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Budget Variance Analysis: Basics to Expert Insights

Unfavorable variances are labeled as such or expressed as a negative number. This variance would be presented on paper as either $200 unfavorable, -$200 or ($200). Suppose a company expected to pay $9 a pound for 100 pounds of raw material but was able to contract a price of $7 a pound. Since the company spent less than expected, the $200 is a favorable variance.

  • Companies create sales budgets, which forecast how many new customers for new products and services are going to be sold by the sales staff in the coming months.
  • Use those budget variances to create a more accurate budget for the coming year.
  • A company with a positive variance mostly succeeds in leveling up its revenue stream.
  • Percentage variance formula is calculated as (Actual sales or expenditures ÷ Budgeted sales or expenditures) –1.

When the amount of actual revenue is less than the standard or budgeted amount. Thus, actual revenues of $400,000 versus a budget of $450,000 equals an unfavorable revenue variance of $50,000. You will now have a picture of which items led to a favorable or unfavorable variance. Favorable variances are great if you aim to cut costs above all else. A favorable variance occurs when the cost to produce something is less than the budgeted cost. It means a business is making more profit than originally anticipated.

Charlene Rhinehart is a CPA , CFE, chair of an Illinois CPA Society committee, and has a degree in accounting and finance from DePaul University. We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team. Changing customer needs aren’t usually as drastic as dealing with a pandemic. But it’s important to frequently reevaluate the products and services that you sell to be sure they’re still fitting the needs of your customers.

How to conduct a budget variance analysis

As their name implies, expense variances are directly related to costs. They tend to garner the lion’s share of attention during variance analysis because they can be more easily controlled and streamlined than revenue. A company with a positive variance mostly succeeds in leveling up its revenue stream.

  • Undertaking a variance analysis and understanding how you got the result you did will allow you to budget and strategize more effectively for the future.
  • If you only run this report once a year, you’re missing the opportunity to be proactive about any variances because it’s better to investigate them as they occur rather than at year-end.
  • In short, it is necessary to review the underlying reasons for a unfavorable variance before concluding that there is actually a problem.
  • Many entrepreneurs will be familiar with your classic budget to actual in monthly reporting.
  • Controllable variances are those that you can influence or change, while uncontrollable variances are those that are caused by external factors or events.

First, determine what program or method you will use to track your budget variances. Our favorite approach for calculating accurate variance calculations is to use either dashboards or dynamic spreadsheets customized for your company. We would have expected and additional $560 in payroll expense, so we have an unfavorable variance of $280 of additional expense, even adjusting for the additional revenue. Favorable variances are mostly seen as positive because they save costs for a business. They occur because of factors like efficient resource utilization, cost savings, higher productivity, or other positive factors impacting the outcome. A company that operates with long production runs sets a low labor-cost per unit produced.

It’s assumed that your initial budget was prepared using accurate baseline figures and that revenue was estimated based on past performance. If that’s true, then it’s up to you to find the cause behind the variance. It’s difficult to estimate revenue and expenses for the year when you have no baseline data to measure against. On the bright side, even if your first-year budget is way off, your variances should go down once you start preparing your budget for your second year in business. Performing a budget variance analysis as part of your financial reporting might seem daunting, but with a structured approach, it becomes manageable. In contrast, an economic recession or supply shortage may lead to unfavorable variance where revenue declines or costs increase.


For instance, if a company’s budgeted sales amount is $120,000 and its actual revenues turn out to be $100,000, the variance will be -16.67%. You should perform actual vs. budget variance analysis on a quarterly basis at the very least. For example, in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions in Q2 of 2020, we increased our forecasting and analysis to a weekly basis. So, you have to find the right cadence for your company’s needs in response to the industry and market environment.

The unfavorable variance could be the result of lower revenue, higher expenses, or a combination of both. Oftentimes, an unfavorable variance could be due to a combination of factors. The shortfall could be due, in part, to an increase in variable costs, such as a price increase in the cost of raw materials, which go into producing the product. The unfavorable variance could also be due, in part, to lower sales results versus the projected numbers. Software and other tools can help to automate and streamline the budget versus actuals variance analysis process. Unfavorable budget variances are deviations from the budgeted amounts that have a negative effect on your company.

How to Monitor and Understand Budget Variances

A sales variance occurs when the projected sales volumes of a product or service don’t meet the goal or projected figures. A company may not have hired enough sales staff to bring in the projected number of new clients. A management team could analyze problem-6: net present value npv analysis with inflation whether to bring in temporary workers to help boost sales efforts. Management could also offer target-based financial incentives to salespeople or create more robust marketing campaigns to generate buzz in the marketplace for their product or service.

Causes of budget variances:

Variance caused by shifts in the business environment is mostly out of your control. But it can still inform your strategy by showing you which changes had the biggest impact on your business’s results. Helping organizations spend smarter and more efficiently by automating purchasing and invoice processing. Next, add in any anticipated new clients and the additional income each month in a sort of waterfall effect. Goal-based, outsourced accounting services for companies ready to scale. The correct variance thresholds will help you ignore inconsequential variances and focus on what matters most.

Higher than expected expenses can also cause an unfavorable variance. For example, if your budgeted expenses were $200,000 but your actual costs were $250,000, your unfavorable variance would be $50,000 or 25 percent. A variance should be indicated appropriately as “favorable” or “unfavorable.” A favorable variance is one where revenue comes in higher than budgeted, or when expenses are lower than predicted.

As with favorable variances, you must examine unfavorable variances within the business context. In this example, you might have spent $5,000 more for better training that might increase future sales. Ideally, as a small business owner, you would hope a financial analysis will result in a favorable or positive variance, meaning you are not exceeding your budget. However, that does not mean a negative variance may be unexpected for your quarter or year end. Perhaps sales have been suffering lately and your product is piling up and you need a new plan. Undertaking a variance analysis and understanding how you got the result you did will allow you to budget and strategize more effectively for the future.

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