When I ask my clients what their lighting budget is I usually refer to it as the “B-Word” as it seems for so many of them that it’s something nasty that should be swept under the carpet.  I’ve had all kinds of replies regarding budget with one of the most memorable being something along the lines of “If we give you a budget then you will design to 1p under that.”  My reply was something like “If it’s under budget by 1p it’s still under budget!”

Everything on your project should be budgeted for or that’s when you are likely to overspend.  Your contingency money is there for unexpected occurrences and not for over budget items- what happens of you get both?  If you don’t give those working on your projects budgets to work to, it’s like trying to hit a target whilst blindfolded – very difficult, perhaps even impossible.

The method that a lot of people seem to work to is ask everyone to give them the moon and stars and then they look at the overall costs.  The reason for this method often quoted is that they don’t want any restrictions imposed during the design process as ideas might be discounted.  However, if when added together everything comes in over that undeclared budget (and inevitably it does) they decide on what items are deal breakers that they have to have and what can be compromised on.  For those unlucky enough to be in the latter category they get asked to “value engineer” things, watering ideas down or removing things completely.  If a company is charging design fees for their work they may include an allowance for reworking – I allow for one round of up to 25% of changes, for example.  If they don’t, this could result in more of the budget being taken up by extra design fees, leaving even less money for the products that will be in the house at the end of the project.  Or, if they aren’t charging fees and they are making their money from selling products it could mean them choosing higher margin products to try to hang on to as much profit as possible rather than those that are necessarily the best products for their clients.

Either way, for some it’s going to mean disappointment that there will be things that they have been shown for their home that they really want but will not be able to afford as they simply cannot be shoe horned into the budget that’s finally been declared.  So, to save yourself the disappointment of everyone showing you “the world” that you cannot afford PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE give everyone on your project a budget to work to.

What do you think about the subject of budget setting?  Is there a better way of doing things than I’m suggesting?  Why don’t you declare your budget?  Please send me a comment to let me know.

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