Couples that create comparative budgets of their finances can better evaluate changes in their spending patterns and identify expenses that are using up a lot of cash. A comparative budget summary can present your personal financial information from one period to the next to help you determine where cash flow changes have occurred and where changes are needed. A comparative budget also includes actual and estimated expenses to identify areas in which the budget was met and those in which you overspent.
Determine the information you want to compare on your budget summary. You can create a comparative budget for different time periods, such as month-to-month, quarter-to-quarter and year-to-year. A comparative budget should also compare actual vs. forecasted expenses. Depending on the type of analysis you want to do, use the format that will provide you with the best information for decision-making.
List the budget’s income and expense categories in one column. Typical income and expense categories include "Cash in Bank," "Salary Receipts," "Mortgage Expense," "Telephone Expense" and "Car Loan Payments." Include discretionary expenses for travel and entertainment. Categorize income and expenses like the way in which income and expenses are listed on an income statement: List all revenue and income items together, followed by all expense items.
List in a following column the forecasted amounts for each budget category for the time period presented. Allocate estimated budget amounts for each category and determine any income amount left over after all expenses have been paid.
List in the next column the actual amounts spent or paid for each budget category for the time period. Determine these amounts by analyzing the debits and credits in your bank statement and/or payment receipts. Determine if any income was left over after all expenses were paid.
Calculate any variances that exist between the actual and forecast budget amounts and list the budget deficit or surpluses in another column. List all budget deficits -- instances in which the actual amount was greater than the budget -- as negative figures. List all budget surpluses -- instances in which the actual amount was less than the budget -- as positive figures. The variance column will show you the areas in which you met your budget goals and the areas in which you fell short.
Eileen Rojas holds a bachelor's and master's degree in accounting from Florida International University. She has more than 10 years of combined experience in auditing, accounting, financial analysis and business writing.