is always good news.
- You can either leave this wiggle room, OR redistribute back into the line items. In this case, I decided to give some extra budget to allow for an upgraded the cake stand rental $85, added a budget for engraving of the servers for $50, and increased the tip to $100 (see the image below).
Et voila! With the addition of these items, we hit our $1,500 estimated category budget. When you hit it right on, the light gray category budget will disappear, and will reappear in black as the estimated line item total. And now, you’ll know EXACTLY what your “no can do” budget is for each line item – and why! Without these category budgets, you may accidentally spend $200 on a cake stand, not realizing that it is sucking away an extra $125 from your overall total budget. A minor difference now, but as these “accidents” add up? No good!
Step 3 – Prepare to present your budget
- Once you have made your way through each category, creating individual line item estimates to stay within the total category budget, take one last glance to make sure everything adds up as it should, and all of the gray category estimates are gone. If so – you’re done!
Need ideas on how to present the budget to your clients? Check out this blog post, to learn more!