Budgets aren’t only useful for enterprises and multinational corporations. To scale your business effectively, you need to maintain one too.
Research shows that budgeting is especially important for small businesses—CB Insights found that 38% of them fail due to a lack of funds. Unfortunately, financial planning and budget management with spreadsheets isn’t ideal either. In a survey conducted earlier this year, 98% of office workers reported that their employers had lost money because of Excel errors.
So what’s a business owner to do?
Enter: business budgeting software. By automating tasks and providing visibility into your finances, the 4 tools reviewed in this article empower you to pursue higher-value initiatives for your company.
But to stretch every dollar further, your business also needs smart finance automation tools to control spend, keep you within budget, and streamline your financial management. So, we’ll also look at how Ramp works with these solutions to amplify business growth. Let’s dive in.
What is business budgeting software?
If you’ve used personal budgeting software like Mint before, you know these tools help you manage your money and assess your financial health. Business budgeting software does the same for your company. By gathering and analyzing financial data, it gives you a glimpse into the past, present, and future of your business.
Over the years, companies have developed different ways to track and monitor their operating budgets. You’ll often see bootstrapped operations working off of Excel spreadsheets, while huge brand-name corporations use enterprise solutions.
How to choose a business budgeting software in 4 simple steps
1. Figure out what your business needs—both now and in the future
If you’re not clear on what your business finances need most, it’ll be difficult to decide what kind of software will be most useful for you.
Start by assessing whether you can simplify and improve your current budgeting process with software automation. For example, many of them come with accounting automations that record transaction data and categorize expenses—workflows that could free up hundreds of hours for you or your accounting team.
And if you plan on implementing alternative budgeting measures, such as zero-based budgeting or activity-based budgeting, consider the tools or features needed to succeed with these endeavors.
2. Take stock of your options
Now that you know what you need, it’s time to look for solutions. Jumpstart your search with our top 4 picks below, but don’t stop there. Also, consider reaching out to people in your network for their recommendations—they may be able to offer insights you won’t get elsewhere.
After you wrap up your research, narrow down your options to your top 2-3 picks. Note that many accounting tools (but not all of them) have budgeting capabilities, so make sure to double-check before moving on to the next step.
3. Test drive each platform
Get to know each tool as best you can. Read G2 reviews and comparison articles. Watch videos, both from the vendor and the people who use the software.
Many providers offer a free trial of their product, so sign up for them one at a time. Use them the way you normally would—this gives you the most accurate feel for how it will perform in your business. Make sure to test out the features, connect the platform with your other finance tools, and get in touch with customer support.
Since most free trials run anywhere between 14-30 days, expect this step to take some time. (This is why it’s important to keep your list of top picks as short as possible.)
4. Evaluate the results
After you finish your test runs with each software, compare your experiences. Did you see a lift in productivity? Less time spent on your finances? Or perhaps money saved on payroll?
Keep in mind you’ve only gotten a sneak peek of each platform, so don’t worry about mastering each one. Ultimately, you want to go with the one you’re most confident using.
5 features your business budgeting software should have
Small and midsize businesses have many different needs than their larger counterparts. For instance, most won’t need the features sought after by global corporations—and the vast majority won’t be able to afford the price tag either.
Here are 5 key features you do want to look for in your business budgeting software, though.
1. Ability to perform complex calculations
If your goal is to redirect your time and energy to higher-value tasks, look for software with powerful reports that do the heavy lifting for you. In addition to budget analysis reports, many solutions offer balance sheets, cash flow statements, financial forecasting, income statements, and more, plus graphs for better visualization of the data.
Putting your software in charge of the number crunching also ensures minimal errors in your financial statements, therefore increasing confidence in your decision-making.
2. User-friendly interface
First-time business owners without a finance background often have difficulty navigating budgeting software and the built-in reports. If you suspect you’ll be one of them, choose a software that’s designed with you in mind.
Companies like Xero have opted for a minimalist, intuitive interface in their software. By stripping away more complicated features, these tools prioritize ease of use without losing their effectiveness. The shorter learning curve means you’ll spend less time getting up to speed on your finances too.
3. Excellent customer support
Even the simplest platforms will require some time to understand and navigate, and that’s why a provider with great customer support is crucial.
To help you make the most of your new software, look for vendors with:
- 24/7 availability or extended support hours
- An extensive knowledge base
- Further education tools, like explainer videos or live training
Reliable providers will also release regular software updates to fix bugs and provide you with the most up-to-date features.
4. Multi-user access
Your financial data is crucial to the success of your venture, so it shouldn’t be accessible to just anyone in your organization. Keep sensitive information secure by choosing which team members get access to what is in your account.
You may decide to give an employee permission to send out invoices to clients, but block them from the rest of your account. Meanwhile, you might give your accountant access to your books and reports, but nothing else. Your team will only have access to the information needed to do their jobs—and nothing more.
Setting up and learning how to use your software requires a large upfront investment of your time. And as you continue to use the tool, you’ll collect an enormous amount of data that would be difficult (and costly) to migrate to another platform.
This makes it counterproductive to change vendors every time you outgrow your current plan.
Therefore, you’ll want a software provider that offers multiple pricing tiers. Each consecutive tier offers a set of expanded features—such as more users or more granular financial reporting—designed to support the needs of your business as it grows.
Best business budgeting software of 2022, compared
QuickBooks Online: Best overall small business budgeting software
In addition to powerful budgeting features, this scalable accounting software by Intuit can automate most of your business’s other financial tasks, including invoicing, billing, and expense tracking. However, you’ll need to be on the Plus plan or higher to take advantage of its budgeting tools.
Xero: Most user-friendly business budgeting software
One of the more intuitive tools of this group, Xero makes budget planning and bookkeeping a breeze for the new business owner. The platform also boasts over 1,000 integrations in its marketplace and unlimited users, no matter which plan you go with.
Sage 50cloud Accounting: Best budgeting software for Windows users
This cloud-based accounting software for small and medium-sized businesses comes with a broad spread of features, including:
- Job costing
- Inventory and expense management
On the flip side, the Windows-only platform offers a limited range of integrations—with only 15 available at this time.
NetSuite ERP: Best for companies looking for an all-in-one solution
NetSuite Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) offers more than just accounting and financial management capabilities. It provides greater visibility and control over your operations, finances, inventory, orders, and other fixed assets—all on one platform. Still, the resulting price puts this option out of reach for most businesses just starting out.
Budget management software honorable mentions
- Planning Maestro by Centage
- Workday Adaptive Planning
Ramp and business budgeting software: Integrating to create the perfect pair
You need to know where every dollar goes if you want to scale effectively and sustainably. Software that integrates with your other finance tools allows for real-time visibility across your entire business, enabling you to better monitor your spending.
That’s where Ramp comes in.
Automated approval workflows prevent out-of-policy expenses without slowing your employees down. Our smart spend management controls and corporate credit cards help companies reduce costs and stick to their budgets (to date, we’ve saved customers over $135 million!). On top of that, hundreds of integrations funnel your financial data into one place, giving you an accurate snapshot of your finances without switching between platforms.
When you pair Ramp’s financial planning software with your budgeting software, you’re in control of your finances—not the other way around.
Get in touch to learn how our tools can save scaling businesses time and money.