Budget vs Actual analysis is a bit like a financial reality check for your business. Essentially, it involves comparing your budget with what you’ve actually earned and spent.
Taking the time to carry out budget vs actual analysis will give you a better understanding of your company’s current performance. In addition, it will help you to create better forecasts in the future.
If there are significant differences between the budgeted figures and actual figures (termed “favorable” or “unfavorable variance”) this can flag up potential problems. A favorable variance means that income was higher than expected, or outgoings were lower. In contrast, an unfavorable variance means that income was lower than forecast, or outgoings were higher.
An unfavorable variance is often the result of a one-off issue. This may be due to external factors. For example, supply chain disruption might force the company to spend more on an expensive alternative. On other occasions, variances can signify deeper problems in the company. A significant disparity between budgeted income and actual income could indicate a weakness in your sales department, for instance.
Gathering data for analysis
The greatest challenge when creating a variance report (and a reason why many SMEs don’t do it well — or do it at all!) is collecting all the necessary data.
Firstly, pulling together information from different departments is time-consuming. Secondly, someone has the tricky task of analyzing it all. For this system to work effectively, you need each department to record their data accurately in a compatible, accessible format.
There’s plenty of specialist FP&A (financial planning and analysis) software out there for budgeting, forecasting, and analysis. However, if you’re running a startup or SME there’s no need to invest in expensive new tools.
It’s likely that you already manage your sales, income, and expenses data in spreadsheets. A budget vs actual spreadsheet template in Google Sheets can help you transform that data into an automated budget tracker.
Why use Google Sheets for budget vs actual analysis?
- Flexible: Google Sheets allows you to manage and analyze all your financial data in the way that suits you. Whenever you need to change the system you can simply adapt the spreadsheets — without accounting software or IT support.
- Accessible: Cloud-based and updated in real-time, administrators and managers can access and update Google Sheets at any time, from anywhere.
- Compatible with everything: All software packages integrate with Google Sheets, so if your company has data stored in other programs, you can easily import that information.
- Easy to use: Your colleagues probably already use spreadsheets and Google Sheets is intuitive and user-friendly. As a result, the system is easy to maintain and onboarding your team is quick and simple.
Looking for a basic budget vs actual spreadsheet template instead?
If you’re self-employed or managing budgets alone, we also offer a single-file template. This template does not merge information from multiple spreadsheets — but it provides a simple way to manage all your expenses and income data in one file. Click here to get a copy.
How to get started
The Sheetgo budget vs actual spreadsheet template is a pre-built workflow. It allows you to monitor budgets, analyze profitability, and control spending.
It’s suitable for companies of all shapes and sizes, providing teams with a user-friendly way to collect and share income and expenses data. At the same time, it generates automated reports for accountants and company directors.
What’s a spreadsheet-based workflow template?
A standard spreadsheet template is a single file with pre-built charts and formulas, but a Sheetgo workflow template is a complete system. It consists of multiple Google Sheets files that transfer data between them. This allows different departments to record and submit their financial data privately while enabling managers to collect data from across the company.
A spreadsheet-based workflow template gives you:
- Organization and data privacy: Each file carries out one specific task, for data protection and accuracy. Instead of working in one shared spreadsheet, colleagues record financial data in their own personal files. The template exports this data to the manager’s master sheet automatically.
- Scalability: You can expand a Google Sheets workflow as your company grows. When you want to add another input spreadsheet, just copy one of the files and connect it to the workflow.
- Integration: Google Sheets is compatible with everything, so you can easily import and merge data from other software and departments. In a few clicks, you can connect data from Sales, HR, or other company workflows to create an integrated financial management system.
Get an automated actual vs forecast income report:
What you get with this template:
When you install the Sheetgo Budget vs Actual spreadsheet template, three Google Sheets files with pre-built connections are saved to your Google Drive:
- One Expenses spreadsheet. Share this file with the person(s) responsible for payments. These expenses might include fixed monthly costs, one-off purchases, or other outgoings.
- One Income spreadsheet. Share this file with the person(s) responsible for processing income. Every time an invoice is paid, they can log it in this spreadsheet.
- One Budget vs Actual master sheet, for the CFO, accountant, or administrator. Here they get an automated analysis of forecasted and actual income and expenses data from across the company.
How to install the workflow template
Click the blue button below to install the budget vs actual template.
Budget vs Actual template
Workflow template to track income & expenses, comparing actual spending vs budget.
- Login to Sheetgo with your Google, Microsoft, or Dropbox account.
- Click Install template.
- Wait a few moments while Sheetgo creates copies of the files and connects them.
How the template works
The budget vs actual master sheet opens inside Sheetgo.
To open the Income or Expenses file, click on Show sidebar in the right-hand side of the screen and double-click on either of the files.
How to use the budget vs actual spreadsheet template
Step 1: Prepare the template
First of all, you need to select which year you want to view reports for.
In the Budget vs Actual master sheet, go to the Instructions tab and enter the year in the Input box.
Step 2: Set up and share the Income file
Go to Workflow or Files on the right-hand side and double click on the spreadsheet called Income. This is the file where your colleague(s) will enter the forecasted and actual income.
The spreadsheet contains an Instructions tab, outlining how to use the template.
Note that the template contains sample data to show you how the system works. You (or your colleagues) can simply delete or overwrite this information.
Firstly, your colleague(s) should enter the company’s income sources in the Categories Input tab. This might include products, services, or other revenue streams.
They can enter up to 100 categories along with an Operating Year for each.
Next they should fill out the Forecast Detail tab, entering how much income each category is due to generate each month.
When this is complete, they should delete the sample data in the Income Detail tab.
Every time an invoice is paid, the person responsible should log it here.
Check out the automated Income reports
Once your colleague(s) starts entering data into the forecast and income tabs, the template automatically generates reports in the Actual vs Forecast, Yearly Income, and Yearly Forecast tabs.
Step 3: Set up and share the Expenses file
The other input spreadsheet in the workflow is the Expenses file.
Here the colleague(s) responsible for spending and payments should record the budgeted expenses and the actual amount spent.
As with the Income spreadsheet, they should first enter the expenses categories in the Categories Input tab.
In the Budget Detail tab, they enter the monthly budget for expenses.
In the Expenses Detail tab, they enter the actual amount spent, every time a bill or invoice is paid.
The template automatically combines the budget and actual data to generate the Yearly Expenses, Actual vs Budget, and Yearly Budget reports.
Step 4: Transfer the data
When you have shared the Income and Expenses files with your colleagues and they have started entering their data, you need to pull that information back to the master sheet.
To do this, click on Workflow and afterwards click on Run in the bottom left corner of the screen.
This will transfer all the connections in the workflow and import the latest expenses and income data into the master sheet.
Step 5: Automate
Now that the system is up and running you can automate the entire process. This will ensure that you always have up-to-date data in your reports.
The Sheetgo connections transfer the data at regular intervals without you having to open a spreadsheet.
Click Automate (located next to the run button) and select how often you want transfers.
Optional: Use Google Forms to input data
It’s easy to adapt the template. You can also automate data entry into the Expenses and Income sheets using Google Forms. As well as saving your team time, Forms ensure consistency and data validation. Learn more about how to use Google Forms.
Customized finance automation
By connecting Google Sheets, Sheetgo allows you to build your own automated data management system for any business process.
If you’re looking for a larger budget management solution or you need help customizing the budget vs actual template for your business, book a help session with our automation experts.
Share with your manager
If you think this automated budget template could be useful in your company but you’re not a manager, share this article with your boss so they can set up the system.