Rolling Budget: A Comprehensive Guide For Businesses 

Imagine it's January 2020. Your business is doing well, but you want to stay ahead of your finances for the next year. So, you create a static budget, thinking it will get you through the upcoming year.

But then comes March…

And the chaos ensues.

So, where did you go wrong? The answer is simple. Devising a plan for the upcoming year can help you keep an eye on your expenses, sales, and revenues to ensure ideal financial performance. But static budgets do not account for market fluctuations, business disruptions, and unprecedented threats and opportunities.

That's why your business needs to stay prepared with a rolling budget. This dynamic approach to budgeting offers more flexibility in the planning and decision-making process by allowing you to align or realign your spending and resource allocation at routine intervals.

Let's look at what rolling budgets are and how they can benefit your organization. 

What is a rolling budget?

A rolling budget involves expanding on your current budget. This means that instead of creating traditional budgets at the start of every new accounting period, your business will forecast events and update the budget every month or every quarter.

A Rolling budget (also known as a continuous budget) helps you prepare for the future by examining the past. It is built with a short-term contextual focus, enabling you to strategize and adjust as the fiscal year develops.

Let's take an example. After a company concludes one operating period, the company's stakeholders will perform the budget planning for its new budget period. This means the rolling budget plans for a year out or whatever duration the company sets.

With these rolling forecasts, the stakeholders can adjust the annual budget to make changes using the information gathered through spending analysis and market conditions. 

Types of rolling budgets 

There are six types of rolling budgets. 

Revenue/sales budget

The first budgeting step is creating a sales budget because all other financial plans are built around this. When creating this, you need to forecast the company's sales according to the value and volume. So, you must consider the following:

  • Common trends of the past
  • Complete market potential of the upcoming year
  • Changes in government policies
  • Fluctuations in seasonal demands. 

Production budget

You can also apply the rolling technique when creating a financial plan for your production sector. This budget will be based on the sales budget. Your production manager will account for the overall production volume relative to the demand and conserves the inventory. They will also consider the cost of production, including:

  • The cost of raw materials
  • The cost of labor
  • The cost of operating the plant and the machinery

Overhead budget

The overhead budget includes two categories- fixed overhead and variable overhead. The fixed overhead considers all the uninterrupted or constant costs, such as fixed employee salaries. Whereas variable overhead plans for fluctuating expenses, such as energy bills. The overhead budget accounts for all the ongoing business expenses, including:

  • Employee salaries
  • Rent
  • Water and energy consumption
  • Traveling expenses

Financial Budget

The financial budget estimates the business's long and short-term plans to continue operations optimally. This budgeting type focuses on the right areas to invest its excess cash flow to get the best return. 

You can use the rolling budget technique here to find additional cash within your financial plan, which you can then invest in an area that requires funding. 

Capital expenditure budget

The capital expenditure budget accounts for capital expenditure, including all the costs associated with purchasing and maintaining machinery, land, or equipment. 

Master budget

The master budget is the combination of all budgets. It is traditionally formed after gathering information from department heads and top-level managerial employees. 

Rolling Budgets Application Techniques

You can apply the following methods to form rolling budgets: 

Incremental budgeting

To create an incremental budget, your finance team adds or removes a particular percentage of the amount from the previous year's budget. The modification is made after reviewing last year's figures to determine the current year's budget. 

Activity-based budgeting

Activity-based budgeting enables organizations to cut activity costs to optimize the final profit. This approach creates a financial plan for all the activities the business needs to perform to meet its annual objectives. For instance, a business with the goal of generating $40 million will need to determine the activities that can allow them to meet the target. 

Zero-based budgeting

As the name suggests, zero-based budgeting starts from scratch. This means the budget does not consider an activity, department history, overhead expenses, or revenues.

 On the contrary, the financial plan is created with consultation from activity managers, each of whom provides data with its experience and justification. Zero-based budgeting is the ideal option for organizations looking to identify cost-cutting areas. 

Kaizen budgeting 

Kaizen budgeting is a method that identifies areas to cut costs in operations or production. With this approach, the production or operation quality is not compromised. Instead, the approach focuses on finding ways to perform the task more efficiently to reduce expenditure. 

The method integrates estimated cost reduction into business planning. Although Kaizen budgeting yields the best results over a longer duration, it significantly improves efficiency, quality, and productivity.

What is a rolling 12-month budget?

The 12-month budget period format enables your company to eliminate out-of-date budgets to improve its accuracy. A 12-month rolling budget adds an additional month to the forecast duration every time a month is closed. This allows businesses to build a strong plan for the next year based on the actual performance of the current year. 

Costs considered by rolling budgets

Your business can divide the finances into the following areas: 

Variable expenses

Variable expenses are costs determined by the volume of production and sales. As a result, they are modified and updated routinely. The production and sale volumes are further decided by considering external factors, such as inflation, and internal factors, such as the company's growth. 

Fixed expenses

The rolling budget also considers the firm's fixed expenses. These include predictable costs, such as the worker's salaries, factory rent, and loan repayment. However, the fixed costs are also susceptible to change over time, so the rolling budget considers the variation. 

Additional expenses 

Continuous budgets are also affected by some additional costs, including:

· Payments made to shareholders

· Interest payments for loans

· Other non-operational expenses

Advantages of rolling budget

  • Rolling budgets are formed on the basis of actual data rather than assumptions. As a result, these budgets are more accurate than their static counterparts.
  • This technique offers flexibility and control over the financial plan. This way, you can adjust your budget to match the market fluctuations and stay on top of your spending.
  • A rolling budget also provides clarity to your department managers. This form of financial planning paints a clear picture of your employees' financial responsibilities and goals. This helps each department stay on budget.
  • As you can regularly review the market trends and data, you can get a detailed insight into why a specific department is under or over budget.
  • Since this form of budgeting allows you to understand the data comprehensively, you can build solid and factual presentations for the investors' meetings.
  • Rolling budgets offer better agility and flexibility as they are centered on the short-term contexts that the fixed annual budget may not have considered.
  • This budgeting approach enables businesses to reduce ambiguity and use calculated techniques to manage cash flow. This can further empower your company to deal efficiently with financial disruptions. You can also use recent insights to leverage growth and investment opportunities. Due to this, your business can improve profitability.
  • Rolling budgets are ideal for organizations that wish to leverage zero-based budgets. In this, the resources and expenses are justified for every new quarter, even if the previous period's budget model proved successful. Using the zero-based budgeting technique on a monthly/quarterly basis empowers your business to stay accountable and flexible with financial management.
  • Your business can also save time while creating a rolling budget, as these financial plans extend the previous budget with some required modifications.
  • A rolling budget can also help your organization determine its strengths and areas of improvement since the outcomes are easier to assess with the data collected for budget creation. You can also make fixes easily. 

Disadvantages of rolling budget

  • Creating a rolling budget requires skilled personnel and attention, as the financial plan is frequently updated. However, you can also use a software program to reduce costs and human errors.
  • The cost of creating the rolling budget can be high. You will require resources for the procurement and account teams, who will have to communicate with forecasting and interpreting experts to gain knowledgeable insights. You will also need to hire staff to analyze the budget's performance.
  • The rolling budget can create confusion and frustration for employees due to frequent changes. It often adds more responsibilities, mandating the staff to adjust to the new financial plan. This factor can cause demotivation among the workers and damage the company's culture and productivity.
  • A rolling budget is not a suitable approach for firms that do not face frequent changes in external and internal affairs ​​during a complete incremental period.
  • Rolling budgets can be more time-consuming and complex for companies with more shareholders.
  • When you implement a rolling budget, you will have to provide training to your team to ensure adaptability to the changing financial plan effectively.

When should a rolling budget be used?

Implementing rolling budgets would be highly beneficial for businesses that operate in a dynamic industry to ensure all risks related to market fluctuations are mitigated. With rolling budgets, you can consistently adapt to all the future estimates related to the deviations in the industrial, economic, and business sectors to create an accurate budget. As a result, you can efficiently assign resources to meet the business's financial objectives. 

Are rolling budgets the same as flexible budgets?

Although adopting rolling budgets will offer some flexibility, they are quite different from flexible budgets. While rolling budgets are created to provide updated and accurate plans for a company, flexible budgets aim to inform the management about budget control processes, so the firm can make wise decisions.

Let's take a look at the main difference between the two. 

Flexible budget

Flexible budgets are created to adjust the allowable cost levels to meet the activity level. The budget creation follows cost analysis of the fixed and variable expenses so that the budget can be flexed accordingly. This type of budgeting is typically carried out to manage specific subdivisions of budgeting. 

Rolling budget

The rolling budget model has a twelve-month budget period, created several times over the year on a quarterly or monthly basis. The main objective of this budget is to revise the plans, predict changes in the market, and create a plan for the upcoming months. Rolling budget reviews the activity level, costs, and revenues.

Wrapping up

A rolling budget can be a great initiative if your business is frequently subjected to economic, financial, and industrial change. The technique gives you the advantage of altering the budget on a quarterly/half-yearly/monthly basis after considering new market data.

The evaluation of the rolling budget takes place towards the conclusion of each budgeting period, allowing you to consider the short-term context when planning ahead. The financial plan provides a comprehensive understanding to your department managers and clarifies their goals and responsibilities for the next term.

Unfortunately, creating a rolling budget is initially more costly than a static budget, as you need to hire experienced staff to analyze the market fluctuations. That said, the budgeting option will be more effective and financially savvy in the long run.

So, if your organization is looking for an effective budget model that considers short-term market changes, creating a rolling budget can work effectively for you. 

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