written by | May 10, 2022

What is Zero-Based Budgeting : Overview, Process and Advantages

Budgeting and cost-cutting are two less-than-exciting but very necessary tasks for managing your company's finances. Traditional budgeting procedures are stable, predictable and simple to establish and use. But in today's dynamic global market, they may not be agile enough to provide your firm with the energy and agility it needs to succeed. Zero-based budgeting, or zbb, is another option that many businesses have adopted.

This novel strategy offers some intriguing chances to swipe the slate clean and start over with budgeting, but this is not for everybody. To assess whether the zero-base budgeting technique is appropriate for your company, you must first grasp its advantages and limits.

Did you know?

In 1986, the Indian government implemented ZBB as a system for determining the Expenditure Budget. The government made it compulsory for all ministries to review their activities and programmes and prepare their expenditure estimations based on the concept of ZBB.

Also Read: Everything about Capital Budgeting - Processes and Calculations

What is Zero-Based Budgeting?

Traditional budgeting strategies start by developing a budget or prediction for the ongoing year (almost always based on the past year's budget) and then modifying it depending on inflation, precise spending data and revised estimations. However, the zero-based budgeting method starts from scratch every month and demands an explanation for every budget item. During the zero-based budgeting procedure, no line item from the past month's budget is automatically moved to the current budget.

This planning strategy is forward-looking instead of depending on past budget data from the previous month, quarter or year. Whereas traditional budgeting is concerned with restrictions based on what has been spent, zero-based budgeting is concerned with why each expense is incurred.

ZBB is far more time-consuming and sophisticated than standard budgeting. But it provides a tremendous cost-cutting potential by decreasing budget bloating, and it also checks unnecessary spending while emphasising sensible decision-making and efficient capital allocation. It is also incredibly adaptable and may be used for a wide range of expenditures, including operational expenses, administrative costs, Cost of Goods Sold (COGS), etc.

How Does Zero-Based Budgeting (ZBB) Work?

In business, zbb enables the integration of top-level strategic objectives into budget preparation. This is done by attaching them to particular functional areas of the firm, where expenses may be first aggregated and assessed against primary outcomes and current expectations.

For its detail-oriented character, zero-based budgeting could be a multi-year approach, with executives or supervisors reviewing a few functional departments at a time. Zero-based budgeting could substantially save expenditures by preventing sweeping additions or reductions to a preceding period's budget. However, it is a time-consuming procedure that takes far longer than standard, cost-based budgeting.

Zero Based Vs Traditional Budgeting

The two most common budgeting strategies are zero-based budgeting and traditional budgeting. These methods assist businesses in allocating capital to various areas. These budgeting approaches differ in many ways. So based on what they want to achieve through the budgeting process, businesses must properly choose their chosen strategy. Let's take a closer look at the differences between zero-based and traditional budgeting:

Justification of Data

When using zero-based budgeting, the baseline is set to zero as though there are no previous or historical statistics. All expenditures in the cash flow are validated here. As a result, a new expense or revenue and an existing expense or revenue need explanation. Only expenses above and beyond the previous year's budget must be substantiated when establishing traditional budgets. Only modest adjustments, not everything significant, necessitate an explanation.

Base for Budgeting

A zero-based budget is prepared with the assumption that the baseline is zero. Every financial cycle, a new budget is created from scratch. On the other side, traditional budgeting utilises the prior year's budget as a basis to create the current year's budget. As a result, the primary emphasis is on the prior level of expenditure.

Because zero-based budgeting involves the establishment of a new budget from the bottom up, it is simple to delete an existing structure or add a new category to the current budget. In other words, a zero-based budget is more adaptable. It is difficult to change budget elements in traditional budgeting. Furthermore, the budget components differ from year to year, and budget components vary based on market circumstances and the company's goals. Because the traditional budget is based on the previous year's budgeting, the corporation does not have to employ the same budget elements as it did in the previous year's budget.

As a result, changing or eliminating an existing facility or adding a new category to the current budget is extremely tough. In other words, traditional budgeting is quite rigid.

Time Required

One of the most significant issues with a zero-based budget is that this is a time-consuming procedure because the budget is created from the beginning. Any venture introduced into the budget must go through several comparisons and clearances, resulting in an unnecessary amount of time spent on each project. Traditional budgeting, on the contrary, takes less time. Because modifications are made in the past year's budget to fit the demands of the current term, half of the work has already been done well before the budget process begins, and only minor revisions are necessary.

Allocation of Resources

Budgets are generated using zero-based budgeting by devoting the greatest number of resources to the programs that benefit the company. Priority is given to operations that generate income and are vital to the business's sustainability. As a result of zero-based budgeting, the administration may concentrate on making critical choices. Traditional planning is done without emphasising critical company tasks, and the previous year's budget is merely updated to account for inflation.

Ease of Preparation and Training

Zero-based budgeting necessitates an explanation for the distribution of existing resources that can only be determined by extensive study and complicated computations. Management must have specialised skills and expertise to construct zero-based budgeting and can only be prepared by a skilled and well-trained expert. As a result, creating zero-based budgeting is a difficult undertaking. On the other hand, traditional budgeting is simpler to construct since they do not require sophisticated computations.

Zero-Based Budgeting Advantages

The major advantages of zero-based budgeting are as follows:

It's Built on Cost-Benefit Analysis

When every budget item is validated, some firms find it easier to discover and remove those not delivering an appropriate return on investment (ROI). Bear in mind that this evaluation can include more value-centric performance measures like total cost of ownership (TCO), social status and prospects unique to the fiscal quarter covered by the budget. But you should contextualise within the context of a broader budget to provide valuable insights into these attributes.

In other words, while zero-based budgeting is done monthly, it can give data for proper investigation of other financial projections. If your firm incorporates such studies into its processes, it also provides data for longer periods, such as the financial cycle.

Also Read: What is the Importance of a Business Budget?

It Prioritises Resource Allocation Efficiency

Once a zbb system is set up, you can use your finances more efficiently. All those expenditures that give back a healthy ROI (in profits, cost savings, value-added and so on) receive the funds they require. In comparison, less pivotal business expenses are shifted down the list of priorities or removed entirely rather than merely being incorporated into the next budget.

It Promotes Optimisation in Business Process Management

Streamlining spending and emphasising products that benefit your organisation through increased value, cost savings, efficiency, etc., cut the fat and promote long-term progress. Streamlining operations and limiting spending also aid in strategic decision-making, financial planning and financial management and identifying chances to review objectives at the project, division, department and corporate levels.

It Strengthens Strategic Growth and Transparency

ZBB inspires project managers and institutional leadership equally to deliver clear, persuasive interpretations for their budgets. It also pushes them to illustrate how expenses facilitate their purpose and the economic expansion, profitability and lucrative effectiveness of the business as a whole. It inspires them to focus on legitimate expenditures and incorporate expenses with the organisation's goals.

Furthermore, zbb encourages innovation while minimising wastage. It promotes scope creep that can precede baseline budgeting, in which every penny is invested to safeguard the following year's budget against cutbacks and promote an increase.

Zero-Based Budgeting Disadvantages

The drawbacks of zero-based budgeting are as follows:

It Can Be Complex and Expensive

In contrast to standard budgeting systems, zero-based budgeting may be exceedingly expensive and time-consuming and hard to enforce. The additional training necessary (including the use of any updated software, procedures, etc.) and the reality that each budget is prepared from the beginning can add substantial price when planning a move. The burden may be impossible for businesses with limited resources.

Time limitations may also be a concern, with finance groups working extra (both metaphorically and practically) to collaborate across business divisions to guarantee all budgets remain up to date, precise and comprehensive throughout the budgeting process.

It's Linked to Tangibility

Prioritising expenditure and, by implication, legitimising it to stockholders higher up the economic food chain can rapidly get very difficult for divisions whose modules aren't quite as cut-and-dry. On the other hand, for stockholders with the acquisition (where the procure-to-pay (P2P) procedure provides multi-fold opportunities to adjust workloads and spend for cash reserves and valuation).

It's Disruptive

Making the switch to zbb may be psychologically and cognitively challenging for some people. Executives may struggle to adjust prioritising and rationalising every element in their budgeting regularly, resulting in resistance that needs to be handled before you can function at optimal intensity.

A substantial shift in the budgetary process may also jeopardise or disrupt operations due to potential modifications motivated by strategic choices to change subcontractors. It may also generate an additional risk profile if you do not have enough statistics to foresee quantifiable savings, valuation or productivity gains.


The goal of zero-based budgeting is to illustrate the genuine expenditures that will be committed by a business. Although this form of budgeting takes more time, it's a much more appropriate manner of financing. This involves a comprehensive review of the budget plan, and if the managers make inconsequential changes to meet their goals, they are likely to be revealed.

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Q: For which costs can the zero-based budgeting be implemented?


Zero-based budgeting is especially suitable for discretionary spending like research & development, marketing, and training.

Q: How does zero-based budgeting work?


The zero-based budgeting approach states that every year, the expected spending for any project or program must begin at zero. It signifies that every year, all budget demands should be reconsidered with a cost-benefit analysis. To minimise prior mistakes, zero-based budgeting never utilises sums from the previous year.

Q: What are the disadvantages of Zero-Based Budgeting?


There are several drawbacks to zero-based budgeting. For starters, it is both time-sensitive and resource-intensive. Using a customised budget worksheet, on the other hand, maybe more effective. Secondly, it may incentivise short-term thinking in the organisation by directing greater resources to enterprises that generate the most income.

Q: What are the advantages of Zero-Based Budgeting?


Zero-based budgeting has several benefits, including more streamlined operations, cheaper costs, budget versatility, and strategic execution. When managers consider how each penny is invested, the top revenue-generating processes become more visible.

Q: What is Zero-Based Budgeting?


Starting from zero, zero-based budgeting justifies every particular spending for a fiscal quarter. Instead of the budget preparation increments found in traditional planning, zero-based budgeting commences from the beginning, examining each detailed demand of the organisation. Essentially, this enables a top-down, holistic approach to analysing the success of a certain project.

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