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Tips for Forecasting a Business Budget in Excel

Using trend analysis and other Excel functions can make forecasting for a business budget or plan much easier.

Forecasting of any sort can be a daunting process whether a person works for a large or small business. Forecasting a business budget can be especially difficult, as the accuracy of the budget will likely be heavily scrutinized. For individuals working for larger companies, the budget may mean the difference in earning a bonus or may even be a factor in keeping a job. For a person using forecasts to budget and plan for a small business, accurate forecasting may give the business a better chance of survival. There are several tips that can help when forecasting a business budget; trend analysis in Excel is one method.

Forecast Using Excel

While the financial manager of a special business unit for a large company may have access to programs that make planning easier, most individuals who are creating a budget (in both large and small companies) will have to rely on Excel to forecast. Fortunately, Excel can be a great modeling program and a powerful forecasting tool when it is used properly.

Regression Analysis

A smaller business may have its annual plan and budget all rolled into one process, which means that items like sales and costs will be a part of planning items such as overhead and wages. While some of these items are simple to budget for (e.g. a 4% increase to wages for the coming year), others are not so simple (e.g. sales).

For items in the budget that can be more difficult to predict, gathering data and performing regression analysis can provide more accuracy. For simple regression analysis, the trend function in Excel can be used. To use the trend function, gather as much data as possible for what is to be analyzed.

Evaluate the Budget with Common Sense

Once a budget has been completed and factors such as sales and gross profit (GP) have been trended, the next step is to take a step back and look at the numbers to make sure they make sense from a high level. A person should also get input from other departments as well to make sure it makes sense from their standpoints and make adjustments as needed.