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Office Budgeting That Won’t Break The Bank (Or Your Team’s Spirits)

If you’re in charge of your office budget, hats off to you.

In the words of Uncle Ben from Spider-Man, “With great power comes great responsibility”.

On one hand, how awesome is it being in charge of the budget?! You get to decide where the company is going for team building events, what your corporate wellness program should look like and which coffee brand is an absolute MUST in the kitchen.

On the other hand, there’s definitely some not-so-fun parts to being the budgeter extraordinaire. You’re the one who has to veto ideas, let people know that team building just isn’t in the cards this month, and deliver the unfortunate news that the snack drawer will be without organic banana chips until further notice.

No matter how generous your CEO’s pockets, when it comes to budgeting there will always be corners to cut, sacrifices to be made and employees to inevitably let down with lack of banana chips. Even if you’re working with a shoestring budget, there are ways to stretch those dollars for maximum benefit— and fun!

Fleshing Out Your Need-to-Haves and Nice-to-Haves

For the purposes of this post, we’re not going to talk about budgets the executive team takes care of—payroll, capital expenditures, and operating costs. We’re going to talk about “The Employee Happiness Budget”: team building, corporate wellness programs, and stocking the office with supplies and snacks.

The first step to building your budget is to list out all of your team’s request, along with all the things you’d LOVE to do for your office in an ideal world. Don’t hold back—everything is fair game. Cold brew coffee kegerator, weekly on-site yoga classes, free Awesome Bars for everyone! Whatever you think would make your team happy, throw it on this list.

Now, let’s be clear: you’re not going to be able to do everything on this list. You’re not the Budget Fairy, thankyouverymuch. But this list is your starting point to build a budget that makes you, your team, and your company’s pockets happy.

Once you have your list, it’s time to start dividing it up into categories: need-to-have, nice-to-have, and don’t-need-to-have.

Some examples of need-to-haves would be coffee (have you SEEN your team without their morning dose of caffeine?), ample supplies for every work station (like pens, notebooks, and Post-it ® Notes) and a yearly team building event. Nice-to-haves could be fresh fruit in the kitchen, a monthly workout class paid for by the company, and weekly team happy hours. And don’t-need-to-haves are going to be a laundry list of random requests (sorry Dave in Marketing… virtual reality consoles for “research” just aren’t in our budget this year. Fingers crossed for 2017!).

Once you have your list categorized, you can further divvy them up into subcategories like wellness, food and beverage, and team building.

Building Your Budget

Once you’ve got your list locked and loaded, it’s time to start building your budget. Your budget dollars are probably coming directly from the executive team, so make sure you have a firm number on how much you can spend per month. Then it’s time to compare dollars you HAVE to dollars you need to SPEND.

Step 1: Assign a dollar amount to your need-to-haves and nice-to-haves

The first step is to figure out exactly how much everything costs. Go over your need-to-haves and nice-to-haves line by line, and track exactly how much each will cost per month or per headcount.

Keep in mind, this is NOT a time to guesstimate. Don’t track that bottled water will cost “$100-ish or so” for the month; research exactly how much your supplier is going to charge you.

Step 2: Determine your expendable budget

Once you know exactly how much everything costs, tally up each list. Subtract the total of your need-to-haves from the total budget; that’s the amount you have left over to play with and invest in your nice-to-haves.

(Side note: if you find that your total budget doesn’t cover your need-to-haves, it’s time to either a) re-evaluate your list or b) talk to management. If your budget doesn’t cover the basic necessities for your office to run smoothly and to keep your employees from rising in mutiny over the lack of snacks, someone higher up needs to authorize more budget dollars.)

Step 3: Prioritize

Once you know how much you’re working with, start prioritizing which nice-to-haves you can make a reality for your team.

Keep in mind, it’s not always going to be possible to turn nice-to-haves into haves. If your budget is tight, you might have to find creative ways to stretch your dollar (we’ll cover that a little later). But whenever possible, it’s important to throw some of the nice-to-haves into your budget mix. These awesome, non-necessity additions to your office will help build a culture that makes employees excited to come to work.

When you’re prioritizing your nice-to-haves, ask yourself these questions:

1. What has my team been asking for?

If there’s something specific that your team has been begging for, that’s going to be the first place you want to invest.

2. What’s going to have the most impact for the least cost?

Is there something on your nice-to-haves list that’s cost effective but will have a huge impact on your team? If so, invest in it.

3. What’s going to make the biggest difference for my team on a daily basis?

What on your list is going to impact your team everyday? Whether it’s getting healthy snacks in the kitchen to keep your team from crashing at 2pm or getting new office chairs so that everyone stops complaining about backaches, investing in the day-to-day health, happiness, and comfort of your team will go a long way.

4. What’s going to make the biggest difference for my team in the long term?

Just as important as the day-to-day investments are the long term investments. What on your nice-to-haves list will help improve your team over the long term? This could mean investing in a new training program or a company retreat. These are usually larger investments, but they pay in dividends with the overall improvement of team morale and effectiveness.

Finding Ways To Stretch Your Dollar

Now that you have a budget in place, it’s time to get creative. Here are some tips for finding ways to stretch your dollar:

Food and Beverage

  • Anyone who’s been inside a Costco knows that buying in bulk has a higher upfront cost, but drives your cost-per-unit down. But how do you buy in bulk, stay within budget, and avoid buying more snacks than even the hungriest team could eat. Enter Boxed. Boxed allows you to browse hundreds of products at up to 80% off retail, then delivers your box of goodies straight to your office. An added bonus – in addition to stocking your kitchen, Boxed also delivers cleaning and office supplies.
  • If your team always wants something new and exciting and the same old chips just won’t do, try SnackNation or Love With Food. Depending on the size of your office, they deliver a variety of (healthy) snacks per month, many of which aren’t available in stores. They change up their rotation every month, so your employees will always have something new to munch on.
  • If you’re spending a lot of money on bottled water and beverages to keep the fridge stocked, do your budget (and the environment) a favor and invest in Bevi. Bevi (aka the smart water cooler of tomorrow) dispenses still, sparkling and flavored (blueberry cucumber please!) water at the touch of a button. Not only will your employees love it, but you’re also doing the environment a serious favor by forgoing the plastic bottles. Bevi is currently available in Chicago, New York City, the San Francisco Bay Area, and the greater Boston area, but they’re rolling out in new cities soon. Contact Bevi to find out when they’ll be rolling into your city.
  • Organize an automatic delivery system with your beverages and snacks. Many vendors will give you a discount if you have your order automatically debited from your account each month.

Wellness

  • Any local colleges in your area? Contact the Exercise Sports and Nutrition department to see if any students would be willing to give a free talk or workshop.
  • Reach out to local yoga studios and ask if they have any teacher trainings coming up. New yoga teachers are always looking to gain experience, and you can often get them to lead a class for free or at a discounted rate.
  • Call some local fitness centers, gyms and workout studios and ask about group discount packages. Most have corporate rates that will make getting your team in shape a lot easier on your budget.

Team Building

  • If you’re looking for a great team building activity that’s 100% free, head to the great outdoors. Organize an office hike or beach day—it’ll be a great way for your team to bond outside of the office without spending a penny.
  • If you want to take your team out for dinner to celebrate a recent milestone, but it’s just not in the budget, throw an office potluck. That way, your team can enjoy a meal together without the budget getting out of hand. But you don’t want to rely on your team to bring EVERYTHING – make sure that the office provides something, like drinks or salad, to contribute. Need some potluck inspiration? You can never go wrong with crowd-pleasers like seven layer dip, potato salad or chocolate chip brownies.

Alright budgetistas, that wraps it up. We’ve shown you how to create a budget that includes everything your team needs (and a lot of the things they want!) without breaking the bank.

Recap

  • Categorize your budget into need-to-haves, nice-to-haves, and don’t-need-to-haves.
  • Prioritize making some nice-to-haves happen for your team to boost morale.
  • Find creative ways to stretch your dollars.

What are some ways you’re going to get creative with your budget? Let us know in the comments below!

Responses

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  1. Hi, I’m looking to add more cabinet space in our supply area, does anyone have any recommendations on a company in the Chicagoland area?

  2. After years of shoestring budgets, we approached our finance department with a request for an increase. That enabled us to do exactly what was written: divide into needs, wants and wishes. It truly helped others determine what items were more an extravance than necessity and even the wish list got more realistic. It enabled me to get Skypanels for the main suite where I work which, by the way, cut down on migraines from the flourescent lighting.

    1. We LOVE hearing success stories like yours Carolyn! Glad to hear you were able to get the Skypanels and ditch the migraines :)

  3. We have a warehouse that all the unwanted office items goes to get re-homed. Before we purchase something new we always check with them to see if it’s something we can use in our department. We are a large organization and some departments get updates more often while others don’t have the budget for it so “one mans junk is another man’s treasure” ;)

    1. Awesome idea, Nicole! Hopefully your department gets the chance to upgrade every once in awhile, but recycling is great as well ;)

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