Building Your Event Supply Closet, Part 2: Upkeep Costs

As my event supply closet series continues, I want to discuss the hidden costs of items. We all clearly see the initial item cost but can forget to calculate the maintenance.

The hardest part of maintaining an event supply closet is upkeep of the items. It is possible to create a one-time budget entry to purchase an item, but no event item has only a one-time cost. Continued use translates into repair costs for general wear and tear.  

Sometimes the cost is not in dollars, but in time. Votive candle holders do not cost money to upkeep, but someone needs to spend time to clean them and remove any old wax after an event.
Before you commit to purchasing any event item, ask yourself:

  1. Do I have space to store the item properly?
  2. Do I have a budget to maintain the item in repair and upkeep costs?
  3. Do I have time to maintain the item?

With that in mind, I have created a sample supply list for small meetings and lunch gatherings, working within a $150 budget.

  • Low Vases

Initial Cost: $10 to $20, depending on choices
Upkeep Time and Cost: Minimum, cleaning vases between events
High floral pieces add drama but may prevent people from talking across the table. The floral cost to fill that high vase can be dramatic, as well. So instead, invest in a few small vases that you can dress up with either river rocks or one large, dramatic floral. If you line up three to five square arrangements on a table, it can make a big impact.

  • A Black Linen

Initial Cost: $100 for plain, black linen
Upkeep Time and Cost: $60, assuming it is professionally cleaned once per semester
Most events have a check-in or registration table and having one linen on hand to make a clean first impression can pay off in spades. To save on upkeep, you may be able to get by with cleaning the linen only once a year or wash it at home.

  • Cloth Napkins

Initial Cost: $20 to $40, depending on material and quantity
Upkeep Time and Cost: Average, will need to wash and iron between events
These can be provided to guests as a napkin or used as a placemat to elevate a boxed lunch. A little linen can go a long way, especially since many lunches come with only a thin paper napkin.
If you have some wiggle room, be sure to check out the spirit catalog from Georgia Tech Licensing to view small gift options such as pens and notepads, which can make a big impact at your meeting.