A Business Budget Template You’ll Actually Use

A Business Budget Template You’ll Actually Use

Putting your business budget together is tough. It’s impossible to have all the information you need to make a foolproof plan for the future. That said, aligning your team to a set of expense targets and monitoring your cash flow helps to keep your business on track to reach its financial goals. Whether it’s your first time budgeting or your hundredth, starting from scratch on a new business plan takes work.

To help you get started, we’ve put together a free and easy-to-understand budget template that you can use to jumpstart your budgeting process. It comes with two sets of functionality:

  1. A Microsoft Excel budgeting template to create a spending plan and keep track of expenses as they occur. This template is best suited for the very early stages of operation before you start using accounting software.
  2. A QuickBooks reconciliation tab for when budgeting starts to get a bit more complex. You can upload exports from your bookkeeping software into this template.

A simplified small business budget template

If you’re still in the early startup phase of your business, you likely don’t need all the bells and whistles that come with accounting software like QuickBooks. Setting up a startup budget and keeping track of line items as you spend is enough to maintain a handle on your cash outflows.

Download the simple Microsoft Excel business budget spreadsheet here.

The Excel template consists of four simple tabs. We’ll run through each of them here, with a quick explanation of how they all work together.

First up, the Budgets tab.

business budget template

The Budgets worksheet is where you’ll set your plan for the year. Add your expense categories in Column B and break them down into sub-categories in Column C. We’ve pre-loaded examples that you can use but feel free to clear them out and start fresh.

Make sure to think through all the areas you’ll need to spend on. Freelancers, technology subscriptions, social media marketing, you name it. If you need more rows, add them above Row 34 and make sure you copy down the formulas in the grey columns.

To set your monthly budget, put your overall spend targets for each month in Row 6 “Total budget”. Then, break your monthly budget down into the categories you determined previously by filling out the line items in Rows 8-33. The annual budget will populate automatically.

Once you’ve completed the Budgets tab, your plan is set. You can now start adding your expenses as they occur. To do that, you’ll use the Expense Tracker and Invoice Tracker tabs.

expense tracaker

The Expense Tracker worksheet is straightforward. Just add in transactions and categorize them as they occur. You can include the payment method (cash, credit card, etc.) as well. If you are already using Lola's expense tracker template, simply copy and paste from that template into this one!

For recurring business expenses, you can use the Invoice Tracker.

invoice tracker

The invoice tracker allows you to load in contracts, including their start date, total term in months, and the dollar amount of the contract. Then the report will do all the work for you, allocating the monthly amount accordingly.

Expenses from the expense tracker and invoice tracker will flow into the final tab—your Budget Report.

budget report

The budget report takes all the data from the previous three tabs and combines it into a single report. It compares your budgets to your actual expenses for the current month, quarter, and year.

If you would like to change the period you’re reporting on, simply change the date in cell C6 to the end of the month you’re looking at.

Advanced: Reconcile your Budget Template with QuickBooks

If you’re using QuickBooks, you can skip the manual tracking for most of your expenses and simply upload your journal entry export into our tracker.

To do that, you’ll make use of the QuickBooks Online Transactions, Account Mapping, and Vendor Mapping tabs within our workbook.

The QuickBooks Online Transactions tab is a place to copy and paste the line items from your QuickBooks export into the workbook.

The QuickBooks Online export has many “subtotal” rows. Before you paste your report, delete these so that every row is a transaction with a date and account. Make sure that you don’t paste over the formulas in columns J-Q. The sheet will then identify your accounts and vendors so that they can be matched to your expense categories.

In the Account Mapping tab, you can map your GL accounts to your budget categories.

account mapping

Select the correct category for each of your accounts, then those amounts will flow through to the Budget Report tab. Make sure every account on the list has a “budget name”, as unlabeled accounts will not flow through to the report.

[Optional] If certain vendors must always be categorized under specific categories, you can use the Vendor Mapping tab to ensure they’re allocated correctly.

vendor mapping

You do not need to categorize every vendor, only the ones where you’d like to override the imported standard budget name.

And there you have it! Your QuickBooks transactions will feed through directly to your budget report, and you can start to compare your spend against the plan.

A few alternative Microsoft Excel budget trackers

Sometimes, more specific projects require their own budget structures. If that’s the case for your team, we have a few suggested templates you can check out:

For when you haven’t launched your business yet: Gusto’s super simple startup budget.

simple startup budget

For department-specific budget templates: Template.com’s multi-department templates

multi-department templates

For project-specific templates: Vertex42’s project budget template

project budget template

What is spend management?

If all of this seems complicated, that’s because it is. Templates can help, but manually tracking expenses eats up resources… and causes more headaches than you’d like. That’s where spend management software comes in.

Lola.com's spend management solution has everything you need to easily track, control, and optimize your company’s spend. Our solution enables a company-wide rollout of cards tied to budgets. This means every spend transaction across the company is captured, categorized, and instantly mapped to a budget—enabling real-time tracking of spending vs. budget.

And company-wide cards means no more tedious reimbursement processes, allowing you to ditch expense reports for good (finally!).

You’ll be able to proactively manage budgets with real-time visibility over company cash flow—which is the only effective way to stay on top of spend data. If you wait for end of month reports to see how you’re tracking and analyze the data, it’s already too late.

The right spend management solution can help you free up time, take control of your expenses, and improve your bottom line.

About the Author: Jack Moberger
As an equipment finance expert at Chain AMS, Jack specializes in helping large manufacturers arrange and manage operating and finance leases all over the world. Previously, he spent time in various finance roles at GE Aviation.