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Is your budget aligned with your expectations?

Unrealistic budget expectations

There was a post recently in one of my business groups where somebody was looking for a fairly typical business-to-business service – design and build a website. The original poster had a very clear outline of what she wanted, and she was very clear that her budget was ideally $100, or $150 at the absolute most. I’m no expert on website design and build, but after 15+ years in business my experience is you need to pay hundreds, and sometimes into the low thousands, for a decent one. Not forgetting that a website is more than just a pretty picture on the screen, and the ongoing costs associated with it.

My first thought was that her expectations were totally out of line with her budget. But this doesn’t need to be the end of it and she misses out completely. There were some really helpful responses with some suggestions that were a little more do-it-yourself, or starting with a social media platform, or using a service like Fiverr.

So what can you do when your budget doesn’t align with your expectations?

Work your way up to it

We’re a camping family. We started camping when my now Mr 8 was just 12 months old. We aim for a 3-day camping weekend once a month and we take two 7-10 day road trips during the year. My husband and I have just signed a contract for a new caravan which costs more than both of our cars put together! If you’d told me 7 years ago this would be our caravan, I’d have laughed and told you that as much as I wanted it, there’s no way we could afford it. But we started out small with a little Jayco pop-top Expanda. We worked hard, paid it off within 12 months, and upgraded to the next price bracket a year later. Again, we worked hard, paid it off in 12 months, and upgraded the following year. Now we’re another two years down the track, our third Jayco again being paid off within 12 months, and we’ve upgraded to the luxury van we never thought we’d be able to afford!

So by all means, set your sights on the BMW M5 Touring G-Power Hurricane (go on, Google the price of that!). But if you can only afford a 328i, then that’s your starting point.

Just because your budget doesn’t meet your expectations now, doesn’t mean you need to miss out completely. Or like the lady looking for a website, she seemed fairly new to business and probably has no idea what’s involved in designing and building a decent website. Now she’s got a lot of great information and resources and can make a more informed decision on what she can do within her budget.

What if you’re the service provider that’s tempted to lower your price to meet a customer’s budget?

Don’t under value yourself to meet an unrealistic budget

Last week I was getting my nails done and a lady came into the shop and asked for a price on some nail art. The business owner told her the price was $8 and the customer haggled her down to $6. I know people will obviously try to haggle the price down to get a better deal, but I think it’s a bit rude and isn’t generally something I would do.

But you don’t have to reduce your price just because one customer can’t afford your service, or doesn’t want to pay your price for it. You’ve worked hard to get your qualifications and experience, built a business based on great service and value, so please don’t devalue yourself and your business just to meet the needs of one customer who’d quite happily go to your competition to save a dollar.

Learn more: Building a business budget

My suggestions


  • Do your research. Are your expectations realistic?
  • If your budget is tight, is there another option that will give you a similar outcome?
  • Are there finance options available so it’s not such a strain on your available cash flow?
  • Don’t get stuck on the fact that you can’t have something now. You can start off small and work your way up.
  • Cheap doesn’t always equal good.
  • Have a business plan and a budget. This way you can plan and budget for business growth and spending.

Service Provider:

  • Not everybody is your ideal customer.
  • The customer who pays your lowest discounted rate could be the one who’s the most difficult to work with. They’re happy to pay your budget price, but expect nothing less than your premium service.
  • Don’t always discard the low paying customer – there may be additional work coming at your standard rate so you may be willing to accommodate a little at the beginning of the relationship.
  • If a customer can’t afford your platinum service, do you have another service that you could offer? This gets their foot in the door and you can work up to other services as their business grows.
  • Could you offer a payment plan so the customer can afford the higher value service without the immediate hit to their cash flow?

Learn more: Cash flow is King

We all know the saying, “You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.” In my experience with bookkeeping, we’ve often had to fix up the accounts of client’s who started with the cheapest bookkeeper – that often means lack of experience, lack of skill, shortcuts taken to cut down the time, or more time than necessary taken to get a bad job done.

So my final bit of advice would be it’s absolutely okay to pay a low price, and great if you can get excellent value for your money! Just be aware of what you’re paying for through clear communication between each party.