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Testing Grounds

Budgeting Crash Course

 

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Sometimes budgeting can seem like a daunting, boring and pointless task but knowing how to maintain a project budget is an essential part of being a practising artist. Even if you are self-funding your own project it’s still incredibly useful to maintain a budget. The most important reason for why you should keep a budget is YOU. 

Making a budget helps you figure out how the heck you’re going to pull off your awesome idea, what’s important, where you might be able to save money and can often help determine where on earth to start.

(Test Sites workshop, 2019)

Benefits of budgeting:

  • Working out what money you need to make your project possible.
  • Knowing the real cost of your project, including what you begged for, borrowed, and stole to make it happen.
  • Knowing how much your time is worth as an artist.
  • By knowing how much the project is worth if someone wants to buy it, a festival wants to program it or a curator wants to borrow it, you are advocating for fair pay.
  • Looking like a total pro, which will impress all the right people who might want to give you money.
  • Knowing what things cost for the future (each time you do a budget it gets easier).
  • Gaining the skills to be able to write a grant, or apply for money.
  • You can work out how to spend smartly, where to save money on materials so you can pay yourself a better artist fee.

What can happen if you don't keep a budget:

  • You run out of money and can’t complete your project (or eat or pay rent — eep!).
  • You end up owing people money or end up in debt.
  • The people who gave you money or opportunities might think you’re not professional.
  • If you are asked to re-produce the project, you might underquote and not get paid enough, or overquote and lose the job.

Starting a budget:

Think of your budget as a story. It has a start (where are you getting your money from), middle (what are you spending it on) and an end (how much money do you have left)?

Even if you have no idea what the project looks like, keep an idea of how much money you have to spend on it from the very beginning. This will stop you getting overcommitted and becoming a stressed mess later down the track. The last thing you want is to need to find money or take more shifts at a job when you’re in an awesome zone and have already committed to making a bunch of work that takes bucket loads of time!

If you’ve never budgeted before, you don’t need to get bogged down in the nitty-gritty of excel formulas and all that technical business that can leave you feeling overwhelmed. You can start with a very simple format, even just drawing a line down a piece of paper to start. Write “income” on the left-hand side and “expenditure” on the right-hand side. Under “income” write what money you have to spend on the project and where you got your money from. You might not have any ‘income’ per se, just your own bank account, so this is why it is important to write down how much you’re willing to spend in the very beginning of even spending any money!

Under “expenditure” write down what you think you’ll be spending money on and how much you think it might cost. Add all this together for a total. Check to see what your ‘income’ figure looks like against your total ‘expenditure’ figure — are they
close? Are they worlds apart?

This simple task will help you get your head around the costs of your project before you’ve actually spent any money. You might find you need to get more money from somewhere, or you can afford to spend a bit more, or you need to cut costs somewhere to make it happen.

Maintaining a budget

Once you’ve developed your budget and you’re in the throws of your project, it can be super easy to file it away and forget it ever existed. 

It’s important to keep an eye on how your budget is tracking, otherwise, there is absolutely no point in ever making it. It acts as a simple calculator that helps you keep track of what is coming into your account, and what is coming out of your account.

  • Under “expenditure” edit your estimates and keep an itemised tally of what you are spending.  (You might want to make a new document, so you have a record of your estimate for later comparison)
  • Include everything you’ve spent money on to make the project happen (even beers for your mate who lent you their van!)
  • Keep your receipts (or scanned copies) !! (for obvious reasons.)
  • You want all your income and spending totals to match so that you know you’ve spent as much you planned to. And if your income is higher, then congratulations, you’ve saved money!

Exercise: draw a line down the middle of this box. Write “income” on one side and “expenditure” on the other side and then start listing what you spend and where you are getting your money from.

Maintaining a budget:

Once you’ve developed your budget and you’re in the throws of your project it can be super easy to file it away and forget it ever existed. 

It’s important to keep an eye on how your budget is tracking otherwise there is absolutely no point in ever making it. It acts as a simple calculator that helps you keep track of what is coming into your account and what is coming out of your account.

  • Under “expenditure” edit your estimates and keep an itemised tally of what you are spending.  (You might want to make a new document so you have a record of your estimate for later comparison).
  • Include everything you’ve spent money on to make the project happen (even beers for your mate who lent you their van!).
  • Keep your receipts (or scanned copies) !! (for obvious reasons).
  • You want all your income and spending totals to match so that you know you’ve spent as much you planned to. And if your income is higher, then congratulations, you’ve saved money!

Writing a detailed budget:

Below is a PDF that shows you what a budget looks like. But it is important to remember that every budget looks a bit different. And the most important thing is that it makes sense to YOU.

If a funding body asks you to submit a budget, they will likely provide their own template for how they want it to look. Don’t think you need to fit your square-holed budget into their round format — make your budget in your own way first and then it’s easy to just transfer the information over when you are ready.

This resource has been made as a part of the Help Desk: Virtual Professional Development program.