difference between budget and forecast

In short, a business always needs a forecast to reveal its current direction, while the use of a budget is not always necessary. Creating a budget forecast is fairly straightforward once a budget is in place. This makes a budget forecast an extremely useful tool for performing monitoring and a common tool used in Corporate Performance Management (CPM). The budget allows individuals or businesses to allocate their resources effectively and ensure they don’t overspend in any area. A business always needs a forecast to reveal its current direction, while a budget is not always necessary.

GoCardless helps you automate payment collection, cutting down on the amount of admin your team needs to deal with when chasing invoices. Find out how GoCardless can help you with ad hoc payments or recurring payments. Let’s say that by the end of last year, your revenue was increasing at a rate of 2% month-over-month (MoM), and in your last month, you made $250k in revenue. The “Actual” column stays blank until the year-end when you review performance. Filling in those numbers will allow you to see whether you achieved your target. Teams should review the budget regularly and compare it with actuals, making each department responsible for any variances that occur.

Related Differences

The main purpose of a budget is to ensure that spending remains within means and aligns with financial objectives. As we mentioned above, you don’t want to waste time budgeting for financial and business growth that will never really happen. A forecast helps you ground your predictions in reality by taking past financial growth and projecting that growth in the future. Forecasting, on the other hand, projects where a company is headed based on the latest available information. While budgets are static and usually prepared for a year or longer periods, forecasts are updated monthly or quarterly. You will compare your business’s budget to actual results to determine the extent to which you’re varying from expected performance.

How to do budgeting and forecasting in Excel?

  1. In a worksheet, enter two data series that correspond to each other:
  2. Select both data series.
  3. On the Data tab, in the Forecast group, click Forecast Sheet.
  4. In the Create Forecast Worksheet box, pick either a line chart or a column chart for the visual representation of the forecast.

And forecasting helps a company estimate its financial future using historical data. Budgets and forecasts serve distinct purposes, catering to different needs within financial planning and management. The former provides a detailed plan for resource allocation, while the latter offers a forward-looking estimate of financial performance based on currently available information.


On the other hand, a budget may include targets that are simply unattainable or for which market conditions have changed so much that it is not wise to pursue them. If a budget is to be used, it should be updated more frequently than once a year to reflect current market realities. This is particularly important in a rapidly changing market where the assumptions used to create a budget may become outdated within a few months.

  • The key difference between a budget and a forecast is that a budget is a plan for where the business expects to go, while a forecast states its actual expectations for results.
  • Budgets and forecasts play a crucial role in companies’ financial well-being during every stage of the business lifecycle.
  • Evaluating and selecting planning, budgeting and forecasting software is a complex task.
  • It is always helpful to understand the details on what sales forecasting is, to better plan projected budgets.

A budget helps in control processes, for example, comparing the actual outcome with the planned outcome, and if there is any deviation, necessary actions are taken to prevent unforeseen expenses. In a normal forecast, historical data is used to make a prediction on the future based on given assumptions. In the case of the budget forecast, historical data is not referenced directly because the budgeted values are being forecasted. It is often compared to actual results and accompanied by variance analysis that explains any deviations from expectations. A budget is typically a static financial plan, meaning they are typically only updated once a year. Budgeting is a crucial component of financial planning, and businesses and companies that neglect to budget often find themselves in financial trouble.

Difference Between Budget vs Forecast

As a reminder, all financial models rely on inputs that are then used as a basis for the calculations in the model. There are several approaches to budgeting that can be used, adopting the best one takes thought. Creating your forecasting may seem dauting but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Check out our list of the top 10 forecasting apps for small businesses, or learn how to build your own forecast with our FREE spreadsheet template + guide. The unique part of virtual CFO services here at Say Yes To Profits is that we strategically use a budget and a rolling forecast to help our clients scale to 7-figures faster and smarter.

Learn how the real estate developer enhanced its core planning, forecasting and project management capabilities with IBM technology to drive even greater profitability. Accounting and forecasting were difficult in the early 20th century because they depended on laborious hand-written equations, ledgers and spreadsheets. The emergence of mainframe difference between budget and forecast computers in the 1960s and personal computers in the 1980s sped up the process. Software applications such as Microsoft Excel became widely popular for financial reporting. However, Excel programs and spreadsheets were prone to input errors and cumbersome when various departments or individuals needed to collaborate on a report.

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Forecasts tend to be more strategic than budgets, providing you with a roadmap of where your business expects to go based on historical data and business drivers. Thousands of people have transformed the way they plan their business through our ground-breaking financial forecasting software. Forecasting in business refers to the process of making predictions or estimations about future business outcomes, trends, and events based on available data, such as historical context. It involves analyzing past and present information to make informed projections about future performance. Budgets typically cover a variety of categories, including income, expenses, savings, and investments. The process of creating a budget involves estimating and projecting income from various sources, such as salaries, investments, or business revenue.

difference between budget and forecast

There are several financial forecasting methods, and each may give different results. The forecasting process above relies on the straight-line method, which assumes your company’s historical growth rate will stay the same. The budget also outlines goals for operating expenses, which add up to $2.8m.

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Its importance is even more relevant in today’s business environment where disruptive competitors are entering even the most tradition-bound industries. The purpose of forecasting is to estimate companies’ future financial well-being and make financial decisions based on the latest available information and trends. This activity also helps businesses allocate their budgets adequately and evaluate whether https://www.bookstime.com/ the business plan is achieved. Put simply, a budget is an outline of your company’s expectations for the upcoming financial period, usually one year. It’s essentially a summary of your goals, summing up where you want your company to be by the end of the given period. Budgets have a variety of features, including estimates of your revenue and expenses, expected debt reduction, and expected cash flows.

What are the 3 types of budgets?

  • Balanced Budget. A budget is deemed a balanced one if the expected government expenses equal the estimated government receipts during a given financial year.
  • Surplus Budget. The second of the three types of budgets are the surplus budget.
  • Deficit Budget.

Budgeting can be a good tool to use to help plan the future of the business; however a greater predictor of future behavior is past behavior. The purpose of investing time to create a financial forecast is to predict the future based upon certain assumptions. In short, a budget sets the company’s goals while a forecast defines its expectations. If you need help creating an accurate forecast, then download our free Goldilocks Sales Method whitepaper to project accurately. Another key difference is that a budget is a comprehensive plan that takes into account all the company’ expected sources of income and expenses, while a cash flow forecast is more focused on cash movements. A cash flow forecast helps businesses manage their cash flow by predicting when they will have cash available and when they may experience cash shortages.

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