Drawing up a budget - checklist

Moodboard with 'Costs' in the centre

While you can't know what the future holds for your business, drawing up a budget can help your business anticipate and plan for the future. This helpful checklist will help you draw up your business budget, including what to put in it and who to involve in the process.

  • Involve the employees who will be responsible for the budget or who have information which will help you prepare realistic forecasts.
  • Take advice from your accountant if necessary. They can help with any complicated aspects of your budget such as directors' remuneration.
  • Collect historical information on sales and costs to base your budget on.
  • Consider what your sales plans are, how sales resources will be used, and any changes in the competitive environment you are aware of. For example, a new competitor entering your market or the upcoming launch of a new, improved product.
  • Prepare your sales forecast, taking into account any seasonal variations in activity.
  • Use historical information, and any changes in operations or prices, to budget for overheads and other fixed costs.
  • Consider the impact of inflation on your overheads and the prices you subsequently charge your customers.
  • Establish the relationship between variable costs and sales, and use your sales forecast to project variable costs.
  • Identify any non-operational cash flow, such as taxes and changes in financing.
  • Use your experience of payment patterns to forecast the timing of all income and expenditure.
  • Bring together the figures, using financial software or spreadsheets, in a cash flow budget.
  • Prepare any other budgets you will find useful, such as those for profit and loss and the balance sheet.
  • Ensure your budgets contain enough information to let you monitor the key performance indicators you use to manage the business.
  • Identify any significant areas of uncertainty, and if necessary prepare separate budgets for different scenarios.
  • Agree the budget with the individuals who will be responsible for it, and be prepared to amend it if your assumptions are unrealistic.
  • Regularly update budgets as actual figures become available and circumstances change.
  • Analyse the variations against your projections both positive and negative. What are the reasons for the differences? You may need to take action to avoid trouble or spot an opportunity for business growth.

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