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How to create an actionable budget

How to create an actionable budget

9 min read

Budgets rarely elicit excitement; just think of your last budget meeting. When you sent the invite “Discuss Quarterly Budgets,” did you receive a bunch of excited replies? When the meeting came around, was everyone high-fiving and amped?

We doubt it—and we understand why. Budgeting is an emotionally-loaded topic, often associated with restriction or just being told “No.” Given these negative feelings towards budgets, you might be surprised to hear that we built the entire Divvy platform with budgets at the center.

The problem with expense management

Expense management is nothing new. In fact, Divvy’s inception was prompted by a recognition that while expense management is a necessary evil, the process doesn’t have to be. 

We set out to simplify transactional spend and eliminate expense reports altogether. To us, it’s silly to allow people to spend money and then ask for approval.

Many competitors are still aligned with this model: Spend now, ask forgiveness later. Unfortunately, this creates an anxiety-ridden mess for leaders and finance teams. Plus, it’s not ideal for employees who may face negative consequences for decisions they were allowed to make without guidance. 

The traditional expense reporting and reimbursement process asks employees to carry company debt (without interest) and to wait weeks or months to be paid back. This creates a stressful culture as employees go without reimbursement and with numerous unanswered questions: How many back and forth emails can it take? Why was my expense report denied? How could I have known that was the right expense code? Why does Joe get a company card but I don’t?

The solution to this friction starts by creating a spending plan that sets employees and leaders up for success. Starting the conversation with enforceable, flexible budgets is key to removing so many painful barriers to spend.

How to create an actionable budget

At Divvy, we believe that budgets are the perfect vehicle to set up a process of mutual understanding and intentional spending.

These are some of our budgeting mantras:

1. Proactively control spend

This is the whole enchilada, the big bambino, the real deal. In an ideal world, a business or financial leader could send out an edict: We never go over budget, we always forecast accurately!

But usually, the strategy of spend management looks a lot more like herding cats: You spend a lot of time trying to set budgets, only to be pushed underwater by an influx of unidentified spending, random expense reports, unpredictable variable expenses, requests for more, and thoughtless “use it or lose it” spending at the end of every budget period.

This is the primary reason that Divvy proactively sets spending limits by budget. You create a financial goal first, and then create your business budget. For example, if you set a marketing budget at $50,000 based on your targeted marketing strategy, employees literally cannot spend over that amount without asking you. Which leads us to the second reason we love budgets.

2. Start a conversation

We realize that businesses need to change, be flexible, adapt. We’re not saying that budgets should be stagnant—in fact, we believe the opposite. A flexible budget is far better for cash flow, hitting a budget goal, and managing all discretionary expenses. 

What we want is for budget owners and leaders like you to have a chance to discuss changes and variable expenses. We allow for Divvy users to request budget increases whenever they need them. 

But something magical happens when a salesperson or a department manager has to hit the “request funds” button: You get a notification and get to have a conversation with the requester before they spend more money. You’re not saying no, you’re saying “Be intentional and have a business case.”

3. Be flexible but firm

If, after you discuss the intention of the budget adjustment, you find that the request is reasonable, you can adjust your operating budget on the fly with Divvy. All charts, graphs, forecasts, and spending power are updated with the click of a button (goodbye static budget).

The new limit is—as the limit before it—firm. So you don’t have to worry about employees overspending without permission.

Managing “living” budgets with Divvy

With Divvy, your budgets become more than static cells or fixed cost numbers on a spreadsheet; your budgets come to life. These “living” budgets guide daily—not monthly or quarterly—decisions about when, where, and how much your people spend, as well as your company’s long-term strategy. Much like a garden, you need to prune your budget here and pluck there for best results.

That’s why we’ve been focused on rolling out new functionality to help you manage living budgets more efficiently. Here are a few of the feature updates we’ve announced recently, with the goal of helping business owners spend more time on forecasting and planning and less time on budget monitoring.

desktop view of divvy's expense management app

Secondary navigation in the Budgets menu

Now, when you click the Budgets icon from the main menu in Divvy, all users see a secondary navigation menu. This allows users to move in and out of budgets detail pages with ease—no matter how many budgets you’re a part of.

Budget Periods

You can now use Monthly Budget Periods to see what was spent in the previous month, compare it to the current month, and look ahead to next month’s proposed spend. This time-based view will help reviewing and forecasting.

Physical card active budget

To help users who can spend from multiple budgets, we’ve streamlined how budgets work with your card. When you go to spend on your physical card, your default budget will always be the last budget you selected.

Send funds in bulk

We know that getting funds to your team, while maintaining control is extremely important. Budget owners and admins can now send funds to any user from both the mobile app and desktop in bulk.

Budgets owners and admins can send funds to multiple people at once, even if they aren’t currently in the budget. Users funds will automatically update and any users not already in the budget will be added automatically.

Bulk budget edits

When you have a global change in your budgets, it’s tedious to manually change funds for every budget and user. You can now edit funds in bulk within budgets for a faster way to manage how much your employees can spend. Just select a single or multiple users/cards and set their available amount in bulk. Specify if you’d like to update the amount for the current month or all months moving forward, and you’re done. 

Shared funds

For things like a lunch budget, team event, or other project-based activities, you can create a shared funds budget. All members in a shared budget have access to any available funds. Not only does this make spending easier for budget members, it also reduces the administrative workload on budget owners (because they don’t have to deal with requests for funds). But don’t worry your teams still will not be able to exceed the total budgeted amount.

We hope that you’re as passionate about budgets as we are—and that you enjoy our new updates.

Divvy believes in budgeting that provides you flexibility and control. Our platform enables you to see your spend—and keep it on track. Get started today

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