11 Tips to Create a Smart Reunion Budget
The artists who crafted the song “The Best Things in Life Are Free” clearly did not have reunions in mind when inspiration struck.
A smart reunion budget is vital to the success of your big event. Understanding the budget for a reunion — from potential costs to fundraising opportunities and more — is a key component to your gathering. To make sure you’re on the right track, we’re pulling together lots of tips and tools you can use to organize your finances.
Event planning can be complex, but planning a reunion should be fun and exciting!
While the warm feelings and gleeful smiles that accompany the reconciling of long-lost friends and relatives are priceless (and free), the process of bringing the event together is quite the opposite. Even if Aunt Mary and Uncle Red foot the bill for airfare, a rental car and a hotel room en route to your reunion, there are still a myriad of other expenses that can do considerable damage to a planner’s checking account.
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Understanding the costs involved in reunion planning is the first step to navigating your budgeting challenges. There are many tools you can use to help plan your budget, as well as to minimize your expenses.
This guide will offer multiple options for tools alongside suggestions for creating and sticking to your budget.
The best way to ensure a reunion will transpire economically and on time is to establish a budget early in the planning process. Here are some tips for creating a reunion budget:
1. Know the budget’s objective
That objective of your reunion budget, of course, is to avoid going broke. You also don’t want to upset the attendees, so it’s best to determine the reunion’s finances early and meticulously. That way, when you ask family and friends for money, you only have to do so once.
2. Decide the Reunion Details
Get an initial understanding of the potential reunion costs. First, try to establish how many people will attend the reunion, plus when and where the reunion will take place. Creating a separate list of invitees in checklist form will help keep track of those who accept an invite.
Email is a recommended, cost-efficient route for the invitation process. It will save you money on stamps and invitations and save you the aggravation of licking a multitude of envelopes!
Determining the event’s date and location can be tricky, especially if attendees are scattered across the country. If that’s the case, choosing a centralized location is the most efficient way to encourage guests to make an appearance.
Adding a list of potential reunion destinations (covered in the macro expenses section below) will help you narrow down promising sites. We highly recommend you determine this part of your reunion budget 12 to 18 months prior to the reunion.
3. Calculate Big Reunions Expenses
These are major and necessary expenses virtually every reunion planner will encounter. Create a category in your budget listing these expenses below:
Venue: This will help a planner determine where to hold the reunion. The number of attendees (and the size of their pocketbooks) will give you an idea as to whether the event would best take place at a restaurant, banquet hall, a park, or at grandma’s house. If a more casual location is chosen, remember the tables, chairs, plates, glasses, napkins, and silverware.
Food: This goes hand-in-hand with the venue. If the reunion unfolds at a restaurant, the food options will most likely be limited to what that establishment serves. If it takes place in a banquet hall, at a park or at an individual’s house, the food can be catered. For those looking to save some money, a potluck is an excellent cost-saving option.
Drinks: Alcohol — be it from a keg, on tap, or offered by the bottle — is a major expenditure. Especially if bartenders are involved and the menu includes a variety of wines and cocktails. Calling establishments and getting prices on their alcohol offerings are a must while creating a budget. Not surprisingly, holding a BYOB event will drop the reunion’s dollar amount significantly.
Guest lodging: Depending on the size of the reunion, a planner will have to determine whether guests should stay in hotels or make other arrangements (ie: Sleeping on grandma’s pull-out bed). Negotiating group rates with hotels can potentially offer savings, so do your research before booking.
Travel accommodations: Attendees typically organize and purchase their own airfare. But if this duty falls on a planner’s shoulders, make the arrangements early so attendees don’t risk facing increased costs or limited flight availability. Once family and friends arrive, consider arranging a shuttle to and from the reunion if there will be alcohol.
4. Don’t Forget the Small Expenses
No detail is too small or insignificant when planning a reunion. While it may be a hoot to print up T-shirts with Uncle Bob’s infectious grin across the front, that cost still adds up. The same can be said for other possible purchases that don’t immediately spring to mind, including:
- Decorations (balloons, banners)
- Trinkets (Keychains, embroidered napkins, etc.)
- Printing costs for invitations, family tree chart or a newsletter
- Name tags
- Postage for invites
- Taxes to pay on all purchases
The list continues, so be sure to do all your research and be prepared with your budget!
5. Remember the Miscellaneous Items
Even if your family and friends are a laugh-a-minute bunch, you’ll need to plan for some additional entertainment. Planning ahead allows you to find the right entertainment options for your budget. But you can also keep the costs down by using various digital options instead of hiring vendors.
With that option available, there’s still something magical about having professionals at your event. Consider hiring some (or all) of the following:
- Disc jockey
- Gifts and prizes
- Unexpected costs (It’s recommended to budget an extra 5 to 10 percent for unforeseen expenses)
On top of those entertainment fees, there are other miscellaneous costs that can add up — especially near the end! Know the potential and plan accordingly to protect your pocket. We go in-depth with expenses in our guide to reunion budgeting (it’s a free download to help you!).
6. Use Tech Tools for Planning
We love a good spreadsheet and highly recommend you use our family reunion budget template options to get yourself organized. But a smart reunion budget also utilizes technology.
There are plenty of great apps and software out there to help you organize your funds and stay on budget. We have a few we recommend in our budgeting guide, which you can download for free!
7. Rewards for a Reunion Budget
Credit card rewards, hotel loyalty points, bulk store memberships…all of these types of reward programs can be great for your pocket! Maybe you have your own rewards you can use or you could ask your family members about their opportunities.
8. Be a Smart Negotiator
Never leave money on the table! It’s always a good idea to ask for discounts, negotiate with vendors, and try to help your bottom line as best you can. Sticking to a reunion budget means you might have to push back a little bit to get the things you need at the price point you can offer.
This doesn’t mean you should play hardball with everyone! After all, this is a fun family reunion, not a corporate business deal. But you never know if you don’t ask, so see what you can get for bringing a large group to that hotel, restaurant, or to other vendors.
9. Use Tech for Collecting Cash
The days of waiting for checks to arrive in the mail are long gone! Be a smart reunion budget planner and utilize technology to save yourself some headaches.
You’re bound to have a few family members who are hesitant to send money digitally. That’s okay — don’t pressure them. At the very least, you should be able to save yourself a trip to the bank by depositing their traditional checks through your own bank app.
10. How to Fund a Reunion
Reunions aren’t cheap. And unless you invented Google or have struck oil at some point, you might need help funding the festivities.
There are several ways to earn enough capital to get the event off the ground. There are many ways you could fundraise for the event, which can also be fun ways for everyone to feel involved in the planning! We have multiple suggestions in our budgeting guide.
11. Determine the Cost per Person
At this point, it’s time to break out the calculator and figure out the expenses per person. You should know how many people will attend, how much money you raised through various means, and what’s left to pay.
If the total cost per person will force your attendees to get second jobs, you should probably trim the fat a bit. After all, you probably don’t need to employ both the sword swallowers and the fire jugglers for this year’s reunion.
Maybe next year.
Get another 13 budgeting tips to help you plan!
By Jason Paha