Retaining a reserve of buds or meristems for recovery from occasional damage is widespread among plants. Yet possession of a bud bank is not ubiquitous. Presumably there are costs to maintaining buds and for some species these costs outweigh the benefits. This paper has two themes. We estimate carbon costs of constructing and maintaining buds, and review other costs and benefits of buds in different situations. Second, we develop a framework for thinking quantitatively about the costs and benefits. Given available data and some reasonable assumptions, the absolute carbon costs of buds seem small. So the fact that many species do not maintain bud banks suggests that the benefits of buds may be negligible for them. Alternatively, buds may carry other costs. Costs of bud protection or of reserves that are coordinated with buds seem likely candidates.