Some of us can’t even balance our own checkbooks. With automatic online banking, keeping track of one’s finances is truly a lost art these days. It’s unfortunate since so many of us are in over our heads with debt, utility bills, tuition, books, gasoline, car payments, rent, and for those of us old timers, student loan debt. Let’s put it this way. It’s not a situation which is bettered by shrugging and kicking back to play some Playstation. Debt can get really serious really quickly.
There’s nothing wrong, of course, with using technology to make our lives easier--especially when our lives are pretty difficult to begin with (work, that big term paper coming up, et cetera). The problem lies with relying on it so that we lose track of the flow of cash. That’s when we get into real trouble, when we aren’t saving, when we aren’t aware of the wasteful spending and might as well be using our money as kindling to start the charcoal grill at the next tailgate. By the way, social events like a tailgate? These are really big money holes if you aren’t paying attention. But we’ll get to that.
So take these wasteful habits most people have these days, and couple that with the complex budgeting decisions of an entire chapter of sorority sisters or fraternity brothers. What do you think’s going to happen? If you guessed going broke, you’re probably right. That’s why OmegaFi wants to help your chapter avoid the consequences of bad budgeting. Thus, we humbly present 7 Budgeting for Chapters Tricks.
7. Prioritize like a Jedi
Because all your sisters or brothers are going to be wondering, how the heck did our treasurer pull it off? Their budget balancing is like a Jedi mind trick! Plus you probably have one of those plastic light sabers lying around that you can whip out at a moment’s notice and go *wowowowow pew pew.* No but seriously, prioritizing is a big part of budgeting for a chapter, and it allows you to be realistic when it comes to the less necessary expenses, like the chocolate fountain for the formal (come on, you know you don’t need it). Focus on housing expenses, national dues, recruitment, philanthropy, and other “musts.” If your numbers are low and the dues are waning from past semesters, the fun times to be had at socials and the like must be creatively obtained with a tighter wallet. Even Jedis know that.
This one will at first seem a little counter intuitive. Seminars can be cost prohibitive for sure, and the whole point of budgeting is to avoid needless expenses. But the long-term benefits for attending a budget workshop or seminar can be exponential. Why not make it a planned retreat for all the chapter members? You might not be able to afford Tony Robbins for your life coach, but you can still find a certified professional financial planner or equivalent to help get your chapter on the right track. The benefit can extend to not only your financial officer, but your entire chapter, as they get on the same page financially and may even be more apt to pay dues on time once they see what goes into the process. If you really can’t afford a seminar, buy a book or read some blogs (hint hint, OmegaFi, hint hint). There are plenty of helpful avenues of information if you take the time to look.
5. Have Fun (Within Reason)
Bet we just deflated your balloon. But it’s not as bad as it sounds. What you want to do is keep itemized receipts of expenses, especially when it comes to the fun stuff. Take the earlier example of a tailgate. Think of how quickly little things can add up. Charcoal, food and beverages, a grill, tables and balls and beanbag sacks for games, cups, plates, utensils, ice, a cooler, gasoline, tickets to the game, merchandise, food and beverages once you get inside the stadium . . . Okay, so you likely won’t be spending chapter money on all this; sisters or brothers will be chipping in and getting their own stuff. Someone will bring a grill. But that’s sort of the point. Live within your means--don’t let funds disappear by keeping track. Fun costs money, and money is easy to spend on fun. That means socials and formals, sports, retreats, etc. Keep track of the little things, and keep it within reason.
4. Request Denied!
The members of your chapter are going to get tired of hearing your financial officer say exactly that--their requests for reimbursement from the chapter, when not pre-approved, will be denied. Basically, all requests to be reimbursed, for meals with potential new members, or whatever the case may be, must be pre-approved in writing. Paper trails can be huge in being accountable for chapter finances.
You should definitely consider, as a busy college student (and as a collective of busy college students), shortcuts to the heavy lifting--as long as they’re legitimate shortcuts. You’ll want to do your due diligence in planning out the finances of the chapter and understand the situation at all times with dues collection and individual projects, but some of the more intricate transitioning of funds and so forth can be aided by: software. And sometimes software also comes with the assistance of real companies and real people. You’ll want to weight the benefit of a program such as OmegaFi’s Vault, which covers things like dues collection, bank transactions, budgeting concerns, and so forth. It may just be the cog that gets the budget running smoothly in your chapter.
2. Save What You Can, and Do It by the Numbers
Be realistic about the optics here. How many recruits have you had in the past few semesters? Who’s graduating? Who’s delinquent on dues? Having a realistic budget in the first place is a great way to not only stay on target (as was once uttered in the trenches of the Death Star), but it’s a great “trick” to gear the chapter toward potential savings. If recruiting doesn’t look great lately, and numbers are dwindling, savings is an important tool for chapters to cushion against hard times. So keep it by the numbers, kids.
1. Disappointment is a Part of Life
This is one of the most annoying lessons to learn, unless you’re able to stay on top of the fallout it causes. That means preparing to be flexible and make adjustments on the fly. If dues aren’t a-flowin’ and some areas need trimming, if you can find ways to do some triage and fund the elements that are either essential or provide the most return (either financial or in building the fraternity), then that’s the best thing a chapter can do for itself when disappointment rears its head. Also, this lesson comes in handy in general when venues fall through and you have to go with a cheaper or less attractive alternative. Roll with it. It’ll work out better in the long run for your chapter and its budgeting prowess.
These are some budgeting tricks we think will work for chapters. What’s up your financial sleeve? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.