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Budgeting 101 - open

By Caterine - open for editing

All of the information contained here is to help you manage the financial side of running an event. These are all suggestions only, based on personal experience and current group practice, and may change in the future.

This page is a basic introduction to budgeting. Hopefully this will help demystify the concept for you! For specific information on what to put in a budget, visit the page What to Put in a Budget.

Why do I need a budget?

- To work out how much to charge people. You might have a fairly good idea of what you think something is going to cost, but actually working it out will let you confirm these thoughts - or amend them easily and appropriately.

- To answer questions easily. Even if you have a budget, you can expect the Reeve (i.e., me) and the rest of the Council to ask you questions, like: "How did you settle on that amount?" And, "What exactly does that cover?" I won't sign off on an event unless I'm happy that the finances have been thought through and the event is unlikely to make a loss for the group, that's part of my job - but the rest of the Council is likely to behave similarly.

- Peace of mind and general sanity. If you know that you've made adequate provision for something, it's a lot easier to be relaxed about the money side of things. One of the easiest ways to do that is to factor it into a budget.

Shared responsibility, shared accountability. If you have presented a budget to six members of Council, and they have signed off on it (or on amended version), then they are agreeing that your figures seem reasonable. It means that if you've managed to overlook something major, it's probably been picked up on - and if it hasn't, that's six other people that have missed it also. If you set a break even figure of 15 people attending an event, and only get 12, you know that both you and the Council thought that 15 people was a reasonable number to expect to come to the event - so a minor loss in this instance because you all judged the numbers slightly wrong would probably also seem reasonable.

- Fede - that is, faith. I think that this one's especially important to a group such as the SCA, where we strive for ideals and virtues. Your group is putting their trust in you to run an event for them - and part of that is financial trust.

You have told the Council that you will run an event that is going to cost '$x', and you are going to charge people '$y' for it because you think that this will be enough to cover that cost - and they have accepted that in good faith.

People are giving you their own money, and trusting that you will be giving them the event that you've advertised without swindling them horribly through overcharging, and that nor will you undercharge them and ultimately impact on the group's finances.

But I've never done a budget before, and it seems scary!

Firstly, don't panic about it, and don't stress. For most events, you should be able to produce a basic budget inside of half an hour. Your first one might take you longer. Of course, there's bound to be a few things that need tweaking - that's why you take it to Council. Having extra eyes looking at your budget is a nice, easy way of picking up on things you might have missed and fixing them without strife. Things I know that I and others have missed include Kingdom Levy, something to cover candles or oil lamps, a budget for cleaning products and rubbish bags, and transport costs.

If you aren't confident with numbers (or even if you are), you might like to get an experienced steward or a Council member to help you in putting your budget together. If you're really uncomfortable with money and don't think you can manage putting a budget together (even after reading this), you might consider asking someone else to work out the budget for you. For example, you could approach a friend, an experienced steward, someone who's run a similar event, a Council member, or even the Reeve. Or perhaps someone who is already on your stewarding team (such as the deputy steward) might be able to do this for you. If you are going to do this, bring them along to the Council meeting where your event bid will be discussed so that they can answer questions about the financial side of things for you.

I'll go through some information on what you might include in constructing a budget, item by item, here, but first I'll show you some examples of different budgets that have been used by people for different types of events.


Before I show you some examples, I'll just define a couple of words that are going to come up below.

Break Even - this is the point at which your event will make no money, and lose no money. This is usually based around the fixed costs of an event, divided amongst the minimum number of people you would expect to attend the event. For more specific information on how you might work this out, I suggest you read How to Find Your Break Even Figure. Or talk to someone about it.

Fixed Cost - this is a cost that is not going to change, no matter how many people you have at the event. An example of this would be hall hire: you usually hire a hall at a set cost, or at a cost per hour for a fixed number of hours. You might have 20 people at the event, or you might have 60 - but the cost of the hall will not change. If you are paying $200 for it for the day, it remains $200.

Changeable or Variable Cost - these are costs that go up or down depending on how many people are attending the event. A good example of this is the cost of food for a feast. When you're working out the budget, you'll decide with the cook how much it is reasonable to charge people for food. A common figure is $14 per head. The total amount of money that the cook is able to spend will change depending on how many people come. If 15 people come to the feast, the cook will get 15 x $14 to spend - that's $210. If 60 people come to the event, the cook will instead get 60 x $14 to spend - which is $840. That's a big difference in dollars, but remember, in the first example the cook only needs to feed 15 people, while in the second example they need to feed 60.

Let's look at some budget examples.

If you have a simple event, your event budget might be fairly straightforward. For example, Ludwig von Regensburg's History Night budget ran along the lines of "The site will cost $20. There are no other costs. I expect at least seven people will show up. Therefore, I will charge $3 per head for members, and $5 per head for non-members. I don't need to charge a Kingdom Levy because this is an ungarbed event".

For a slightly more complex event, you might need to go into a bit more detail.

A good example here is the budget that Eleanor Hall presented for St Cayetano's. She wanted to run it along similar lines to some previous events, and from this she knew that numbers were likely to be fairly low - so she set her break even figure at 15 people.

She only had one fixed cost for the event, which was the hall hire at a total cost of $100. With a break even figure of 15 people, she knew she needed to charge people $6.70 each to cover this cost.

However, she knew that she also had a few different variable costs to figure out (I'll talk about specifics of these elsewhere), so put them all into a spreadsheet (this can be a very useful tool in working out a budget):

  Person Total
Hall Hire 6.7 100
Kingdom Levy 1 15
Travel costs 1 15
Lamp oil 1 15
Laundry 2 30
Food 5.3 79.5
Member cost 17 252.5
Event membership 2  
Non member cost 18  

 She forwarded this information through to the Ildhafn Council so that everyone could read it prior to the Council meeting (this is normal good practice).

Almost instantly, William de Cameron emailed back with a quick question: "How does 17 + 2 = 18?" She promptly replied to say that she'd forgotten one of the variable costs and added it in, but had only adjusted the Member cost to reflect this, not the Non member cost as well - a really easy thing to do!

As you can see though, it's a pretty straightforward budget and provides exactly the information needed. Eleanor decided to make food $5.30 per head instead of $5, because this meant she came out with a round number at the end. After discussion with the cook and with Council, the food budget was increased and the event cost was rounded up to $20 per head for Members.

Notch it up a level to a weekend camping event, and the budget might again become a little more complicated as more factors need to be added in. Below is the budget I used for the Baronial Devest & Invest that I ran, which was an overnight camping event with a feast.

Using a break even of 30 people          
Item Description Cost Division Per Person Per 30
Fixed Costs          
Booking Fee Flat rate @ $12 $12/30 $0.40 $12.00
Royal Costs Site + Feast + General Food @ $65 $65/30 $2.20 $65.00
Set up Crew Lunch approx. 8-10 people @ $40 $40/30 $1.35 $40.00
Soteltie   @ $60 $60/30 $2.00 $60.00
Transport petrol costs for transporting baronial gear @ $120 $120/30 $4.00 $120.00
Everything Else          
Camp Cost per person on top of booking fee @ $8.50/head   $8.50 $255.00
Kingdom Levy   @ $1/head   $1.00 $30.00
Feast   @ $17/head   $17.00 $510.00
Misc Costs rubbish, cleaning products, lamp oil etc @ $2/head   $2.00 $60.00
Sunday Breakfast   @$2/head   $2.00 $60.00
Sunday Lunch   @ $4/head   $4.00 $120.00
Saturday afternoon tea/Sunday morning tea   @ 3/head   $3.00 $90.00
      Total $44.95 $1,347.00
Event Membership
@ $2/head
-> Adult with Membership event price of $50 per person. Start of April price increase to $60.
12+ at adult pricing.
Children pricing (5-11):          
Item Description Cost Per Person    
Camp Cost per person on top of booking fee @ $8.50/head $8.50    
Sunday Breakfast   @ $2/head $2.00    
Saturday afternoon tea/Sunday morning tea   @ $3/head $3.00    
Sunday Lunch   @ $3/head $3.00    
Feast   @ $1 per year of age      
Children 1-4 $12/head (site cost plus some food), $1 per year of age for the feast.
Children not eating solids $8.50/head

As you can see, it goes into a bit more detail, with a column added to provide descriptions of items where it might not be clear otherwise what exactly the cost is covering. Sometimes, you might include a budget for "misc costs" such as rubbish and cleaning products and not use it at all because there's already plenty in the Baronial supplies - in the case of this event, however, I was very glad to have budgeted for this as I used nearly the entire budget getting replacement consumable products. Again like Eleanor, I've worked out the cost per person and then the total projected cost of each item using my estimated break even point of 30 people.

The nature of the event meant that more factors needed to be considered as well: the booking fee, then the cost per head (including anyone staying, even babies). Since we knew there would be quite a bit involved in the set up of the site, lunch for the set up crew was factored in at a fixed price. Transport of equipment was an unusually high cost, as the distance from the Quartermaster's to site was really high (48km one way), which eats through a tonne of petrol. In addition to the feast, there was of course all the other food that people ate. Often, people will include "meals" as an overall cost - and while I could have done that here, I chose not to as I had different groups of people in charge of different meals, so wanted to keep these figures mentally separated. This made it much easier when it came to writing advance cheques to work out who got what.

An added layer on top of this was the pricing for children. This is always a bit tricky to work out. As a rule, I like to do it separately from the main budget as children are never counted amongst the break even figures (even if we do often have swarms of them), but you may find another system that's going to work well for you.

Again, you might notice that although the total cost per adult was budgeted at just under $45, the amount being charged was rounded up to $50. Event costs are often rounded up, although reflecting on the financial outcome of this event, we probably didn't need to do this. Talking with William de Cameron, he also pointed out that there is usually a bit of fudge room already factored into most line items of a budget, so you don't really need to add more at this end. Of course, it makes the numbers nicer if people are paying in cash - but with the majority of people paying ahead of the event via internet banking, this becomes a little redundant also. However, for nervous first time stewards, adding a couple of dollars extra to round a figure up can be a reassuring thing.

At the top end of complexity in terms of organisation are Kingdom events. Anna de Wilde's budget for the Midwinter Coronation that she ran is necessarily much more detailed than Eleanor's budget, as there were multiple components to the event - but not that much more complicated than the budget for the Royal Visit. The big difference is that the break even number is much higher.

These numbers assume that we require 50 adult attendees in order to break even (but make no profit).


Total / Fixed cost

Per person cost (total / 50)

Section subtotals












- St Luke’s





- St Aidan’s





- Domain





Total per-person site cost:















- morning tea Sat





- feast, Sat





Variable up to $20 per person if sufficient overall profit is assured.

- morning tea, Sun





- lunch, Sunday





Total per-person food cost:










Food for Royalty:

$26x4 = $104



incoming and outgoing Crown will not be asked to pay for event











Equipment hire for feast

~ 100



Somewhat dependent on bookings and menu. (oven, hotplates, etc)


~ 60



(tablecloths, tea towels)





Transport between Quartermaster and site





Candles, cleaning product, etc

Total misc. cost per person










Kingdom Levy














Moving gear between site





=> charge $55 /adult (base rate - before April)

What you'll probably notice here though is that there are more variable factors, and "frills" to make the event run easier. For example, Anna was prepared to up the feast budget from $16 per head to as much as $20 per head if booking were significantly over the break even point. The car hire was something not normally factored in, but necessary because of the use of multiple sites in Auckland in winter. Similarly, budgeting for equipment hire for the feast was necessary as there was only one standard stove in the kitchen and it was going to be a very large event. However, as Anna mentioned in her notes column, this was again a cost that was a bit dependent on how many people booked for the event.

An important point to note is that with any event where royalty are visiting, they don't pay for the event. However, you still need to make allowance for their costs such as food and accommodation - hence, in both the Invest/Devest budget and the Coronation budget, a line is factored in to spread this expense over the other attendees.

Another important point to note with particular reference to Kingdom events, is that these are not really appropriate for a first time event steward to run. If you are interested in running one, it's a great idea to first get some experience running other events at a local level. These can be plenty stressful enough for first time stewards! If there happens to already be a locally-run Kingdom event in the works, get in touch with the steward and get involved - be part of the stewarding team so you can see how things work and what happens behind the scenes of such a big event.

So how do I put together an event budget then?

Firstly, think about what kind of event it is that you want to run, and what sorts of things might need to be a part of it. To help get you started on thinking about this, have a look at the page Putting Together an Event Bid.

Secondly, I suggest you read the supplementary pages, What to Put in a BudgetandHow to Find Your Break Even Figure.

If you're still stuck, or if you just have questions - ask someone for help! Most people will be more than happy to help you out, as it means that there'll potentially be an event for them to enjoy in the near future.

Back to Information for Stewards.