And the Project Goes On
As the project continues, the budget will change. You'll find yourself needing$500 less for flowers and $500 more for centerpieces, or the contractor will need $1,000 more to finish the job. You'll need to move the numbers around accordingly. Of course, the problem arises when there are no numbers to move! (More on juggling in the next section.)
The other situation that you will need to pay close attention to is the schedule with regard to the budget. Allocating $10,000 to a project that needs to be completed in two months doesn't necessarily mean you need to spend $5,000 each month. You may have greater start-up costs and find you'll spend $7,000 the first month and only $3,000 in the second month. However, if you've spent $9,000 in the first month, you'll be in trouble in month two.
A budget need not be evenly distributed across your schedule. You do, however, need to know if you're falling behind whatever pace you have set for yourself. Set up a system by which you will monitor your budget as the project proceeds. It's important to subtract money as it's spent, but it's also important to keep track of expenses that have been agreed upon but not yet paid. If, for example, you've ordered the supplies for the new office but have not paid the bill for the supplies, you would have to make a note that your $10,000 budget to move the office is now down by $3,000 for new supplies, or at $7,000 remaining in actual funds. Chances are, a lot of that $7,000 is earmarked as well. It's similar to balancing your checkbook. There are checks that have cleared your account and outstanding checks that you have just written.
Making sure that everyone involved in the project fills you in on all financial commitments is just as important as tracking actual expenses. Have team members keep written records of their expenses and any vendors or outside sources who are still to be paid. Get photocopies of signed agreements or contracts. Make sure each person on the team is aware of his or her budgetary limitations. When a team member is buying materials, you need to set a maximum amount that he or she can spend. Likewise, you can set maximums for what can be spent on consultants' fees or other hiring costs. Make sure it is clear that this is all that is in the budget before the individual begins the work. Make it clear that you, or whoever is paying the bills, will not pay more than the maximum. This may also mean having people record their time.
It's easy to maintain control over the budget if you limit the number of people who can spend money or make financial promises or agreements. Make sure anyone operating under a budget understands the ramifications of spending more than their budget allows.
Depending on your relationship with the team members and the nature of the project, you may have a system worked out that allows each team member
When working on a conference, the chairperson of the speakers' committee promised several out-of-town guest speakers that the organization would pay their travel expenses. His budget was only $3,000. After making this promise to several people, he was asked to provide an estimate for those travel expenses. He researched the airfares and it came to $8,000. He had therefore made promises that would cost $5,000 over his budget. He had two choices: either call back some speakers and rescind his promise (at great embarrassment to the organization), or help locate $5,000 in another part of the budget. Ultimately, the $5,000 was found elsewhere. What this committee chair should have done was add up the costs as he went along and stopped at $3,000, or asked if there was additional money in the budget before making the promises.