What Is a Business Budget?

Definition & Examples of a Business Budget

A business budget estimates an organization's revenue and expenses over a specific period of time.

Learn more about how a business budget works and get an example of one.

What Is a Business Budget?

A business budget provides an accurate picture of expenditures and revenues and should drive important business decisions such as whether to increase marketing, cut expenses, hire staff, purchase equipment, and improve efficiencies in other ways. It also outlines your organization's financial and operational goals, so it may be thought of as an action plan that helps you allocate resources, evaluate performances, and formulate plans.

How a Business Budget Works

The basic process of planning a budget involves listing your business's fixed and variable costs on a monthly basis and then deciding on the allocation of funds to reflect goals.

Businesses often use special types of budgets to assess specific areas of operation. A cash flow budget, for example, projects your business's cash inflows and outflows over a certain period of time. Its main use is to predict your business's ability to take in more cash than it pays out.

Most businesses have fixed costs that are independent of sales revenue, such as:

  • Building or office eases or mortgage costs 
  • Loan payments (if using debt financing)
  • Insurance
  • Vehicle leases (or loan payments if the vehicle is purchased)
  • Equipment (machinery, tools, computers, etc.)
  • Payroll (if employees are on salary)
  • Utilities such as landline phone and internet charges 

Variable costs increase or decrease according to the level of business activity. Examples include:

  • Contractors' wages or commissions (for salespeople)
  • Utilities such as electricity, gas, or water that increase with activity 
  • Raw materials
  • Shipping and delivery costs
  • Advertising (can be fixed or variable)
  • Maintenance and repair of equipment

It is important to be realistic with your budget projections. If in doubt, be conservative and overestimate your expenses and underestimate your revenues. It is particularly difficult if you are starting a new business and have no previous year's budget figures to guide your estimates. In this case, it is typically much easier to estimate expenses than revenues.

As the budget year progresses the estimates should be updated monthly with actual figures, enabling you to check the accuracy of your forecasts. Note that there often are radical differences between actual and projected revenues and expenses due to unforeseen business circumstances and/or changing business and economic cycles, such as:

  • Gaining or losing a major client
  • Having to purchase or replace expensive equipment
  • An increase in rent
  • Hiring employees
  • An increase in competition
  • Changes in the tax code

Do I Need a Business Budget?

If you own a business, then you need a budget.

A budget is an essential part of a business plan and is necessary for starting a new business. It plays an important role in determining your start-up and operating costs. Once your business is established, budgeting becomes a regular task that normally occurs on a quarterly or annual basis.

Without a budget, you may not know how your business is performing.

Having a comprehensive budget is a requirement for obtaining business loans from financial institutions or seeking equity funding from investors.

Example of a Business Budget Template

A simple business budget template includes expenses common to most small businesses. You can use and modify a template as required to suit your own business, filling out your own information where applicable. Your completed budget might look something like this:

Income Actual Budget Difference
Operating Income      
1st Quarter Sales $34,300.00 $35,000.00 -$700.00
2nd Quarter Sales $35,250.00 $35,000.00 $250.00
3rd Quarter Sales $31,300.00 $30,000.00 $1,300.00
4th Quarter Sales $27,100.00 $25,000.00 -$900.00
Total Operating Income $127,950.00 $125,000.00 $2,950.00
       
Non-Operating Income      
Interest $650.00 $600.00 $50.00
Other $1020.00 $500.00 $520.00
Total Non-Operating Income $1,670.00 $1,100.00 $570.00
       
Total Income $129,620.00 $126,100.00 $3,520.00
       
Expenses Actual Budget Difference
Operating Expenses      
Rent $12,000.00 $12,000.00 -
Insurance $2,500.00 $2,500.00 -
Electricity $1,150.00 $1,100.00 $50.00
Gas $1,250.00 $1,100.00 $150.00
Internet $600.00 $600.00 -
Phone $2,200.00 $1,900.00 $300.00
Travel $2,300.00 $2,100.00 $200.00
Salaries, Wages, and Benefits $66,000.00 $60,000.00 $6,000.00
Advertising $1,200.00 $1,000.00 $200.00
License Fees $500.00 $500.00 -
Office Supplies $430.00 $500.00 -$70.00
Shipping and Delivery $850.00 $1,000.00 -$150.00
Maintenance and Repairs $1,100.00 $1,500.00 -$400.00
Other $800.00 $1000.00 -$200.00
Total Operating Expenses $92,880.00 $86,800.00 $6,080.00
       
Non-Operating Expenses      
Smartphones $1,800.00 $2,000.00 -$200.00
Tablets $1,500.00 $2,000.00 -$500.00
Total Non-Operating Expenses $3,300.00 $4,000.00 -$700.00
       
Total Expenses $96,180.00 $90,800.00 $5,380.00
       
Net Income $33,440.00 $35,300.00 -$1,900.00

Many budgets also include actual figures going back several quarters or years as a comparison for what is being projected for the upcoming quarter or year. Most accounting software has options for budgeting/forecasting.

Key Takeaways

  • A business budget estimates an organization's revenue and expenses over a specific period of time and drives important business decisions. 
  • Businesses often use special types of budgets to assess specific areas of operation. 
  • Budgets help companies understand start-up and operating costs and track performance.
  • Most budgets include fixed and variable income and expenses.