What is a budget?
This article is for educational purposes and does not constitute financial, legal, or tax advice. For specific advice applicable to your business, please contact a professional.
Financial forecasting is an extremely important task for businesses. In order to ensure their operational expenses and debts are covered by their income, companies need to keep a close eye on their finances. Careful year-on-year planning ensures that businesses are able to invest in making their operations more efficient and building a framework for profitability.
None of this would be possible without budgeting.
Examples of a business budget
Businesses of all shapes and sizes need to budget. In its simplest form, a budget is a forecast of revenue (income) and expenses over a given period. This may be a month, a quarter or a financial year.
However, there are also several specific types of budget that help to ensure the financial health of a business in slightly different ways.
The master budget typically forms the foundation for all other company budgeting. The master budget usually encompasses the whole financial year, and includes projections for revenues, operational expenses, sales and capital investments.
An operational budget includes all the money spent and acquired in the company’s day-to-day operations. It will cover revenue from sales and the Cost Of Goods Sold (COGS).
Some organisations such as non-profits and government departments have a static budget for the year. This means that they have a fixed income for the year and may also have fixed expenses. A static budget is not influenced by outputs like production or sales.
However, that’s not to say that only non-profits can use static budgets. Many companies use a static budget as a baseline and make adjustments at the end of the year depending on whether more or less is needed.
Cash flow budget
A cash flow budget helps to determine how much money is generated by a business in a given time period. It tracks income from sales and other revenue streams by closely monitoring accounts receivables. It also tracks operational expenses, debt repayments and other outgoings to ensure that there is a safe operating margin.
Why is budgeting essential for businesses?
Without careful budgeting, SMEs can easily lose track of the flow of money into and out of their companies. This could result in unpaid debts, unnecessary fees and charges, or soured relationships with vendors.
- allows businesses to invest money in equipment and assets that could aid growth (capital investment)
- ensures that businesses are saving for unforeseen expenses, thereby insulating themselves from risk
- ensures that payment can be made to vendors and suppliers, helping the business to maintain a good business relationship with them
- aids cash flow and helps businesses to avoid high-interest borrowing like bridging loans or business credit cards
- enables businesses to set budgetary goals in order to manage their money more efficiently
Find out more about small business budgeting.
Frequently asked questions about budget
What is the difference between a static and flexible budget plan?
In a static budget, income and expenditure figures are unchanged throughout the given time period. Regardless of changes that occur to the company’s finances, the budget remains the same. Flexible budgets, on the other hand, can change in line with fluctuations in sales, production volumes, or external circumstances.
What are budget variances?
A budget variance is the difference that can arise between a fixed budget and the real-terms results that a company’s finances experience. If the budget ends up being greater than accounted for it is classed as favorable. If the budget is less than expected, it is classed as unfavorable.
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