Tired of Traditional Budgeting? Try Zero-Based Budgeting.

Small and medium sized business owners, don’t be intimidated by zero-based budgeting. Here’s how to use it.

Written by Jennifer Dunn
Published on Jun. 24, 2024
Tired of Traditional Budgeting? Try Zero-Based Budgeting.
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
Brand Studio Logo

If you’re a small business owner, you know that monitoring your spending is crucial to your overall success. But when expenses continue to roll in and you have growth on your radar, budgeting can feel daunting.

The solution? Zero-based budgeting.

What Is Zero-Based Budgeting?

Unlike traditional budgeting, which often carries over expenses from previous years, zero-based budgeting requires that you start from scratch. This means each budgeting period, whether monthly, quarterly or annually, begins with a blank slate.

For small business owners, especially those looking to be more intentional with their spending, ZBB offers a refreshing perspective. By looking at every expense, you can gain a deeper understanding of your company’s finances — something we all need to succeed.

Below, we’ll dive into ZBB and how it can help you allocate resources like a pro, putting your money where it counts.

More on FinanceThis is Why Your Startup Needs Bookkeeping


Misconceptions About Zero-Based Budgeting

Unfortunately, there are a handful of misconceptions out there regarding zero-based budgeting.

It’s Too Time-Consuming

Yes, implementing ZBB requires a bit of time and effort upfront. But the long-term benefits more than make up for that initial investment. Plus, today’s budgeting tools and software can streamline the process for you.

It’s Only for Big Companies

While ZBB gained popularity because of large corporations, it works just as well, if not better, for small businesses. Think about it: When you’re running a tight ship, every penny counts. ZBB helps you get the most out of your budget, no matter how small your operation.

It’s All About Cutting Costs

ZBB is not about going on a budget-slashing spree. It’s about being smart with your spending. Sometimes, this means reallocating funds to the projects that will take your business to the next level. ZBB empowers small businesses to take control of their finances, shifting their mindset toward greater financial health and sustainability.


Benefits of Zero-Based Budgeting

Zero-based budgeting is perfect for small businesses that want to improve their financial management. Here are some advantages.

Better Insight Into Costs

With ZBB, you analyze every expense. You will gain insight into your costs, helping you kick wasteful spending to the curb.

Strategic Use of Resources

When you spend based on your actual needs, you can allocate resources accordingly. This means putting your hard-earned cash toward things that drive growth.

More Flexibility

Unlike traditional budgeting, which can be rigid and inflexible, ZBB changes as your business does. With its clean-slate approach, your business can quickly reallocate resources and adapt if something happens, good or bad.

Confidence in Your Decisions

ZBB holds you accountable, so you can feel confident knowing you are making the smartest decisions possible with every penny. 

Continuous Improvement

By using ZBB, your business can continuously update its budget and make changes as it grows.

ZBB has plenty of benefits for businesses of all sizes. As long as you commit, you’ll see results that help you make smarter decisions.


How to Use Zero-Based Budgeting

Ready to give zero-based budgeting a try? Here’s what you need to do.

Set Clear Objectives

What are your financial goals? What areas of your business do you want to optimize? Having a solid road map will guide your budgeting decisions.

Break It Down

Next, get into the nitty-gritty of your expenses — and don’t hold back. What purpose does each expense serve? Is it essential for your business to grow? By breaking down your expenses, you’ll gain clarity on where your money is going and where you could save.

Justify Every Dollar Spent

Here is where the real work comes in. You’ll need to provide a rationale for each expense. If you cannot go to bat for one, it might be time to say goodbye.

Build From Zero

Evaluate each past expenditure in detail to check that the expense is still necessary, the pricing has not changed and whether you can renegotiate any costs. Once you have completed that exercise, consider new expenditures, timing of the spend, and how they line up with your expected revenue.

For instance, you want to make sure several major expenses are not due the same month as your planned unpaid vacation, etc. While it may seem intimidating at first, starting fresh will ensure your budget is a tool for you to manage your finances.

Allocate Wisely

With your budget in mind, it’s now time to allocate your resources. Focus your cash where it will have the greatest impact so you can maximize the return on your investment.

Monitor and Adjust

The work doesn’t stop just yet! Regularly monitor your budget and be prepared to adjust as needed.

By following these steps, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the art of ZBB.

More on BudgetingShould Your Budget Be Fixed or Flexible?


Can Zero-Based Budgeting Work for Your Business?

Zero-based budgeting requires a mindset shift, with a focus on accountability, transparency and continuous improvement. Make sure your team is ready to embrace these things before you move forward.

So, can ZBB work for your business? If you’re looking to transform the financial health of your business and position yourself for long-term growth, it might be time to give ZBB a try!

Hiring Now
Healthtech • Information Technology • Software • Telehealth