Understanding Sales Variance Formula + Examples

In a standard costing system, some favorable variances are not indicators of efficiency in operations. Ultimately, budget variances are a starting point for you to conduct a deeper cash flow analysis. Look at all the factors that affect your costs and examine the ROI your expenses are generating.

  • Not every faulty assumption occurs due to wrong expectations or poor foresight.
  • Alternatively, underperformance, such as operational inefficiencies or low talent retention, may lead to unfavorable variance.
  • If it’s ‘uncontrollable’, then these are factors that are outside of management’s control, such as the cost of materials.
  • Companies could also suffer from lower revenue and sales if new technology advances make their products outdated or obsolete.

However, your cost and net-profit variances are higher than your threshold of 10%. In accounting, a budget variance of 10% or less is usually considered tolerable. In the example analysis above we see that the revenue forecast was $150,000 and the actual result was $165,721.

Variance Analysis

Finally, monitor and review progress regularly to ensure your corrective actions produce the desired results. Involve relevant stakeholders, including department heads, finance staff, and operational staff, in the analysis and root cause identification process. Some variances may be minor, but others may be significant and require further investigation. If you use accounting software, this process is usually much easier, as all of your transactions are recorded and categorized in the software. The Ramp team is comprised of subject matter experts who are dedicated to helping businesses of all sizes work smarter and faster. Because of this, you should always list variance amounts along with percentages.

Using the formula, we can calculate the sales variance for the potted pothos plants. Say you work for a company that sells potted plants online, and your company expects to sell 100 pothos plants in decorative pots for $30 each. After one month, the plants are selling above the 7 best accounting apps for independent contractors in 2023 projections due to a viral TikTok review, and the demand for your product is sky-high. To allow time for your manufacturing team to restock, you raise prices to $35. It‘s important to note that the two types of sales volume variance can be intertwined and impact each other.

Changes in industry competition will also create budget variances. More competition means higher marketing expenses and product investment, leading to a potentially unfavorable variance. An effective budgeting process helps a business keep track of its revenues and expenditures., where a positive variance between budgeted and actual figures signifies improved revenue. Therefore, businesses need to conduct variance analysis to ascertain such variations.

The shortfall could be due, in part, to an increase in variable costs, such as a price increase in the cost of raw materials, which go into producing the product. The unfavorable variance could also be due, in part, to lower sales results versus the projected numbers. For example, let’s assume you run a business that makes customizable handmade blankets. The business has only been running for about six months but has proven popular internationally because of the customization process and the good quality fabric you use. You had budgeted for materials, labor and manufacturing supplies at the outset. This cost savings on labour has resulted in a favorable variance.

If not, then the results may come from individual differences of sample members instead. The variance is usually calculated automatically by whichever software you use for your statistical analysis. But you can also calculate it by hand to better understand how the formula works. Different formulas are used for calculating variance depending on whether you have data from a whole population or a sample. However, the variance is more informative about variability than the standard deviation, and it’s used in making statistical inferences. This may include reducing costs, improving operational efficiency, or shutting down unprofitable product or service lines.

Changes in economic conditions

Budget control and analysis of variances facilitates management by exception since it highlights areas of business performance which are not in line with expectations. With samples, we use n – 1 in the formula because using n would give us a biased estimate that consistently underestimates variability. The sample variance would tend to be lower than the real variance of the population. When you collect data from a sample, the sample variance is used to make estimates or inferences about the population variance. Budget variances can also arise from timing differences between when expenses are incurred and when they are reported.

Sales Variance Outcomes

In contrast, in a Fortune 500 company, variances may be tens of thousands of dollars without reaching a level that requires a detailed investigation. Simply enter all actual amounts in one column, budgeted amounts in another, and subtract the budgeted amount from the actual amount to get the variance. Businesses can conduct variance analysis at different levels, such as departmental or divisional levels.

How to Create a Master Budget

Business budgets are usually forecasted by management based on future predictions. In other words, a company’s management sits down and discusses financial strategies based on the current performance of the business. They try to estimate what the future revenues and expenses will be for the business if they follow a given strategy. An unfavorable variance can occur due to changing economic conditions, such as lower economic growth, lower consumer spending, or a recession, which leads to higher unemployment. Market conditions can also change, such as new competitors entering the market with new products and services.

Next, analyze the data to identify significant differences between budgeted and actual figures. You will need both the budgeted and actual financial data for the period you are analyzing. Comparing and analyzing variances in your budget vs. actual performance can provide valuable insight into where your money is going and help you make informed spending decisions. When calculating variances, you might fixate on percentages and lose track of amounts.

What Is Unfavorable Variance?

Where x is each number in the data set, mean is the mean of the data set, and n is the number of numbers in the data set. Access and download collection of free Templates to help power your productivity and performance. GoCardless helps you automate payment collection, cutting down on the amount of admin your team needs to deal with when chasing invoices. Find out how GoCardless can help you with ad hoc payments or recurring payments.


Either way, establishing a threshold for your budget variance helps with analysis. You can spend more time investigating and addressing the variances that were higher than you wanted. Ultimately, your budget is made up of guesses about what will happen in the future. That means there’s bound to be some difference between your budget and actual performance. If you could accurately predict the future, running a business would be much easier.

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