When your band director says the “B” word… Budget

| November 9, 2011 | 0 Comments

Few other words evoke such a visceral reaction. Sweaty palms, increased heart-rate, feelings of entrapment, loss of control, arguments with family members or partners into the wee-hours of the morning… and now your band director?

Seriously!  You were hired to put on an epic production of guardliness not crunch numbers. Isn’t that what the sallow-skinned bean counter on the booster board is for?

Only in a perfect world could you passé, sauté into the band directors office as inspiration strikes and have the poor guy log onto your favorite vendor site to buy you that $300-per-yard fabric for your costumes.

In the real world most band directors, boosters and even school administrators are wanting to see a budget well before the season starts. Especially in this economy where every dollar is tracked and pinched.

Ahhh, but numbers give me hives!

Hives? Let’s put numbers off for a few moments and think about the process. First thing you need to do is sit down with your design team and plan out your show. All of it. Down to the floor design and hair ties.

You can’t know how much money you need until you decide what stuff you’re gonna need.

That doesn’t mean you need to know the exact costume and vendor or seamstress. Have an idea such as one-piece, sleeveless cotton spandex blend that flows from the body.  Decide you won’t spend more than $100 per student. Do you need to buy a new floor? Yes or no? How much paint do you need to use on the floor? Cover the whole thing, or only paint details? You don’t need to know that the details include a red dragon with purple stripes breathing sparkly silver fire, just know that your paint needs won’t be as huge as if you needed to cover the entire tarp.


Like, we don’t have to pay utilities do we?

Pull out those notes from your design team meeting or brain-storm session. No need to panic… no numbers… yet. See how many of the categories you can fit your planning notes into. This form has been tested on band directors, booster presidents as well as a random drum line guy.

Basic Winter Guard Budget Outline


  •         Flooring (tarp)
  •         Props
  •         Paint/building supplies


  •         Permission/rights
  •         Production (cutting tracks, blending tracks)


  •         Fabric
  •         Notions
  •         Accessories
  •         Labor


  •         Flags (Poles/Fabric/Labor)
  •         Rifles
  •         Sabers


  •         Caption head (monthly pay or however it’s done)
  •         Visual designer
  •         Tech/instructional assistant
  •         Writing fees (if applicable)
  •         Guest instruction (if you bring someone in for a special skill)


  •         Local circuit fees
  •         Show hosting fee
  •         WGI membership
  •         WGI competition fees (regional/world)
  •         Equipment truck rental
  •         Rehearsal space rental
  •         Shipping and handling costs
  •         Fundraiser front costs
  •         Gift cards for people who help you out with ______ ($25 each)


Always set aside at least 1K if possible in case your plans blow up or you find yourself with unexpected expenses. If you have a guard larger than 10, consider 2k. Roll this over from year to year if not used. But always, always, have a fund for the unexpected. I promise you’ll need it at some point in your career.


Trust me on this. Estimate costs higher than you intend to spend. Then hunt for the best deals so you come in under budget. This serves to make you look like the responsible, thoughtful person you are. Higher estimates give you negotiation room if the treasurer or director comes back at you with that crazy twitch in his or her left eye. Don’t go so low you choke your program.

Numbers have to come into play at some point. But you all passed 4th grade math, right?

Pour through all the vendor catalogues and hunt for the best deals. You may find a $3 variance on prices for the same item. Call and ask about shipping and handling. These costs can blow apart a budget like a nuclear war head. I’ve found with some vendors, the shipping costs are more than the product price! Consider using one vendor and combining costs.  Or shop local. Always call and ask about price. Recently I called a vendor about wooden poles. The catalog listed them for $9.95 each. The kind man on the phone informed me they just increased the price to $11.95 each. Good to know!

For flags, find something similar to what you want to design in a catalogue and estimate off of the retail price. In reality making the flag yourself will save you about 50%, but estimate maybe 80% of the retail cost making sure there is margin for changes or the unknown. Who knows? A super talented set of triplets may move into your guard’s area and want to march after you’ve set your budget.

Anyway, you get the idea. Look up the items you know you’ll need, and guess high, come in low and smile big about how much you saved.


Every financial advisor worth his or her reputation will tell you to have an emergency fund. Unexpected things will happen. You may find yourself wondering what hit you with no way to move forward. This little category may be the difference between your unit surviving or folding.


See? It’s not as painful as you thought. You don’t have to go to the local community college and take an Excel course to create color-coded self-adding spreadsheets… unless that’s your thing. All you need is a list of the stuff you need and how much you intend to spend. That way if an administrator, board member, parent or director has a question about how the money is being used, you have something to show. Budgeting not only makes planning easier, it protects you and your integrity as well.

Happy budgeting!

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Category: Design, Fundraising/Budgets, General, Instruction, Professional Development, Team Management

About the Author (Author Profile)

Darcie Gudger has a B.A. in psychology from Houghton College and and M.A. in Education from the University of Colorado at Denver. In high school, Darcie marched outdoor and indoor guard for Lake Lehman High School in Lehman, PA. She instructed an award winning color guard at Sheridan High School in Denver, Colorado for eight years. Currently Darcie teaches color guard at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado and will be starting her 8th year as an Individual Analysis Equipment judge for the Rocky Mountain Color Guard Association . In addition to teaching guard, Darcie is the Outdoor Recreation Examiner for Examiner.com and has completed her first young adult novel which includes the world of color guard. Currently, Darcie’s agent is shopping her manuscript to potential publishers. Hobbies include hiking, camping, biking, knitting and singing.

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