The Definitive Guide to Choosing a Business Budgeting Software
The right business budgeting software can help you plan expenses down to the dollar, increase cash runway, and spend more efficiently. Here are the top 10 options to choose from.
Whether you’re a small business, a startup, or an established enterprise, budgeting is critical for your operational health and continued growth.
A budget helps you account for every last dollar spent. For a startup, a budget helps regulate cash burn, while for larger companies, it helps plan for operational expenses.
No matter your company’s size and strategic goals, you need budgeting software to help you plan and manage cash flow on an ongoing basis.
The right budgeting software will help you:
- Control spend
- Evaluate financial performance
- Plan for growth, and
- Eliminate manual input and streamline financial tasks and workflows
How can business budget software help your company?
A budget helps you define how much you intend to spend and allots your expenses to the areas that’ll drive the most impact. Here’s where business budgeting software comes in.
Business budgeting software will help your business to:
- Control spend. The fundamentals of running a business are to grow revenue, keep expenses below revenue, and turn a profit. With that in view, a business budgeting software helps you project where to channel funds to get the most ROI.
- Evaluate financial performance. Budgeting software helps you perform a budget-to-actual analysis to determine how much your company spent on each budget item, placed side-by-side with your projected expense figures. In other words, it helps you see if you’re spending above, below, or right on budget.
- Plan for growth. With a definite vision of what it’s going to take to run operations for, say, the next month, quarter, or year, your company can pinpoint how much you need to invest to hit your target growth figures.
- Automate manual tasks. If your finance team has to approve purchases manually, finance will end up waist-deep in expense reports and purchase requisitions as your company grows. Manual budgeting demands that human approvers control funds to avoid over-budget and out-of-policy spending.
On the other hand, budgeting software—especially when it syncs with your spend management software—can put dynamic budget controls on employee spending, limiting them to policy-approved purchases and transaction values.
Spend management software vs. business budgeting software
It might be easy to mix up or mistake spend management and business budgeting tools as the same thing, especially since they’re interrelated.
In reality, they both play distinct roles that, while both crucial to your company’s financial performance, focus on different areas.
Budgeting software is used to plan and project expenses required for business operations. On the other hand, spend management software manages cash outflows of business expenses and employee spending. While budgeting software does a great job of forecasting expenses, spend management is used to get everyone across your company to stick to the budget with real-time, dynamic spend controls.
The Top 10 Business Budgeting Software for Your Company
Your company’s needs are unique and determined by the market you’re playing in, how quickly you plan to grow, and any other strategic goals you have. As such, the choice of business budgeting software should be one you make after careful consideration of the options available, based on the pain points you’re looking to solve.
Here are ten of the best business budgeting software tools, with their pros, cons, and other need-to-knows.
Xero is the accounting software of choice, used by over 2 million small businesses. It allows you to send and receive invoices in 160 currencies, schedule bills, reconcile bank transactions, manage inventory, and more.
Xero offers a budgeting feature that helps you plan out income and expenses in detail and designate where every dollar is headed.
- Affordable. A growing business can expect to pay $32 a month, while an established enterprise is looking at $62 a month.
- Robust ecosystem. Xero integrates with 800+ SaaS tools, ranging from Gmail to Salesforce or whichever CRM you use.
- Robust third-party support. As your company scales, you may need to engage external bookkeepers and accountants to access your financial data. Xero makes it easy to grant and revoke access with just a few clicks.
- Extensive product features. Xero is a mature product that can manage the rest of your finance operations in one easy-to-use tool.
- No spend management features. Budgeting makes little sense if you don’t have a system designed to leverage automation to facilitate employees following your small business travel policy.
- Not suitable for larger businesses. If you’re a business with over 200 employees and processing over 1,000 transactions monthly, you’ll see a lag in the functionality, speed, and quality of support you can expect from Xero.
Sage Intacct is a cloud-based accounting and financial management software for growing businesses. Sage Intacct offers a built-in budgeting and financial planning product designed to help companies to define projections in detail, collaborate efficiently, and permanently move away from Excel.
Ideal for scale-ups & large enterprises. Sage offers a budgeting product that’s more in tune with what a growing business needs to stay on top of niche accounting demands. If you can afford their huge price tag, Sage gets the job done better than other alternatives.
Expensive. A Sage Intacct subscription costs anywhere from $15,000 - $60,000 for an annual subscription license. Even for larger enterprises, it may be hard justifying this cash outlay just for budgeting software.
Pricing ambiguity. It’s impossible figuring out just how much an add-on feature will cost without connecting with an account executive. This means it’ll likely run in the thousands of dollars. If you don’t have deep pockets, Sage might not be the best platform to build on for the long term.
QuickBooks’ budgeting feature empowers you to break down projected spending into specific periods and expense brackets.
- User-friendly UI. Once you’ve made the switch to QuickBooks Online, the user interface is generally easy.
- Steep learning curve. If your accounting processes are already established, it might take some learning to transition to QuickBooks and their ecosystem.
Float Cash Flow
Float is a budgeting and cash flow forecasting software that helps you form a 360-degree view of your company’s financial position and helps you determine how your budgeting might play out with scenario planning and forecasting up to three years into the future.
- Simplicity. Float sports a simple and easy-to-use user interface that’ll make the budgeting process easier, especially if you’re new to forecasting and budgeting.
- Pricey add-ons. Float works with a per feature price model that may have you spending a couple of thousands annually above the $800 base price.
Workday Adaptive Planning
With users ranging from Microsoft to Airbnb, Adaptive Planning offers planning software designed to help larger enterprises budget and accurately forecast cash flow.
Adaptive Planning is designed with high volume users in mind, incorporating more robust and pricier features than small and medium-sized businesses may not be willing to invest in.
- Ideal for large enterprises. If you run a large organization, Adaptive Planning can help remove the guesswork from your budgeting so you can maintain a clear outlook on where the money’s going.
- Pricey. For the majority of nonprofits, small, and medium-sized businesses, Adaptive Planning won’t offer a good ROI. At $15,000 for an annual subscription, it’s hard to justify the cost with the value derived.
PlanGuru helps you plan and project business performance for up to 10 years. Using cash flow analysis, financial ratios, financial statements, and unrivaled flexibility, PlanGuru stretches the limit on what business budgeting software can do.
- Affordable. At just $99 per month, PlanGuru is on the more cost-effective end of the business budgeting software spectrum, especially if you’re a small or growing company where every dollar counts.
- Steep learning curve. PlanGuru can be challenging to get the hang of, especially if you’re used to finance software built with modern user interfaces. Quoting a customer review, it was “developed by CPAs for CPAs.”
Planful is a financial planning and analysis tool designed for long-term use. Using detailed dashboards, automated processes, and most importantly, rolling forecasts, you can budget more efficiently and adjust as business variables change.
- Detailed insights. Once you’re off the planning board, Planful offers you a powerful financial reporting engine you can use to drill down into your budget-to-actual performance.
- Complicated. Planful can be difficult to get started with, requiring that you spend even more money on the services of an accounting partner that’s knowledgeable about how the software works.
Offering robust expenses and cash flow forecasting for medium and large-scale companies ($1 to 100M annual revenue), OnPlan is designed to help you plan for the future with maximum clarity and visibility into the numbers, all for a fraction of what direct competitors like Adaptive Planning would cost.
- Reasonable pricing. OnPlan offers a budgeting and forecasting product that competes with higher-end players at just a fraction of the cost.
- Novel. Given it’s a relatively new entrant into the market, it might not be a great idea to move your budgeting needs to OnPlan right away.
Budgyt is a cloud-based business budgeting software designed with ease of use, faster onboarding, and affordability as its main selling points. With an Excel-like spreadsheet interface, Budgyt offers a powerful and customizable planning tool that you can customize to fit your unique use case.
- Simplifies collaboration. Budgyt simplifies the business budgeting experience from having your planning scattered across a dozen spreadsheets to just one tab on your browser, synced across everyone else’s devices.
- Slim integration stack. At some point, you’ll need to connect apps across your finance stack to get your data to flow seamlessly. With just three integrations ready to go, moving your budgeting to Budgyt might bring surprises down the line when you realize it’s a limited ecosystem.
Planning Maestro by Centage
Planning Maestro is designed with forecasting, analytics, and financial reporting built-in so you can plan both long-term and short-term and keep a pulse on your business’s performance in real-time.
- Robust budgeting capabilities. Planning Maestro goes above and beyond with features such as synchronized financial statements, impact modeling, performance dashboards to help you create a clearer vision of your company’s financial status.
- Not ideal for larger companies. Planning Maestro is designed around the needs of small and medium businesses, and once your business starts crossing the SMB bracket, you may simply outgrow the software and have to move yet again.
Budgeting is only half the battle
Great budgeting software helps you plan much to spend, and on what, in order to reach your business goals. But the big question is: how do you control spend to ensure it’s within the budget you’ve set?
Sure, you could require every employee to manually file a purchase requisition or an expense report after every purchase. Which, of course, will slow your finance ops down to a crawl.
Or you could use Lola, the intelligent budgeting and spend management software.
Lola offers easy-to-use budgeting and spend management tools that let you plan your expenses down to the dollar and allocate budgets to teams or even individuals. With custom budgets, dynamic expense rules, and real-time visibility, Lola empowers you to define where each dollar is headed so you can stop overspend before it happens.
Besides a powerful budgeting suite, Lola helps you keep spending under control and compare budget-to-actual spending to know where your company’s finances sit.
Learn how Lola can transform your company’s financial planning by giving your control at the point of spend.