Carrie Wintle is a full-time college student and intern who absolutely knows how to create a winning pageant budget!

Not everyone has an unlimited pageant budget.  I’ve worked with many titleholders who have successfully captured the crown on a strict pageant budget.  You can win a title without going in debt.  So, here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Develop Your Pageant Budget First: Create a spreadsheet and list how much money you will definitely have for your competition.  “Definite funds” consists of money you definitely know you’ll have to spend on your pageant prep.  These funds will be used to pay for items that increase your ability to get top scores at the pageant.  Include sponsor money in this category only if you are 100% sure that you’ll receive the money promised.  Also, list money you reasonably expect to receive from others.  These “flexible funds” include money that you may or may not actually receive.  Flexible funds should be used to pay for “extras” that won’t necessarily impact your scores.  By separating funds in your pageant budget, you’ll know how to strategically use your funds to positively impact your scores.

2. Investigate All the Competition Costs: Another important aspect of your budget is a complete list of all the costs related to competing.  While you know what the entry fee is, are there other mandatory costs to compete in the pageant?  Is there a fee for a required ad page in the program book?  Are there required pieces of competition wardrobe, such as an opening number outfit that you must to purchase?  Do you have to sell or purchase a minimum number of tickets for the pageant?  Are there optional competition categories you’re interested in and if so, what is the cost for those categories?  By investigating all the potential costs of the pageant, you won’t have any surprises on your way to the crown.

3. Control Your Wardrobe Expenses: While shopping is fun, this is the #1 area where contestants over spend.  You can make a huge impact on your ability to win by using a little creativity and self-discipline to control your wardrobe expenses.  Make sure you have a specific amount in mind that you want to spend on the outfits in your competition wardrobe.  Then when you go shopping, let the salesperson know what you’re looking for and mention your budget for that item.  Most reputable pageant boutiques will be able to present several options for you within your budget.  The secret to controlling wardrobe expenses is to start early and discipline yourself to find options within your budgeted amount.

4. Invest in Pageant Coaching Wisely: The most common mistake contestants make is to go over budget on their wardrobe and have nothing left to develop competition skills.  Your pageant coaching budget should include all aspects of the competition. Make sure you include walking lessons and interview coaching. Since these are the two areas most contestants cut corners, they’re your best change to outscore other contestants. If you won the swimsuit award at your last pageant but bombed in the interview room, spend more on learning to answer pageant interview questions and less on a personal trainer.  If you can’t afford private coaching invest in DIY “study-at-home” materials.  You may be the most beautiful girl at the pageant, but if you don’t have the skills of an elite contestant, you won’t leave with the crown!