Surviving Budget Cuts

'International Money Pile in Cash and Coins' photo (c) 2011, epSos .de - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

This year was another brutal year for my tech budget. Last budget year, I had roughly 50% of the previous year. This year, I have about 60% of that amount. Which means that I’m now limited to about 35% of what we had two years ago. That’s a pretty significant cut. And we’re expected to do more than last year as well.

Based on discussions I’ve had recently with several other TDs, I suspect many of you are in the same place. It’s not a fun place to be in, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being pretty discouraged about it for a few weeks.

But a few things have changed my attitude about this situation (for the better) and I thought I’d share them with you, as you may find it encouraging. 

Sharpen Your Pencil

There is no better time than during budget reductions to get really good at budgeting, cost saving and smart projections. I’ve been able to save significant amounts of money by spending some money over the last few years.

I regularly point that out to leadership, reminding them that I’m not just “spending money,” I’m making investments that will return value in cost and labor savings. That makes it easier to retain budget items, or request special expenditures.

Also, smart savings can mean opportunities for stretching your funds. For example, last year I saved a ton of budget in our repairs & maintenance and contractors funds. I was able to roll that into some end of the year equipment upgrades. 

Gain Clarity

When our personal budgets get crunched, we have to make decisions as to what we can and cannot continue to do. Tech is the same way. It’s tough to carry out a campus-wide systems upgrade with a budget that’s 35% of what it was before we started upgrading. 

So I’m pressing leadership to prioritize what we’ll be upgrading. For me, it doesn’t matter all that much; I just need to know what the key issues are. We will get to it all eventually, but it will now take 3-5 years instead of 2-3. 

Budget cut time is a great time to have a discussion with your leadership as to what is really important. Even when fully funded, we can’t do everything. With smaller budgets, we simply must let some things go undone. But don’t decide that yourself. Press leadership to make those calls--it’s why they get paid the big bucks. Plus, then they gain a deeper understanding of what you’re dealing with.

Remember Who Is In Charge

My mentor, Roy, said something to me a while back that has really stuck with me and encouraged me. He reminded me that Jesus is my ultimate employer, and He will ultimately take care of me.

I apply that same line of thinking to the budget cuts. The Bible says God owns the cattle on a thousand hills. A few weeks ago, we studied the passage where Jesus fed 5,000 men (plus women & kids) with a few loaves of bread and a fish or two.

When the disciples started complaining that they didn’t have any food to give the people, Jesus challenged them saying (in effect), “Really? We don’t have any food? What about those loaves and fishes?” And somehow, in the miraculous way that only He can work, He fed the entire crowd and they had leftovers.

So I’m learning to not worry too much about what my total budget number is. Sure it’s less than last year, but I had leftovers last year even though I had less to start with than the year before.

I have to believe that somehow Jesus will take what we have and feed the 5,000--or in this case, give us what we need. How is that going to work? I have no idea. But as Mother Theresa once said, “We don’t need to know, we are people of faith.” 

What’s your budget situation like this year? Are you seeing your production budget go up or down?

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