Clever cash-saving tips for year-end functions

Having a year-end function can be a fun way to end the year, and a way to thank staff and clients for their efforts. But it can also be expensive.

Rudi van der Vyver, ceo, Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI), shares some tips for how to scale-back the cost of your year-end function.

“Companies have to start thinking about these things in terms of objectives,” he says. “No cfo of any company wants to spend money on a party for a party’s sake. There must be a benefit for the company.” 

Viewing year-end functions this way is useful, because, according to Van der Vyver, it allows companies to think creatively about achieving the same objective, be it improving staff morale, or strengthening relationships with existing clients.

Time and space

Van der Vyver says that a trend at the moment, especially for medium-sized businesses, is to cut costs by looking at different times of year to host these types of events. “What we’re seeing is a move away from year-end functions, to start of year functions. Or the events are held earlier in the year, during September.”

By moving the dates out, companies can save a lot just because they are not coming up against the higher demand for venues, and the limited availability at that time of year. “Why not try aligning the function with the financial year-end, or host a Christmas in July party instead. The prices will be reduced, money can be saved this way without having to cancel the party.”

Changing the type of event can also reduce costs. “Instead of doing the big evening or night-time dinner party, why not hold your event during the day? It can still be fun. You can have a carnival theme, for example, but hosting it during the day means you can do hot dogs and popcorn, instead of having proper caterers. And people tend to drink less during the day, so there’s money saving there as well.”

Companies also don’t have to have their year-end events at function venues, and can often save money by looking for alternative ways to achieve the same goal. “These venues often have fixed costs that they need to cover. Maybe try approaching a school and asking if you can use their soccer field; there’s a lot of space and will probably charge a lot less than an actual venue.”


Alcohol can end up costing a lot, but not providing alcohol can often make the event seem like a non-starter. So where are the opportunities to cut those costs?

Having an open bar can be problematic, Van der Vyver points out, because staff may exploit it without realising what they are doing. “Corporates often have a tab for the evening, and if one person comes in and orders 10 trays of shots, there goes half the tab for everyone else.”

He suggests instead trying a voucher system, where each attendee receives a certain amount of drinks vouchers. These vouchers can be shared, or given away, and any extra drinks will need to be paid for by the staff member. “This fits better with the objective of improving staff morale, or unity because everyone, from the cleaners to the executives, receives the same number of vouchers. It seems fair, and allows everyone to participate.”

He also says corporates should not be shy of negotiating with their suppliers. “Specify exactly what you want provided. Don’t go for the expensive labels if you’re trying to cut costs.” Van der Vyver also suggests that instead of paying the per-bottle price, negotiate for a per-crate price. “If you’re getting wine, for example, pre-order big volumes and negotiate a discounted price. Also, try and negotiate a service fee instead of a mark-up on the alcohol itself.”

He also points out that not going big on alcohol spend can actually be a more responsible approach. “Remember, if a company takes employees off site and provides alcohol, and something happens to that employee on the way home, the company is liable. This is actually a duty of care concern for many companies,” he says. “Communicate with your employees, say that the company does not want to encourage drinking and driving, so instead of making alcohol readily available, there will be a cash bar, and a voucher for one beer, or a glass of wine, etc. And announce this commitment during the event, remind staff members not to drink and drive, encourage them to use Uber to get home, or to call someone.”

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