I did the “budget on the fly” with my new client. It worked great, we agreed upon a budget and I was able to easily quote a design fee that she and I were both comfortable with.

Then I took her furniture shopping and everything that she picked out is beautiful, but way over the budget that we established.

There is no way I can put this room together on budget with what she picked out.

I will easily be $25,000 short! What do I do?


Create two parallel budgets, hers and yours.

For Plan A (your side of the budget), select pieces that fit within the set financial limits. Try to find the right look and get as close as you can to the high end pieces that she wants to buy.

Then create a Plan B budget (your client’s budget). This version will itemize the pieces that she wants.

Present both budget plans to her and ask which one she wants to go with. You can reassure her that her choices are wonderful, she will be happy every day when she looks at them and they will make her room even more beautiful and more personal.

Which plan she chooses is up to her. You are not invested in either outcome, and they both work.

What is the reason for all this?

As a designer you need to stay within in the established budget, and do what you said you would do, however, your client can spend more if she wants.

Be very careful not to step in and try to be in charge of her money or her spending, as that is up to her. You may believe that you are a good judge of what should be spent, but this is not your role in this situation. Taking on this responsibility almost always results in lower overall budgets, less satisfied clients, and less money in your pocket.

You are in charge of being a “good steward” of the approved budget and that is all.

On the other side, you are also charged with the responsibility of exposing her to more choices, and offering even better quality pieces, so she has the opportunity to accept.

If she wants to go over the established budget and buy some extra wonderful things, she can. Use this mindset and you both will benefit.

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