I rarely talk about saving money.
I like to focus on abundance and flow of money over saving it because I was raised in a household that was very focused on saving money. We clipped coupons, shopped at K-mart, and as I got older, TJMaxx. My mom and her sisters would compare price tags and brag about who saved more when shopping (never mind that they bought a bunch of stuff they never wore – they saved money!)
When my mom visited me in Colorado one year she discovered Ross Dress for Less. Her perfect vacation was visiting three different locations in one weekend. So you get the picture.
I’ve transformed so many limits to be the kind of person who can place a deposit a retreat venue without fear, hire the support I need, and buy shirts full price with a personal shopper. In fact, every item bought at full price is an act of freedom for me, energetically speaking.
So this is why I don’t focus a lot on the ways to save money.
Yet when it comes to your retreat, there are some important things to know that can make all the difference. (I have an extensive bonus course included on this topic in my Retreat and Grow Rich program.)
I’ll cover my top 5 basic tips here.
#1 Be Open In Your City/ Country Search
Everyone wants to “wow” their participants with the ideal venue. A high-end experience set deep in nature yet convenient to the airport with all the amenities. And if the location name can sound exotic and desirable, even better.
Yet the pressure to “wow” can have you saying “wow” when you look at your checking account.
Don’t succumb to the internal pressure to impress people. And don’t attach to one specific location. Be open in your search for the perfect destination, and begin with 3-5 possibilities in mind.
In the event planning world, cities come in tiers. Tier 1 cities have major international airports, rarely require connecting flights, and have an abundance of venues and easy transportation. They also cost more (In the US, Chicago, New York, San Fran etc.). Tier 2 cities have smaller airports but still have quite a few major hotel chains, and are a bit more affordable (Charlotte, Austin, Baltimore, etc.). Tier 3 is even smaller and often have fewer hotels. They can be harder to get to and may or may not be more affordable than Tier 2 as they may have just one major venue that fits your bill so there is less competition for your business. They may be more likely to have a ‘retreat’ or ‘resort’ feel. (Tucson, Colorado Springs, etc.)
Tune in to what you are wanting to create in your retreat and the type of energy you’d like to be in (I have a meditation for this in my course that is AWESOME!) and then brainstorm a list of possible options. Don’t be afraid to choose a place that is easy on your budget even if it is not the ultimate. Maybe it’s off-season or a little off the beaten path. (Depending on the role the retreat is playing in your business and who it is for, convenience may or may not matter). Do not be attached to your original vision – the revised location that fits your budget will have its own special magic. They are coming for you, not the city.
#2 Avoid All Inclusive
Especially as you are just starting in out in hosting your retreats, I highly recommend that you charge for the RETREAT EXPERIENCE aka the TRANSFORMATION, not the travel. I know, I happen to be marketing an all-inclusive Italy Retreat right now, but I am seasoned at this, and it was years before I began offering this type of retreat, and it is still rare that I do.
When offering an all-inclusive retreat a few things happen:
1 | People forget incidental costs that add up and cut into their budget.
2 | You become a travel agent rather than a transformational retreat host.
3 | Your team will field more questions and take on more responsibility, which also cost you money.
4 | If you aren’t charging enough, people will come along for the ride without being committed to their transformation.
It is completely acceptable to charge for the retreat experience only, and letting your participants be responsible for the costs associated with their travel. I know you are generous and heart-centered and want to take care of everything for them – I get that. And in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t move the needle in a way that makes the extra cost make sense.
Note: This point includes the idea of renting a vacation rental and including the stay in the house as part of the retreat. There are often many hidden costs that go into this “Site Vibe,” like hiring a chef or transporting people to amenities. If you go this route, it is still OK to have them pay for their room on site.
#3 Negotiate Your Contract
It is rare that I have received a contract that didn’t require a few extra requests to make it work for me and my group. Venues will start with an initial proposal and expect you to negotiate. If you don’t negotiate, you will pay top dollar. (It’s like an open-air market in most third world countries). Again, I have a whole detailed module and contract cheat sheet, etc. on what to ask for when in my course. Some items have to do with liability and how to take care of yourself if your retreat doesn’t fill, which I won’t talk about here. Others are concrete cost savings. I’ll share my top negotiation points here.
1 | Do not pay a fee to rent your room – buy food instead. Most proposals will include a flat fee to rent the meeting room, AND an minimum spend on Food and Beverage (F&B). Ask them to waive your room rental fee. I’ve only paid this fee once, ever. You may up your F&B a bit to have this waived, though don’t offer this right away, as they may simply say yes. People will appreciate the food you spend money on, and will not know you spent $2K to rent the empty room.
2 | Reduce your attendee’s room rate. If you expect your retreat to be 12 people or more, you can guarantee a block of ten rooms (one for you and one for your team and 8 for your attendees). With this guarantee, you have the leverage to save your attendees (and you) money. I check online – trip advisor or kayak – to find the regular rate for the rooms. I like my room rate for my group to be AT LEAST $30/ night less than the published rate.
3 | Request discounts or complimentary incidentals. Ask for free wifi, a waived or reduce resort fee, parking fee, fee to drop a gift in your client’s rooms, etc. I always request a complimentary suite upgrade for myself at our retreats – it’s delightful. Some venues will comp your personal room if you meet your room block.
4 | Understand the terms of your guarantee and ask for leeway. If for some reason your retreat doesn’t fill on time, or your participants choose to stay offsite, for example, you will often be responsible for large fees. There are a handful of terms you can write into the agreement to ensure you don’t pay for things you don’t use. (Too much detail to walk through here but we do walk through it in our course). Be sure you understand your agreement.
5 | Be transparent and ask for what you’d like. If a venue is in a situation to really want your business, everything is negotiable. If they have lots of events that want the space at that time, they will be less likely to negotiate. Back to point one, choose the venue that wants to negotiate! Then ask away. Want to host a boat cruise off the dock, let them know and see what kind of rate you can lock in, or expenses they may discount because you are bringing more business. Need transportation to a local landmark? Negotiate that up front. Again, some will be happy to work with you. Others will not care.
Note: if you are hosting at a destination retreat center, they are more likely to have set packages and prices based on the season. These are usually well thought out and will make sense to you, though it still doesn’t hurt to ask for changes!
#4 Avoid Unnecessary Add-Ons
I’m all for having a divine experience. I love adding in little things that make an impact on the overall outcome of the retreat. Don’t hold back on bringing in that strategic support person or instructor, or buying tickets to that show that relates beautifully to the retreat you are hosting. If it furthers the transformation in a very strategic way, add it on. One client sent her participants to a spa mud bath in the middle of the first day, to help them realize that they don’t have to slave away to be their own boss. This was a strategic choice aligned with the outcome of the retreat.
So often I have clients who have held retreats in the past and made this cardinal mistake. They brought in a partner to co-teach, three different service providers to support the clients, added two tours and four gifts and three dinners. (I’m exaggerating a bit, but not much). Their costs skyrocketed.
And they did this for one reason – they weren’t confident in their own unique ability to hold space and create transformation. All of these outside things helped them feel more confident that what they were offering had value. Ironically, these outside things often diminish the perceived value the retreat leader provides. (People sense that you are selling the ‘things’ – things they could get on their own – rather than offering the transformation).
Net, one strategic add-on is great. Too many is, too many.
#5 Follow Your Alignment
At the end of the day, making choices that don’t align with your personal truth will always cost more. I recommend getting quiet on a regular basis to hear what is calling to your heart. You need to get skilled at discerning when your ego is making you feel as if you should do more, be more, spend more to make yourself look good to your clients. Decisions from this place are never aligned and will lead you astray. I’ve made them and speak from experience. They can add so much in expense with little payoff, and you don’t want to create an accidental charity.
When something is truly calling to you, and you feel it deep within that the additional expense will pay off for your clients, and it lights you up to imagine delivering, don’t hesitate to take on the expense (and it’s ok to insure your downside as well). The Universe is infinitely abundant. As with everything, start with that inner alignment and it will guide you well.
As a recap, the 5 ways to save money on your retreat are:
1 | Be Open With Your City/ Country Search
2 | Avoid All Inclusive
3 | Negotiate Your Venue
4 | Avoid Unnecessary Add-Ons
5 | Follow Your Alignment
Remember, we haven’t even touched on how to MAKE MONEY at your retreat! Keep in mind, if you follow the principles I teach in Retreat and Grow Rich, you can consistently have six-figure weekends. When you consider that picture, any mistake you might make in this area can be rectified in the end. Relax and have fun!
I hope this is helpful! Have a retreat story to share where you’ve learned your own money wisdom? Please share in the comments.