6 Steps to Take When Creating Your First Business Budget

Starting a business is always a challenge. But, right now, the conditions are extra tough. The UK is experiencing its highest rate of inflation in 40 years and many businesses are struggling to cope with rising costs. It’s in that context that smart financial management takes on added importance.

One of the most important areas of financial management is budgeting. This is the process of projecting your expected income and expenditure. Just like in your personal life, you need to ensure enough money is coming in to cover your investments and everyday costs – and there are various levers you can pull to ensure this happens.

Whilst that sounds simple enough, creating a budget from scratch can be difficult if you’ve never done it before. We’re going to take you through some simple steps to follow to ensure your business finances are in good shape when you’re starting out.


Have a business plan in place

First and foremost, if you’re serious about your business you need to have a business plan. Your business plan sets out the context for how you plan to make your business viable and, ultimately, successful. This will include an overview of what your business does and consider the landscape in which you’ll be operating. That means you should be researching competitors and understanding who your target audience will be – plus how you plan to market and sell to them.

By having this context laid down, you’ll be in a much better place to know how much money you’ll need to spend and, in turn, how much you’ll need to be bringing in.


Prepare a pricing strategy

When it comes to budgeting in business, a good place to start is to think about the products you plan to sell and at what price. Through your business plan, you’ll have an idea of the market landscape, including your competitors, and this will inform your pricing strategy. It’s important to say, there’s no one-size-fits all – you need to work out the right approach for your business – but looking at what your competitors are doing is instructive.

And then, there’s your costs…


Work out your costs

Your business plan will detail your startup and running costs. Whilst some investment will be needed at the outset to get your business launched (think essential equipment), your running costs will play a greater role in your budgeting plans. These costs can usually be split into two categories:

  • Fixed costs: Yes, you guessed it – these are costs that stay the same for the period in question. Things like rent and business rates would fall into this category.
  • Variable costs: These are costs which vary depending on the number of units you produce e.g. material, postage costs and labour (if people are paid on a per unit basis)

Variable costs are where the process of budgeting gets more complicated as it relies on you understanding the cost impact of your sales and production volumes. For example, the more you sell and item that you make, the more you’ll have to spend on labour, materials and fulfilment. There are plenty of budget templates out there to help you do this. This will also allow you to play around with your unit pricing so you can see the impact of increasing or decreasing what you plan to charge your customers.


Project your sales

For a small business, especially if you’re managing the budgets on your own, you’re likely to want to keep things simple. This usually means having one overall operating budget.

The first thing you’ll need to plot into your operating budget is your projected sales. Here’s a quick example of how that might look, taking into account seasonal variations in sales volumes:

Month 1 Month 2 Month 3 Month 4 Month 5 Month 6
Sales 250 200 220 300 310 150


Now, plot in your expenses

Month 1 Month 2 Month 3 Month 4 Month 5 Month 6
Sales 250 200 220 300 310 150
Cost of goods sold 125 100 110 150 155 75
Wages 60 60 60 70 75 60

We can see that the two biggest expenses have been added. The cost of goods to be sold are shown at about half the selling price and the wages are shown to be consistent with extra staff for the busy months.

You’ll then want to expand on this further and add other expenses (overheads such as rent and utilities).

Month 1 Month 2 Month 3 Month 4 Month 5 Month 6
Sales 250 200 220 300 310 150
Cost of goods sold 125 100 110 150 155 75
Wages 60 60 60 70 75 60
Other overheads 30 29 30 35 38 28
Total expenses 215 189 200 255 268 163


Calculate your profits

Deducting your total expenses from your sales will give your profit figure.

£ Month 1 Month 2 Month 3 Month 4 Month 5 Month 6
Sales 250 200 220 300 310 150
Cost of goods sold 125 100 110 150 155 75
Wages 60 60 60 70 75 60
Other overheads 30 29 30 35 38 28
Total expenses 215 189 200 255 268 163
Profit 35 11 20 45 42 -15

At this point, you’ll begin to see where your joy and pain points might be. For example, in Month 6 we can see that the business loses money. However, this might be tolerable as Month’s 4 and 5 have seen a decent profit levels.


Going forward…

As you proceed, checking in regularly and monitoring variances is a key activity, particularly in your first year where you won’t have the figures from previous years. You should include in your budget a column for the ‘Actual’ figures and monitor your performance against what you budgeted. Are you up or are you down? You may decide to do a reforecast every quarter where you can respond to changes in prices, sales volumes, and changes to the economic climate.

Whilst this is only a very simple business budget, it hopefully gives you an idea of the steps you’ll need to take when drawing up your own plans. As your business evolves and expands, it’s quite likely you’ll need to produce multiple budgets that work in tandem – for example, stock and production budgets, overhead budgets and cash budgets. But just getting a grip on the basics to begin with will go a long way.

Guest blog written by Huw Moxon Digital Marketing Manager at Informi and AAT

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