7 min read

Budget Variance Definition, Primary Causes, Types

Posted On August 08, 2023 By Anubhav Chakraborty

7 min read

Understanding the causes of budget variance can help you figure out why your performance numbers differ from your projections and what those differences mean for your business. You may also find that your revenue isn’t high enough to sustain your business, causing you to increase your fixed costs via loans. We’ll explore a few ways that you can present this data in a more meaningful way, but the main thing to know is that you’re simply looking for the difference between the two data points. Subtraction is the way to find these differences, which can be positive or negative. We’ll be covering the types of variances that exist further down in this guide.

Checking your progress is crucial; a valuable tool called variance analysis can help you do that. Variance analysis can be shown in several different forms, but one of the most useful is the budget vs. actual report. Below, I have added green highlighting to the income values when they are negative, as this means I earned more than I expected.

  • The introduction of new taxes or increases in old ones also will have an adverse effect on the budget.
  • The increased income that Mark can expect and his decreased expenses (if he can maintain his resolve) can finance the project and still leave him with a bit of savings in his money market account.
  • Budget variances are calculated by subtracting the actual values for each line item from the budgeted value for that line item.
  • Building a budget for your business is an excellent step towards building a successful company.

To increase accuracy, more organizations are taking advantage of technology, such as our Yooz automation software. Our software automates the processing, analyzing, and storing of data that determine actual versus budget variance via customizable reports. In cases where there are multiple sources of revenue, it is important to identify the budgeted numbers and actual numbers for each source.

What Is a Budget Variance?

In this case, loans are used to supplement cash flow and ensure that you can still make payroll and satisfy your debts. If you notice this trend where revenue is lower than profits, it may mean it’s time to lay off staff, close offices or take out a loan before it’s too late and your business ends up going bankrupt. Often, expenses are broken down into multiple types so that the company can see where the variances are occurring. However, expenses can be broken down into categories, which you can then analyze on their own to better understand what your business is spending money on. You may also have projected $10,000 in advertising expenses but spent only $5,000. You can tally all of the costs for these categories for your actual and budget data and then calculate the variance for each.

  • A budget variance is the difference between the amount budgeted for revenue and expenses and the actual amount received or expended.
  • First, determine what program or method you will use to track your budget variances.
  • In addition, variances are relative to an organization’s key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Historically financial modeling has been hard, complicated, and inaccurate.

Or maybe the expected number of customers was correct but they were generating less income per month than forecasted. This budget variance analysis can provide useful insight into places you might need to dig in further like your customer lifetime value (LTV) for example. Budget variance refers to the differences between the figures you projected in your budget and your business’s actual performance. You can calculate variance for any of the line items in your budget, such as revenue, fixed costs, variable costs, and net profit. Because the process is both quicker and more exact, it creates far more accurate data and therefore improved insight and guidance into the cause of the budget variance. This in turn helps organizations quickly forecast future spending based on actual previous outcomes.

Budget variances and forecasting

Taking the time to identify both favorable and unfavorable variances, uncovering root causes, and taking corrective action can go a long way in helping your business reach its full potential. The purpose of a budget variance analysis isn’t simply to identify variances, but to understand the root cause of those variances. Variance analysis is essential to running a successful business because it helps business owners and leaders https://bookkeeping-reviews.com/ understand why there are differences between budgeted and actual performance. An unfavorable variance occurs when actual performance falls short of budgeted performance in a way that is detrimental to the company. In this blog, we’ll discuss what a budget variance analysis is, why it’s essential, and how to conduct one. We’ll also cover common mistakes made during the process so you can ensure your analyses are accurate.

Final report

This is known as budget variance, and it’s an essential budgeting concept for business owners to understand. You can even create your own budget vs actual variance analysis template based on your business’ data to reuse in the future. Actuals vs budget variance are crucial for businesses because budgets are forecasts, allowing you to “hope” for expenses that can change throughout the year.

But it’s important to understand what’s causing the variance(s) no matter whether they’re good or bad for your company. Budget variance analysis helps you uncover the drivers behind operations. And, if you’re noting unfavorable budget variances you want to determine the source ASAP. Budget variance refers to the numerical difference between the planned budget and the actual expenses incurred. Essentially, it measures whether you spent more or less than what you had originally planned for a specific category or overall budget. By analyzing budget variances, you can identify areas where you exceeded expectations or fell short, allowing you to make necessary adjustments to improve your financial planning strategies.

Positive vs. negative budget variance

A negative variance occurs when the actual amount exceeds the budgeted amount, whereas a positive variance is vice versa. This refers to the difference between budgeted variable cost to actual variable cost. A positive variance would mean that the variable cost for the financial year was much lower than the projected cost, and https://quick-bookkeeping.net/ vice versa for a negative variance. Need help understanding your budget variances or the difference between a balance sheet vs P&L or cash flow forecasts? Hire an outsourced financial controller that is dedicated to helping businesses do just that. As you can see, budget variances are frequently caused by external factors.

One source of budget variance is the need for more licenses or seats of a specific software tool throughout the contract. This happens when hiring cadences increase or new projects get underway. This is another point where a successfully negotiated supplier relationship can benefit when you realize your needs have changed. After three months, Mark decides to look at his budget variances to make sure he’s on track.


You can then choose to redirect this budget into other areas that drive revenue like ads or content marketing. To illustrate, imagine you’ve budgeted $1,000 a month for office expenses. https://kelleysbookkeeping.com/ Variable costs (things like utilities and advertising) are by nature less predictable, and so as companies scale it becomes more and more likely that you’ll experience budget variances.

Many entrepreneurs will be familiar with your classic budget to actual in monthly reporting. It helps to add some conditional formatting to quickly hone in on the most important areas to dissect. If you have a high budget variance, that means you’re using less accurate information to make strategic choices. Budgets are forward-looking tools that use financial modeling to predict your business’s future.


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