Difference Between Budget and Forecast

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: May 31, 2023

       

Difference Between Budget and Forecast

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Introduction

The budget is a financial plan prepared by the business for its future budget activities. On the other hand, a forecast is simply a prediction about future inflows and outflows of the business organization. Both of these are financial planning tools that assist the senior management of the organization in the decision-making process.

Budget vs Forecast

A budget is a measured assumption of what a business needs to achieve. The characteristics are:

  • The budget is a detailed representation of future results, financial position, and revenues that management believes the business should achieve during a specific timeframe.
  • The budget may only be updated once per year, depending on how often senior management needs to change information.
  • The budget compares with actual results to determine differences from projected performance.
  • Management takes corrective measures to align actual results back with the budget.

A forecast is a prediction of what your business will actually achieve. Forecasts will generally be more strategic than budgets, providing you with a roadmap of where your business is expected to go based on historical data and business drivers. Generally, it's limited to income and expenses, and unlike budgets, forecasts are updated regularly (e.g., monthly or quarterly).

While forecasting is often used for short-term planning (when you're initially starting, you might even complete weekly forecasts), it can also be used over longer periods to help guide your company's long-term strategic goals. Forecasts tend not to describe the situation precisely, but rather provide an undeniable

Difference Between Budget and Forecast in Tabular Form

BASIS FOR COMPARISONBUDGETFORECAST
MeaningBudget implies an assessment of future patterns and results, based on the past and present information.The forecast sets targets.
What is it?It is the financial statement of a strategy or goal.It is the prediction of upcoming events or trends in business based on present business conditions.
TargetBudget sets targets.There are no objectives.
Update FrequencyYearly basisIn regular intervals
EstimatesWhat business aims to achieveWhat business is expected to achieve
Variance AnalysisYesNo

What is a Budget?

A budget is a detailed financial plan for a specific accounting year. It is a written document expressed in financial terms and represents the overall financial activities of a business organization. It is an ongoing process that may need to be revised, modified, updated, and monitored at regular intervals when there is a change in the general circumstances.

Budgets are prepared for the upcoming period, considering various objectives of the business organization such as vision, mission, goals, objectives, and strategies. In other words, the budget reflects the business plans, and therefore, plans should be finalized before budgets are prepared. The budget is prepared by the management of the enterprise, considering previous experiences.

After the preparation of budgets, they are used to direct and coordinate business activities to achieve the objectives. 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.

Budgets can be classified on various grounds, for example:

Master Budget

  • Based on flexibility: Fixed Budget and flexible budget.
  • Based on function: Sales Budget, production budget, purchase budget, cash budget, etc.
  • Based on time: Long-term, short-term, and current budget.

In simple terms, 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, summarizing where you intend your company to be by the end of the given period. Budgets have various components, including estimates of your revenue and expenses, projected debt reduction, and expected revenues.

You can compare your business's budget to actual results to determine the extent to which you deviate from projected performance. Managers may use this comparison to adjust your strategy to address any potential issues. Budgets are generally static and may only be updated on an annual basis, although sometimes budgeting is performed at more regular intervals.

Budgeting is the primary planning of an organization's finances across key areas. To do this, you need to draw up a budget.

The budget outlines your business's projected income, estimated expenses, and costs for day-to-day operations over a specific period. There are many benefits to budgeting, but the most important one is that it is a surefire way of assessing idea feasibility. We mean this.

Before creating a financial budget, you might find it challenging to envision your revenue plans and operational costs. However, as you establish a detailed financial framework, you know what is achievable. Then you can make any necessary adjustments.

Since revenue and expenses are not very predictable, budgets are short-term, usually on an annual basis.

What is the Forecast?

A forecast is a projection of what will actually be accomplished. The qualities are:

The forecast is usually limited to significant revenue and cost details. There is typically no estimate for the monetary position, but revenue may be forecasted.

The forecast is updated at regular intervals, perhaps monthly or quarterly.

The forecast may be used for short-term operational considerations, such as adjustments to staffing, inventory levels, and the production plan.

There is no variance analysis that compares the forecast to actual results.

Changes in the forecast do not impact performance-based compensation paid to employees.

The projection of business activities for future accounting periods based on historical data is known as a forecast.

The management does this based on past experiences and information. Business forecasts predict incoming financial inflows and their sources by evaluating current and past data and trend analysis.

Forecasting helps the business in making informed decisions by examining and analyzing the given data. It also aids in the budgeting and planning process. It can be done by using qualitative or quantitative methods or a combination of both.

To benefit from your forecasting, you should create a range of forecasts for different scenarios or outcomes (sometimes referred to as pro forma statements). In other words, you can determine what is likely to happen to your business's finances if specific budget situations are met, which can help you plan better for what to expect.

Financial forecasting involves a high-level projection of future business results based on informed opinions and existing data. To make a forecast, look beyond direct factors that influence your business and consider macroeconomic factors like social and political influences that can affect your market.

While a budget is a normal short-term tool, financial forecasting occurs both in the short-term and long-term, which takes more time. Additionally, businesses need to make multiple forecasts to have the most reliable predictions of their business conditions.

What Are the Types of Forecasting?

Judgment or Qualitative Forecasting

In judgment forecasting, the organization relies on its insight into the market's landscape and the informed opinion of its target audience for financial projections.

Obviously, judgments can be wrong, so you should only use this method when you don't have historical data for guidance. For example, if you just launched a new product in a new market, there's almost no actual data to rely on.

Quantitative Forecasting

Quantitative forecasting refers to data-supported business predictions. This involves gathering and analyzing volumes of data to discover economic patterns, market conditions, industry trends, and consumer behaviors and using these data sets to forecast change and opportunities for your company.

Many companies combine judgment and quantitative forecasting to determine future costs, plan the company's direction, and predict sales and market demand.

Difference Between Budget and Forecast in Points

The budget is a formal quantitative statement of income and expenditure for a specific period. It is a plan for allocating resources for the completion of activities to achieve desired goals. It is not the same as a forecast, which is a simple estimate of future events or trends. It is a forward-looking projection.

A forecast can be seen as the assessment and interpretation of likely future circumstances related to the operations of the enterprise.

The two terms, budget and forecast, are commonly misunderstood for each other. However, there is a fine line of differences between budget and forecast, which we have discussed in the given article.

The significant difference between a budget and a forecast is that a budget outlines the plan for what a business intends to achieve, while a forecast represents its expected outcomes, usually in a more generalized format. In other words, a budget is a plan for where a business wants to go, while a forecast indicates where it is actually heading.

Of the two, the forecast is more useful as it provides a short-term description of the actual conditions in which a business finds itself. The information in the forecast can be used to take immediate action. 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 significant differences between budget and forecast are mentioned below:

  • A budget is a financial plan expressed in terms of money, prepared in advance by management for the upcoming period. A forecast is an estimation of future business trends and outcomes based on historical data.
  • A budget is a financial statement of a plan, while a forecast is a prediction of upcoming events or trends in business based on current business conditions.
  • Budgets are prepared annually for each accounting period. On the other hand, forecasts are revised and often adjusted, for example, at short intervals.
  • In budgeting, variance analysis is conducted to compare actual results with expected results. In contrast, variance analysis is not performed in forecasting.
  • Budgets typically set targets for the future, unlike a forecast, which only projects future outcomes but does not set a goal.

At first glance, budgeting and forecasting may seem similar. However, a thorough examination reveals several differences between the two concepts, including:

  • The budget forms planned business expenses and revenues over a period. Forecasting is a carefully thought-out projection of business results for a future period.
  • A budget is usually prepared for the short term, while the forecasting process occurs in the short and long term.
  • Compared to a forecast, a budget is more static. Financial forecasts undergo several changes as the business situation and circumstances change.

Conclusion

Budgeting and forecasting are financial tools that businesses use to plan for growth, and therefore, it is important for your accounting team to have a solid understanding of both. In short, budgets reflect what you want to happen, while forecasts reflect what you expect will happen. Need more information? Get additional details on the main forecast and budget differences for Australian organizations with our comprehensive guide.


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"Difference Between Budget and Forecast." Diffzy.com, 2024. Thu. 29 Feb. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-budget-and-forecast-1203>.



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