How to create a budget

Are my business expenses too high? Will I have enough money to grow my business? Am I making a profit?

When you are asking these questions of your business, a budget has the answers. A budget will tell you how to direct your money to where it’s needed most.

How to create a budget

There are a number of things you’ll need to know to put a budget in place:

Time Frame

Choose a time frame for your budget. Whether you choose monthly, quarterly or yearly budgeting will depend on the needs of your business.

Fixed costs

Enter all your fixed expenses like your salary, rent, insurance and any other known costs.

Tip: When starting out and deciding on your salary, find a balance. Consider what you would pay someone else to manage your business and pay yourself that amount.

Variable costs

Enter all your variable expenses like utilities, direct costs of materials and staff wages. If in doubt, estimate the maximum amount you expect to spend on these expenses over the budget period.

Tip: If you can, turn your variable costs into fixed costs. It may end up saving you money and will become an expense that you know to expect.

Income

Enter your expected business income over the budget period. Once your business has been running for a while you can review past periods to have a good idea of what income to expect.

Tip: Be conservative when predicting your income – give yourself some wriggle room in case things change.

Actuals

Record the actual income and expenses during the budget period. Then, calculate the difference between your budgeted amount and actual income and expenses.

Analysis

Throughout the budget period make sure you keep an eye on how you’re tracking against your budget. If you’re spending too much, look for ways to cut costs and avoid spending money on anything that isn’t essential to running your business. If you have extra funds, look at how to reduce debt, create a financial safety net or grow your business.

Tip: analysing your budget will help you find seasonal patterns. You can see if decisions like changing prices or adding a new product or service, are the right ones.

Budgeting and forecasting

Financial reports or statements are crucial for tracking the financial health of your business. They're also important for setting goals, making sound business decisions and obtaining finance.

While you may rely on an accountant or bookkeeper to prepare your financial statements, always check them carefully for accuracy and ask questions. With your knowledge of your business and some financial training, you can ensure that your statements are up to date and accurate.

Ensure that you have a basic bookkeeping system set up to ensure you keep track of all your financial situation.

Budgeting vs forecasting

Your budget is your planned revenue and spending, and allows you to allocate funds for specific purposes that you often know in advance. Consider preparing a budget quarterly or yearly.

A forecast may occur on a more frequent basis (often monthly). The figures used in the forecast predict past and current trends in your financial statements. A forecast can give you a more realistic measure of where your business is heading and can help you to avoid problems before they occur.

Cash flow forecasting is one of the most important forecasting tools for business and can also help you keep on top of your bills. It is very useful when seeking finance, as it shows lenders you have the capacity to pay them back.

Free financial templates

Start preparing your own financial reports with these free templates:

Start up costing

If you're thinking of starting a business, a start-up costing sheet can help determine how much money you need to start. This can help you find the right amount of finance and determine how much money you need to invest from other sources. You can prepare your start-up costing well before you start your business to can give you a more realistic idea of what it will cost.

Cash flow

A cash flow statement can be one of the most important tools in managing your finances. It tracks all the money flowing in and out of your business and shows payment cycles or seasonal trends that require additional cash. This cycle or pattern can help you plan ahead and make sure you always have money to cover your payments.

Profit and loss

A profit and loss or income statement lists your sales and expenses on a monthly, quarterly or yearly basis. It tells you how much profit you're making or how much money you are losing. It can also help you develop sales targets and an appropriate sales price for goods/services by using the break-even, profit margin and mark up calculators. Our analyse your finances page has more details about these financial tools.

Balance sheet

A balance sheet is a snapshot of your business on a particular date. It lists all of your assets and liabilities and works out your net assets. A balance sheet can also show your working capital (money to fund day-to-day operations) and business liquidity (how quickly you can pay your current debts). This indicates the financial health of your business.

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