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Budget Variance


Budget variance refers to the difference between the budgeted or projected amount of expense or revenue, and the actual amount incurred or earned. It is used in budgeting and financial analysis to help companies assess their performance, identify trends, and make informed business decisions. A negative variance indicates that actual spending was higher than budgeted, while a positive variance suggests that actual spending was lower than planned.


The phonetic pronunciation for “Budget Variance” is: – Budget: /ˈbʌdʒɪt/- Variance: /ˈveəriəns/

Key Takeaways

<ol> <li><strong>Identification of Discrepancies:</strong> Budget Variance is a crucial accounting measure that helps in identifying the discrepancies between the planned or budgeted costs and the actual costs incurred. This helps the management better understand where the company stands in terms of its budgeting accuracy.</li> <li><strong>Guides Decision-Making:</strong> The concept of budget variance is essential in business because it guides the decision-making process. It is used to inform management whether they overestimated or underestimated their budget, providing them with the information they need to take corrective actions, if necessary.</li> <li><strong>Helps in future budgeting:</strong> Understanding past budget variances can help in future budget forecasting. By analyzing the reasons for variances, managers can make more realistic budgets in the future and prepare strategies to minimize negative variances.</li></ol>


Budget Variance is important in business and finance as it allows an organization to evaluate its financial performance by comparing the projected costs set out in the original budget versus the actual costs incurred. The results of this analysis can highlight areas where costs are being overspent, underspent, or where revenues fall short or exceed expectations. It helps in identifying inefficiencies, potential risks, and opportunities for improvements. Through a regular review of budget variances, organizations can drive strategic decision-making, improve future budgeting processes, better manage resources, and ultimately enhance profitability.


Budget variance is predominantly used in financial management to help businesses and organizations gauge their financial health and operational efficiency. The main purpose of a budget variance is to monitor income and expenditure, enabling a company to maintain control over its costs and performance. It is a critical tool in cost control and performance evaluation, providing businesses with detailed insights to understand where they are significantly over or under budget, thereby illuminating areas that may demand attention. Firms can then adjust their strategies or operations in accordance with these identified deviations to ensure their financial objectives are met.Essentially, budget variance analysis aids in making informed management decisions regarding resource allocation, financial forecast revisions, and control measures for operational costs. By identifying discrepancies between projected and actual outcomes, it helps a business to uncover issues before they become critical, trigger corrective actions for negative variances, and promote strategies that lead to positive variances. Businesses often use budget variance reports in periodic meetings to guide discussions around financial performance, making it a crucial part of fiscal management and operational planning.


1. Company’s Marketing Campaign: Let’s say a company had created a annual budget of $100,000 for its marketing initiatives. However, due to unforeseen circumstances or changes in marketing strategy, they only spent $80,000. This $20,000 difference is a favorable budget variance as they spent less than planned.2. Construction Project: A real estate firm planned a budget of $500,000 for a new construction project. However, due to increase in cost of raw materials or potential labor strike, the actual spending went up to $600,000. This would be an unfavorable budget variance of $100,000, reflecting the overspending concerning the original budget.3. Sales Revenue: In another scenario, a retail company might have forecasted a budget of $2 million from the sales of its new product in Q1. However, due to better-than-expected response, it achieved $2.5 million in sales. The $500,000 additional revenue represents a favorable budget variance.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is Budget Variance?

Budget Variance is a measure used in accounting that quantifies the difference between budgeted and actual figures for a particular accounting category.

What is the purpose of calculating Budget Variance?

The purpose is to monitor and control expenditure, reveal any problems related to budget control, and to identify any financial irregularities.

How is Budget Variance calculated?

The Budget Variance can be calculated by subtracting the budgeted amount from the actual amount.

What does a positive and negative Budget Variance indicate?

A positive Budget Variance indicates that the actual revenue is more than the budgeted amount, or actual costs are less than budgeted costs. A negative budget variance indicates the opposite.

Is it always good to have a positive Budget Variance?

Not necessarily. If the actual revenue is much higher than the budgeted amount, this could indicate an underestimation of the budget. Similarly, if the actual costs are significantly lower, this might mean an overestimation of costs. Both scenarios suggest ineffective budgeting and can lead to mismanagement.

Can Budget Variances be avoided?

It is difficult to avoid Budget Variances because budgets are often prepared ahead of time, and many factors might cause the actual numbers to deviate. However, with proper planning and adjustment during the budget period, variances can be minimized.

How often should Budget Variance be reviewed?

The review frequency can depend on the company’s policies. However, it is typically reviewed each month, quarter, or year during financial reporting.

What action should be taken if a significant Budget Variance exists?

If there is a significant Budget Variance, finance teams should investigate the root cause. It might be necessary to adjust future budgets, correct errors in budgeting, or identify ways to control expenditure better.

Related Finance Terms

  • Actual Cost: The total cost that a business incurs in real terms as it operates.
  • Forecasted Expense: The projected cost or expenditure for a specific period of time.
  • Fixed and Variable Costs: Fixed costs are expenses that remain constant, regardless of the level of output, while variable costs change in direct proportion to the level of output.
  • Cost Variance: The difference between the actual cost and the standard cost, which provides an understanding of the overall cost performance.
  • Variance Analysis: The process of identifying and understanding the reasons for different variances in a budget.

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