How to prepare your company budget
Budget like a pro with Zeni. Schedule a free consultation with our Fractional CFO.

Don't put budgeting on the back-burner

You’re focused on meeting your end-of-year goals. Releasing new products, reaching your sales revenue, scoring the funding you need for future projects, or hiring new team members. (Likely all of the above)

While all of these are a high priority, many new businesses tend to overlook a critical end-of-year activity — budgeting.

Get Your Budget Right

Why startups can't afford
to overlook budgeting

It's your yearly
business plan.

Without a structured plan in place, you risk falling into financial instability, an inability to secure investments, and a lack of strategic direction.

You don't want to run out of cash.

38% of startups fail because they run out of money. A well structured budget can help you keep your business running.

You’re more likely to get funding.

Investors and lenders are far more likely to support your startup when you can demonstrate sound financial planning and management.

Get started on your  budget

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Making the budgeting choice:
In-House VS Fractional CFO

You have options when it comes to creating your budget: hire in-house or outsource a Fractional CFO.

For us, there’s a clear winner to invest in.

No “One Person” to Do the Job

In small startups, it’s unusual for a single individual to have the expertise, let alone the time to handle budgeting effectively.

As a result, the responsibility is shared among multiple team members, potentially leading to inconsistencies and oversights.
Lack of Time to Get It Done

Startups often face time constraints with numerous tasks all demanding attention. This may lead to a rushed and less accurate budgeting process, which can undermine its effectiveness.

Not to mention that if you do it in house, you’re more likely to operate in Excel, involving more manual work.
High Chance of Missing Something

Budgeting requires meticulous attention to detail.

With limited resources and expertise, in-house budgeting increases the risk of missing critical expenses or revenue projections.

Fractional CFO
Specialized Expertise

 Fractional CFOs are finance professionals with the experience to handle budgeting efficiently and accurately.

Their specialized knowledge ensures that your budget is comprehensive, well-structured, and aligned with your business goals.
Dedicated Time

Fractional CFOs are dedicated to their role, freeing up your team to focus on their core responsibilities.

This ensures that budgeting receives the attention and time it deserves.

Thorough Oversight

A Fractional CFO offers a level of oversight that's challenging to achieve in-house. They’ll monitor your budget, track performance, and provide valuable insights and recommendations for financial optimization.

This is typically done utilizing accounting software, resulting in faster and more accurate feedback.
Our recommendation

Budget with ease

Not sure where to start? Feeling overwhelmed? Just want someone to take this off your plate?

Secure a personalized 1:1 session with Zeni’s Fractional CFO – Available dates and times are shared when you schedule.

Schedule a Free Call

Planning your small business
budget: A step-by-step guide

What is a business budget?

A business budget is a financial plan that outlines your company's income and expenses for a specific period, typically a year. 

This annual budget serves as a roadmap for your financial operations and helps you allocate resources effectively. 

A well-structured budget can help you make informed decisions, track your progress, and ensure your business remains financially stable.

Budget vs forecast — Why they’re not the same

Budgeting is often confused with forecasting. While similar in nature, budgeting is a financial plan and forecasting is a projected outcome.

Here’s some quick ways to differentiate between the two:


  • Setting targets the company wants to achieve
  • Less flexible, does not change unless there is a significant change in business assumptions
  • Generally done once a year - an annual budget
  • Usually used for BvA variance analysis
  • Tactical tool


  • Generally, it does not involve setting up targets. Forecast is more about an estimated result which your company may achieve
  • Very flexible, frequently changed based on new inputs
  • Updated on a monthly or quarterly basis
  • Not used for variance analysis, used for scenario analysis ("what if")
  • Strategic tool


Why cash flow management ties into your budget

When budgeting, it’s important to be able to identify potential shortfalls that could impact your business. One way to do that is by having a clear view of your cash flow.

Cash flow management involves monitoring the movement of how much money comes in and out of your business.

A well-structured budget ensures that your business maintains a positive cash flow, meaning that you have more money coming in than going out. This helps you avoid running out of cash, one of the leading causes of a business failing.

Why small businesses should care about budgeting

For small business owners, meticulous budgeting might seem like a burden in an already long list of responsibilities.

However, strategic budgeting is far from being an unnecessary chore; it is, in fact, an invaluable tool. Here’s why:

Efficient resource allocation

With a well-structured budget, startups are able to efficiently allocate financial assets to different areas of your organization, such as sales, marketing, operations.

This allows you to:

  • Strategically Allocate: With a budget in place, you can strategically determine how much to allocate to each department or activity. For example, you can decide how much of your budget to direct toward marketing efforts to maximize customer acquisition or retention.
  • Optimize Resources: Budgeting helps you optimize your limited resources by ensuring that each dollar spent aligns with your overall financial goals. This prevents wastage and unnecessary expenditures.
  • Ensure Efficiency: Small businesses often have to do more with less. A budget enables you to make the most of your available resources, ensuring that every expense is justified and contributes to your bottom line.

Structured financial control

Budgets provide you with a structured approach to financial management, allowing for greater financial control.

Here's how budgeting can help structure your finances:

  • Expense Tracking: Budgets serve as a tracking mechanism for your expenses. You can keep a watchful eye on where your money is going, ensuring that it's directed toward activities that drive revenue and growth.
  • Staying Within Limits: Budgets define your financial limits, helping you avoid overspending or impulsive financial decisions. Staying within these limits ensures that you don't deplete your resources unnecessarily.
  • Reducing Financial Stress: Financial control achieved through budgeting reduces uncertainty and the associated stress. You're better prepared to handle your business's financial demands and emergencies.

Planning for future growth

Annual budgets aren’t just about managing the following year; they're equally about planning for a prosperous future. Here's how budgeting facilitates growth for small businesses:

  • Setting Clear Financial Goals: A budget encourages you to set specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) financial goals. Whether it's increasing revenue, expanding into new markets, or launching a product line, your budget is the roadmap to achieve these objectives.
  • Allocating Funds for Expansion: Budgets provide a framework for allocating funds toward growth and investment. With a budget, you can earmark financial resources for expanding your business, be it through hiring more staff, opening a new location, or investing in technology.
  • Enhancing Strategic Decision-Making: Budgets empower you to make informed decisions about your business's future. When you have a clear financial plan in place, you can strategically decide when and where to invest, what projects to undertake, and which opportunities to seize.

Mitigating financial risks

Budgeting is a proactive approach to financial management that helps small businesses mitigate risks. Here's how it acts as a safeguard:

  • Considering Unexpected Costs: Budgets take into account the possibility of unexpected costs or financial challenges. When you set aside funds for unexpected expenses, you protect your business from potential financial shocks.
  • Creating an Emergency Fund: Small businesses can face unforeseen setbacks, such as economic downturns, investor challenges, or legal issues. Budgeting allows you to set aside an emergency fund, which acts as a safety net, ensuring that your operations can continue uninterrupted during challenging times.


How to create your small business budget

Creating a small business budget is a systematic process that involves several steps:

1. Gather Financial Data

Begin by collecting historical financial data, such as income and financial statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements. This information will serve as the foundation for your budget. It’s important to note that effective bookkeeping will make gathering accurate data much more seamless. 

2. Set Financial Goals

Define clear and specific goals. What do you want to achieve with your budget? Whether it's increasing revenue, reducing expenses, or achieving a specific profit margin, your goals should guide your budget.

3. Revenue & Cost Projections

Estimate your expected revenue for the budget period. This can include sales, investments, and any other income sources. Simultaneously, project your expected costs and expenses, this includes predicted credit card costs.

4.Create a Master Budget Template

Organize your budget into a template that outlines income and expense categories. Many startups will utilize spreadsheets to create their budget, but software can make it easier to update, track, and visualize.

5. Identify Fixed & Variable Costs

Categorize your expenses into fixed costs (constant) and variable (fluctuating) costs. Understanding these distinctions will help you make more informed business decisions.

6. Consider Unexpected Costs

No budget can anticipate every expense, so allocate a portion of your budget to cover unexpected costs. Also known as an emergency fund, this method will ensure you can deal with financial challenges that come your way.

7. Monitor & Review Regularly

Your budget should not be a static document. Regularly monitor your actual income and expenses, and compare them to your budget. This allows you to make adjustments as needed to stay on track.

8. Prepare Financial Reports

Prepare financial reports regularly to assess your business's financial health. Likewise, these reports are typically requested by investors so having them ready to go on a frequent basis will take a load off your plate.


Supercharge your financial strategy with a fractional CFO

As a startup leader, you’ve learned one important lesson: you can’t do it all. However, the reality is, you likely don't have an endless budget to assemble a complete in-house team of financial experts.

That's where a Fractional CFO comes in. Not only is it a cost-effective choice, but it's also a highly strategic one. Fractional CFOs can expertly manage your financial tasks, such as budgeting and cash flow management, allowing you to focus on growing your business rather than being bogged down by financial planning.

To learn more about the benefits of hiring a Fractional CFO, take the next step and explore your options.

Pro Tip!
Remember, budgets help you set targets and allocate resources, while forecasts help you understand what's likely to happen. Want to get better at forecasting? Check out how AI can help you make even more informed decisions here.
Pro Tip!
Budgeting empowers you to allocate resources efficiently, maintain financial control, plan for growth, and protect your business from financial shocks. Learn more about the benefits of budgeting in this article.
Ditch The Excel Spreadsheets
Tired of manually entering in data? Spending way too much time gathering the information and less time being strategic about next year’s budget?

Consider investing in budgeting software.

Learn more about financial software and budgeting in a FREE 1:1 session with Zeni’s Fractional CFO – Available dates and times are shared when you schedule.
Schedule a Free Call


What is the best way to create a budget?

To create a budget, start by estimating your initial and ongoing expenses, including rent, salaries, equipment, and marketing costs. Next, project your revenue based on realistic sales forecasts and pricing strategies. Finally, continually monitor your budget, adjust it as necessary, and be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances as your startup evolves.

How do you create a budget for beginners?

For beginners, start by collecting historical financial data, setting clear financial goals, and using software to create a simple budget template. Consult with experienced financial experts to ensure you’re not missing any important data.

How do I create a budget for my company?

To create a budget for your company, begin by gathering financial data and setting clear financial goals. Then, project your revenue and expenses, create a budget template, monitor regularly, and make adjustments as needed.

What is included in a company budget?

A company budget typically includes revenue projections, expense categories, capital expenditures, and, if necessary, debt servicing. It also often includes a cash flow projection.