Budgeting Basics

ImageBudgeting time is hard enough. Budgeting money can be even trickier. When taking on a new video project, proper planning is crucial. Follow these tips to manage your green and avoid falling in the red:

Calculate Your Limit

Scrape together all the funds you possibly can. Make sure you know what portions are savings, donations, and/or borrowed money. Add it all up. Once you’ve calculated every penny of available funding, round down to the nearest even hundredth and set an even budget. This will be your line in the sand, i.e. there is absolutely no crossing it.

Categorize & Subcategorize

Every project is different; therefore, so is every budget. Consider your own and start listing the areas where you’ll be spending the most money. Such categories could include:

  • Shooting equipment
  • Props
  • Wardrobe
  • Hard drives & storage space
  • Craft services (food)

Within each category, narrow your focus. Be as specific as possible. For instance, if I were to zero in on “shooting equipment,” I might come up with subcategories like:

  • Cameras
  • Lenses
  • Lights
  • Memory/Storage
  • External mics

The more you break down each category and subcategory, the more prepared you’ll be.

Take Note of Expenses

From pre- to post-production, make sure you keep an organized log of every expense that subtracts directly from your budget. You can find downloadable software online to keep your budget sorted out digitally, but I would recommend using a pen & paper initially. Creating a spreadsheet by hand is the easiest way to maintain control of how much money was spent at the end of every day.

Tip: Should you need to mass-share your spreadsheets, it helps to organize your daily expenses in an Excel spreadsheet. Create folders for each week or month to make your logs easy to find.

Save Everything

For every purchase you make, always save tangible proof, such as:

  • Receipts
  • Printed copies of billing statements
  • Confirmation emails for shipments
  • Package tracking numbers

Tip: Don’t forget about the tip! Write down the exact amount you spent on a taxi or food delivery.

At the end of each day, be sure to date each piece of paperwork and staple everything together. You’ll want to group together each day’s paperwork in weekly/monthly file folders to correspond with your expense logs. Store safely.

Tip: It doesn’t hurt to make additional copies or scan to PDFs should you lose your originals.

Always Overcompensate

You’ve drawn a line in the sand, but what if you cross it on accident?

Well, don’t. 

Plans fall through. Mistakes happen. Even the most flawless of budgets can run into problems. We can’t always prevent it, so we might as well make some space for it.

Give yourself some wiggle room for unexpected expenses or miscalculations. Create a “miscellaneous” category in your budget for the expenses you’re not sure of yet. Which brings me to my next point…

Have a Backup

You’ve allowed room for a mistake or expense, but you’re still over budget. Now what?

Have a backup fund for, essentially, the backup. If you are lucky enough to not run into budget problems, this fund should remain untouched. Only use your backup for emergencies.

Tip: Ideally, the majority of the money you borrowed rather than saved should go into this fund.

Reward Yourself

Your project is nearing an end, and you have safely remained under your budget. Treat you and your crew to a round of drinks when the weekend hits, or issue a small stipend for their time and effort on your project.

Only have a little cash left over? Splurge on a “thank-you” cake or some cheap gag gifts.

No matter the size of your budget, creating an organized system will minimize stress and keep your project afloat.


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