When planning a memorable family gathering or group reunion, budgeting is an essential aspect of your preparation
Smart budgeting for a reunion or large family gathering 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 of your gathering. To make sure you’re on the right track, we’re pulling together lots of tips and tools you can use sto organize your finances.
Event planning can be complex, but organizing a reunion should be fun and exciting! So be sure to download our invaluable Budgeting For A Reunion E-Guide when you finish.
The warm feelings and gleeful smiles that accompany the reconciling of long-lost friends and relatives are priceless (and free). But 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 to consider. These can do considerable damage to a planner’s checking account.
Budgeting for a Family Gathering: Overview
Your reunion planning needs to include budgeting from the very beginning. Without a budget plan, your reunion spending could quickly spin out of control.
But don’t get overwhelmed by all the different potential costs. It’s certainly helpful to understand the full picture before you dive into your own preparation process. But that doesn’t mean that every single potential cost will apply to your reunion or family gathering.
When going through these reunion budgeting tips, keep in mind your specific group. Demographics, diversity of interests, home location, and family circumstances can all impact any individual attendee’s budget. That, in turn, will impact your group spending. The point of a reunion is to bring everyone together for fun and to create memories. The last thing you want is to create bitter memories based on overspending or making some folks feel unwelcome.
If you’re careful in your planning, you can definitely avoid hurt feelings – and wallets!
The best way to ensure a family gathering or reunion will transpire economically and on time is to establish a budget early in the planning process. Here are some tips for bugeting for a reunion:
1. Know the Budgeting 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. Start Your Reunion Planning and Budgeting Early
If you start your reunion planning early, you’re more likely to find the best deals for your budgeting needs. Looking at least a full year in advance is advised, depending on the size and scope of your family gathering or reunion.
If you have plenty of time, then you can negotiate better deals and do plenty of research to find the best possible location and vendors. You also want to give your attendees plenty of time to plan their travel and do some personal budgeting.
3. Decide the Family Gathering Details
Get an initial understanding of the potential reunion costs. First, try to establish how many people will attend the family gathering, 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 your 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.
4. Budgeting and Planning with Spreadsheets
Budgeting for a family gathering or reunion needs to incorporate all the potential costs involved. The best way to create a budget and then monitor your use of that budget throughout the planning process is to track everything in a spreadsheet.
We know…spreadsheets certainly aren’t everyone’s favorite thing.
But it’s really important to keep an eye on all of the expenses. Even those little items can add up quickly! You don’t want to be out of pocket yourself, so make sure every single item is tracked and accounted for as you organize.
5. Plan a Reunion During Off-Season
Booking off-season can provide you with big savings in popular destinations. You might not have lots of flexibility if there are school-age kids coming, but you can still adjust your travel dates and destinations to suit your budgeting needs.
For example, a popular winter destination might actually be very affordable in the summertime. Alternatively, look at shoulder season travel. Use a school break in April or the long weekends in autumn to maximize days off work and school. Booking over a holiday weekend will be more expensive than regular weekends, but it could still be much cheaper than peak summertime prices.
6. Calculate Big Family Gathering 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 the locations. Decide 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 family gathering 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 budgeting. 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.
7. Don’t Forget Budgeting for the Small Expenses
No detail is too small or insignificant when budgeting for 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.
8. Account for 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.
Travel fees can sneak up on attendees, leaving them feeling like the costs escalated too much. The last thing you want is an attendee showing up at the family gathering in a bad mood after paying out last-minute fees.
Warn all attendees of the common travel-related expenses. These might include baggage fees at an airport or additional insurance on a rental car.
Being prepared and making sure everyone knows the potential costs will help ensure everyone is happy with the total expenses for the reunion.
9. Use Tech Tools for Budgeting/Planning
We love a good spreadsheet and highly recommend you use our family reunion budget template options to get yourself organized. But smart budgeting for a reunion 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!
10. Don’t Be Afraid to Crowdsource
Crowdsourcing can be a huge help for your budget. Try asking your reunion attendees for contacts and connections in a destination so you might get better deals or the best services available. Ask everyone for discount codes or loyalty program options – your attendees might save at specific hotels or restaurants. Even airline prices might be better if someone in your group can book on points. It’s a great idea to ask everyone for helpful tips and insider access.
11. Use Rewards for Reunion Budgeting
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.
12. 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 gathering, 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.
13. 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.
14. How to Fund a Family Gathering or 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. 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.
15. 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.
For more tips about how to create memorable reunions and family gatherings, subscribe to the current issue of Destination Reunions today.