What is a Budget Variance?

Budget variance is a concept used in financial management that compares actual results to the budgeted or expected results. It is used to determine whether a business is on track to meet its financial goals, and if not, what adjustments need to be made. Budget variance analysis is an essential tool for businesses to identify areas of improvement and make informed decisions.

Understanding Budget Variance

Budget variance is the difference between the actual results and the budgeted results. This difference can be expressed as a dollar amount or as a percentage. A positive variance occurs when actual results exceed the budgeted results, while a negative variance occurs when actual results fall short of the budgeted results.

There are two types of budget variance: favorable variance and unfavorable variance. A favorable variance occurs when actual results are better than budgeted results, while an unfavorable variance occurs when actual results are worse than budgeted results.

Why is Budget Variance Important?

Budget variance is important for several reasons:

  1. Performance Evaluation: Budget variance is a tool for evaluating performance. By comparing actual results to budgeted results, businesses can determine whether they are meeting their targets and identify areas for improvement.
  2. Cost Control: Budget variance helps businesses control their costs by identifying areas where actual expenses differ from the budgeted expenses.
  3. Decision Making: Budget variance provides a basis for decision making. Businesses can use budget variance to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of different options and make informed decisions.
  4. Continuous Improvement: Budget variance provides an incentive for continuous improvement. By identifying areas where costs can be reduced and performance can be improved, businesses can increase their profitability.

How to Calculate Budget Variance

To calculate budget variance, follow these steps:

  1. Determine the budgeted amount for the specific item or activity.
  2. Determine the actual amount for the same item or activity.
  3. Subtract the actual amount from the budgeted amount. If the result is positive, it represents a favorable variance; if it is negative, it represents an unfavorable variance.
  4. Calculate the percentage variance by dividing the budgeted amount by the actual amount and subtracting 1. Multiply the result by 100 to get the percentage variance.

For more about budget variances, check out this article:


Budget variance analysis is an essential tool for businesses to evaluate their financial performance and identify areas for improvement. Understanding budget variance and how to calculate it can help businesses make informed decisions, control their costs, and achieve their financial goals. By regularly monitoring budget variance, businesses can improve their operations and increase their profitability.

Caroline Grimm

Caroline Grimm is an accounting educator and a small business enthusiast. She holds Masters and Bachelor degrees in Business Administration. She is the author of 13 books and the creator of Accounting How To YouTube channel and blog. For more information visit: https://accountinghowto.com/about/

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