Small Business Glossary

Budgeting Method - definition & overview


Budgeting Methods are different approaches to creating budgets, such as Profit First, incremental, activity-based and zero-based budgeting.

Budgeting is an essential part of financial management that allows individuals and businesses to plan their spending and save for the future. It's a tool that can help you achieve your financial goals, whether they're short-term or long-term. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore various budgeting methods, their benefits, and how to choose the right one for your needs.

The Importance of Budgeting

Budgeting is more than just a financial exercise; it's a way of life. It helps you understand where your money is going and how you can control it better. Without a budget, you may find yourself in a financial mess, struggling to pay bills, or failing to save for your future.

Furthermore, budgeting can give you peace of mind. Knowing that you have a plan for your money, and that you're sticking to it, can reduce stress and anxiety about your financial situation. It can also provide a sense of accomplishment as you watch your savings grow and your debt decrease.

Types of Budgeting Methods

There are several different types of budgeting methods, each with its own set of advantages and disadvantages. The key is to find the one that best suits your financial situation, lifestyle, and goals.

Here are some of the most common budgeting methods:

The Profit First Method

The Profit First Method is based on behavioural laws, like Parkinson’s Law, which states that work will expand depending on the amount of time available to complete the work, and it can also be applied to finances

The Profit First Method is so effective because it makes business owners more conscious of where and how they’re spending money, and it encourages them to prioritize a healthy profit margin and build a more conscious budget around that, rather than leaving profit to the whims of expenses

Incremental budgeting

This method takes last year's actual figures and adds or subtracts a percentage to obtain the current year's budget. It is the most common type of budget because it is simple and easy to understand. Incremental budgeting is appropriate to use if the primary cost drivers do not change from year to year

Activity-based budgeting

This is a top-down type of budget that determines the amount of inputs required to support the targets or outputs set by the company. For example, a company sets an output target of $100 million in revenues. The company will need to first determine the activities that need to be undertaken to meet the sales target, and then find out the costs of carrying out these activities

Value proposition budgeting

In this method, the budgeter considers questions such as "What value do we want to deliver to our customers?" and "What resources do we need to deliver that value?" The budget is then created based on the answers to these questions

Zero-Based Budgeting

Zero-based budgeting is a method where your income minus your expenses equals zero. This doesn't mean you have no money left; instead, it means every pound has a purpose. Whether it's for bills, savings, or entertainment, each pound is allocated to a specific category.

This method requires a lot of discipline and meticulous record-keeping. However, it can be highly effective for individuals who want complete control over their finances.

Envelope Budgeting

Envelope budgeting is a simple and tangible method that involves dividing your cash into different envelopes for each of your spending categories. When an envelope is empty, you've spent your budget for that category.

This method can be particularly effective for those who struggle with overspending. It provides a visual representation of your spending and can help you stay within your budget.

50/30/20 Budgeting

The 50/30/20 budgeting method involves dividing your after-tax income into three categories: needs, wants, and savings. 50% of your income goes to needs, 30% to wants, and 20% to savings.

This method is straightforward and easy to follow, making it a good choice for beginners. It also ensures that you're saving a portion of your income each month.

Value-Based Budgeting

Value-based budgeting involves allocating your money based on your personal values. This means prioritising spending on things that are most important to you and cutting back on things that are less important.

This method can be empowering and satisfying, as it allows you to spend your money in a way that aligns with your values and goals.

Choosing the Right Budgeting Method

Choosing the right budgeting method depends on your personal circumstances, financial goals, and spending habits. It's important to choose a method that you can stick to, as consistency is key to successful budgeting.

Consider your financial goals. Are you trying to pay off debt? Save for a large purchase? Or simply manage your daily expenses better? Different budgeting methods can be more effective for different goals, so choose the one that aligns with yours.

Finally, consider your lifestyle and personality. If you're a detail-oriented person who enjoys tracking every penny, a zero-based budget might be a good fit. If you prefer a simpler approach, the 50/30/20 method might be more suitable.


Budgeting is an essential tool for managing your finances and achieving your financial goals. By understanding the different budgeting methods and choosing the one that best fits your needs, you can take control of your money and make it work for you.

Remember, the best budgeting method is the one that you can stick to. So, don't be afraid to experiment with different methods until you find the one that works best for you. Happy budgeting!

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