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No – not that “B-word” No swearing in the blog. The OTHER “B-word.” Budget.

BUDGET. That “B-word.” We have to talk about this one because if budget in design is not approached mindfully and reverently, let me tell you peeps – budget really will become a “B-word.” (Yes…and I mean THAT “B-word.” 🙂

Budget has to be approached very delicately with a client – a new client. People get very funny talking about money. They may have been taught that ‘it’ is not discussed; they may fear that I may judge them, size them up, look them over, or worse – work them over. Not so.

The thing of it is this: Budget is as much a part of the design process as paint chips and fabric swatches and you wouldn’t be embarrassed to discuss those things. Budget must be viewed in the same way for this key reason: BUDGET DRIVES DESIGN. Budget will direct and drive every single design decision made in a project. Always. Period.

The Problem: The scariest words I hear new clients utter are these: “We have no budget.” These are the clients that I know will be the first to have sticker shock, to panic, buckle, run or shut down. They will waste design time and design dollars because they will search in the wrong venues. They will be highly unfocused and will be unable to make decisions. They will drive up their design time hours and drive down the prudent use of time. Everybody has got a budget. Every design project needs a budget.

The Solution: Why does a designer need to know your budget? (and you do as well.) Very simply – so we can design TO your budget, not above it. By knowing budget, I will know how to best guide a client to full advantage in order to get the most power out of that budget. By knowing a clients budget, I’ll know what their expectation is regarding quality of goods. I will not suggest Mealy’s to the client who is really expecting a custom 8-way-hand-tied sofa in a fine fabric or upper end silhouette. I will not suggest a mid-price-point retailer to the client who is really looking for an entry-level-price-point retailer. For a designer to make the wrong recommendation in these scenarios is the kiss of death: it will break down efficiency and worse, destroy trust and faith from client to designer. It will waste time – and therefore…budget.

The amazing power of an honestly shared budget is this: it allows me to help clients accomplish so much MORE in so much LESS time. I can efficiently guide them; show them how to get the best mileage and value out of their budget; where they can cut, where they can splurge and off we go.

The Hidden Fear: Judgement. I don’t judge budgets. I don’t judge people for their budget. I have no idea what is in your portfolio, nor do I want to know. Not my business. The size of your design budget has nothing to do with who you are; what you are; what you have; how much you have, or how much you are worth. The size of your design budget has ONLY to do with – what you CHOOSE to spend on a project. Never apologize for your budget. And never feel self conscious about your budget. That’s like being self conscious about the tuna sandwich you ordered for lunch…it’s just a thing.

One More Piece Of Advice. If you can, avoid the “Cat & Mouse” game. The “If I tell this person my budget, they will never suggest a less expensive alternative than the number I name” game. You’ll waste a lot of time if you try to dance around with this one. You’ll also never get what you want. Be proactive with your designer. Ask questions. Ask for guidance if you’re unsure. Do deal with an ethical, fair and sensitive designer. And listen – never, EVER tell a designer, architect or kitchen/bath designer – “I have no budget,” because sure as paint primer – they will design over and beyond the budget number you do indeed have somewhere inside that head and heart of yours.

The Bottom Line On The B-Word. As my favorite Will Shakespeare might have said on the topic if I take some literary license with his fine writings:

“Budget” is neither good nor bad, ’tis thinking that makes it so.”

Budget isn’t good. Budget isn’t bad. Budget is just a thing, like a paint chip. Like that tuna sandwich. Let it go. Breath. Make a budget decision. Don’t judge it nor expect anybody else to either. Just let it be. Be wise and neutral with your budget and you will watch your design decisions fall into place…BINGO. Now there IS a great “B-word.”