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Budgeting vs forecasting - an overview

Planning for the future, developing plans, and aligning goals throughout the whole business are all made easier with budgeting and forecasting. In particular during times of uncertainty, both procedures are essential parts of every company's growth journey. Businesses use budgeting and financial forecasting as tools to develop a strategy for where management wants to take the company and determine if it is headed in the right direction. Despite the fact that budgeting and financial forecasting are frequently used in tandem, the two concepts differ significantly.

What is budgeting?

A more comprehensive definition of budgeting includes the act of making a plan for how you will spend your money, as well as the financial plan of an organisation that represents its goals and how it expects to reach them. The budget should take into account both the current state of affairs and any modifications to plans, such as new goods or services or a modification to a policy, in order to build a plan that will be useful for the current year. Budgeting for a year involves more than simply money. By making plans for future spending and change, a working budget aids an organisation in achieving its objectives.

A budget is a plan outlining goals and objectives for a specific time period, often one year. The financial status, cash flow, and goals of a company are represented in the budget. Depending on the frequency with which management wishes to update the data, a company's budget is often re-evaluated annually. Budgeting establishes a baseline against which actual outcomes may be compared to ascertain how they differ from anticipated performance.

Characteristics of the budgeting process

  • It is a projection of revenues and expenses.

  • It is a projection of future cashflows.

  • It shows anticipated reduction in debt.

  • Comparing a budget to actual outcomes will show the differences between the two figures.

  • Preparing an annual budget typically takes three to six months to complete.

  • When completed, the budget's comprehensive financial records will include the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow statement.

  • Management can utilise the measurement metrics in the budget to evaluate financial progress.

  • Finalising employee compensation plans usually happens during budgeting.

  • External parties are often not given access to the budget.

What is forecasting?

Forecasting is the practice of examining past trends in order to make future business predictions based on the most recent actuals for your firm. By analysing past data, financial forecasting makes predictions about a company's future financial results. Using financial forecasting, management teams may make predictions based on historical financial data. Forecasting is often done over a short period of time and concentrates on the significant expense and income line items. Financial forecasting does not examine the discrepancy between financial projections and actual performance, in contrast to budgeting.

Characteristics of the forecasting process

  • It is a tool used to determine how businesses should distribute their finances for the future.

  • Forecasts typically include a summary of projected income and costs.

  • Forecasted figures are used to update key performance measures, which ultimately gives an insight into how a company is doing.

  • It is often updated, possibly monthly or quarterly anytime there is a change in operations, inventories, or the business strategy.

  • Using financial forecasting, a management team may respond right away to deviations based on the predicted facts. For example, forecasts for revenue may need to be modified if a client is lost to a rival.

  • It can be used to develop short-term and long-term solutions, for instance, a business could have quarterly or half-yearly sales predictions.

  • Following the release of financial statements, forecasting is frequently carried out, typically after a month-end or quarter-end closing cycle.

  • High-level forecasts for publicly traded companies must be made available to investors.

In summary, the goal of budgeting is to determine how much money your organisation will need to spend in order to attain the desired corporate and financial goals. On the other hand, forecasting entails proactively reviewing the budget and making predictions about future company outcomes by utilising both historical and current data.

Our financial advisory specialist team can work with you and your business on your budgets or financial forecasts.

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