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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

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Twenty Expense Items to Consider When Creating a Budget
Karen Eber Davis

April, 2007

At some point, any plan for your future will need to include a look at money. You may find jotting down a budget easy. Others prefer never to have to look at the money part of their activities and rely on their fiscal department or someone else to take care of all "that money stuff." If you are one of the latter types, seek to gain skills about managing your money and budgeting, so you can understand and direct your own activities.

No matter if budgeting is easy or hard, use the following list of expense items to help you develop budgets for significant projects.

1. Staff by position
Record approximate salaries and hours for each position.

2. Benefits
This budget comprises pensions, health care, social security and payroll taxes, and typically includes a percentage of salaries, estimated yearly.

3. Travel
Provide separate categories for auto mileage, airline costs, business-related meals, etc.

4. Fees for training
Consider tuition, training costs and other developmental investments. This category is critical to incorporate when you seek competitive funding because training expenditures show your organization's investment in its human capital.

5. Consultants or specialists
List cost estimates for expertise you lack or extra help you need during busy times, such as for development or program design.

6. Meeting expenses
Will you need meeting rooms and supplies, like white boards and handouts?

7. Rent/utilities
This expense is sometimes part of overhead. (See #19 below.) In other cases, include rent for office space and utilities for the relevant timeframe.

8. Periodicals/written materials
What will you need to read? List expenses for books, magazines, newspapers and Internet subscriptions.

9. Office supplies
Given your recent experiences, you can often estimate an amount per person per year. Or else, pull out a catalog and jot down a list of needed supplies and their costs--from files to pens and paper.

10. Printing/copies
This category consists of money for copies made at print shops, letterhead, stationery and annual reports.

11. Telephone/fax/on-line services/cell lines
This item includes estimated costs for basic services and long-distance for your various communications equipment.

12. Postage
Will you need funds for regular mail, packages and mass mailings?13.

13. Accounting/ bookkeeping services
This category includes accounting and audit expenses or, if these services support other programs in the organization, a proportion of the costs.

14. Equipment
You will need estimates for computers, printers and, if needed, a fax. In addition, incorporate expenditures for desks, chairs, tables and file cabinets.

15. Marketing/advertising
You can add in costs for such expenditures as newsletters, print ads and the development of a web page to promote your activities.

16. Membership dues
Do you pay fees associated with memberships that help you achieve your mission? This is the line where such fees belong.17.

17. Insurance
This includes costs for policies advised by your financial advisor and coverage required by law.

18. Project supplies
This varies greatly from activity to activity. If the project supplies equal 25 percent or more of the total budget, divide this item into additional categories.

19. Overhead*
In some organizations, this item is a predetermined percent of the total project budget. It generally consists of outlays for the executive director's salary and office space used by the whole organization.

20. In-kind
This is where you document expected donated items and volunteer labor. Each type will need a description and an amount. Check the Internet to find current rates.

The goal of a budget is to create a realistic picture of your future. Any narrative you develop to go with the budget translates this same picture into words. Therefore, the budget narrative and the budget are two descriptions of the same plan. One description is mostly numbers; the other words. Together they provide your best guess about the future.

* Note: I do not recommend the use of "miscellaneous" as an expense item because the term generally raises questions. I find it easier to increase office or project supplies to cover small, unforeseen expenses.

Karen Eber Davis is a consultant, strategist, group facilitator and writer. As president of Karen Eber Davis Consulting, she draws on her full set of skills to help organizations plan and fund their way to excellence. Her firm has attracted such clients as the Red Cross, Circus Sarasota, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Suncoast Workforce Development Board, the Englewood Water District, Dreams are Free and more than 100 local, regional and national organizations. Her consulting work is respected for its innovation, enthusiasm and energy as well as its practical understanding of the spirit and psychology of nonprofit organizations. For more information, visit her website at Email her at



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