Because our membership is so spread out geographically, I thought one way to reach some of our newer members would be to post some helpful tips and tricks about various topics affecting legal information professionals everywhere. My intention is to post something each month.
This month, I’m offering some tips and tricks about BUDGETING that I have picked up over the years…
DISCLAIMER:I have no MBA, no formal budget training, and no clue as to various budget models. However, I come from a long line of accountants, if that counts for anything. I also currently manage budgets for three of my firm’s office libraries.
YOUR GOAL: To maximize your budget, not to save your organization money.
BUDGET PREPARATION - You may not get all you ask for, so always ask for more than you really want or need.
- Use the current year’s actual expenses to estimate expenses for next year’s budget.
- The 10% rule – increase actual expenses by 10% – this makes estimating increases a lot easier.
- Round up to whole dollar amounts ending in 0 or 5.[EXAMPLE: $262 actual expense this year, $285 budgeted for next year]
- If you anticipatea new big expense, estimate what month (or months) the expense will hit your budget.
- If you can’t tell exactly when an expensemay hit the budget, you might want to spread out the cost evenly throughout the year.
THROUGHOUT THE FISCAL YEAR - Keep good records – document, document, document.
- Become very familiar with using your organization’s spreadsheet application.
- Keep tabs on current budget figures throughout the year.
- If you can get monthly reports from your Accounting Department, reconcile those reports against your own figures.
- Be sure you can justify any large expenses or variances from your budget figures.
- Keep a list of possible cancellations that you may be able to use to offset any expensive requests for new purchases.
- If you know you don’t have enough money in your budget to cover a new purchase request this year, offer to build it into next year’s budget.
END OF THE FISCAL YEAR - Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
- The ”nothing left” rule — If it looks like you will have money left in your budget at the end of the year, try to use it up.
- Keep a list of non-urgent purchase requests and missing materials you would like to replace.
- Pay attention to when an expense will hit your budget - if you purchase something at the end of your current fiscal year, you may end up paying for it out of next year’s budget.
- No one will give you an award for being underbudget at the end of the fiscal year.
- If you are overbudget at the end of this year, there’s always next year
REMEMBER: Budgeting is both an art and a science.
SLA Legal Division Mentoring Committee Chair