If you’ve ever heard the term “zero based budgeting” and wondered what that meant, it is just one of 3 basic approaches to the process of preparing a budget. The other 2 are “incremental budgeting” and “zero sum budgeting”. Here’s a brief description of the different approaches.
Incremental Budgeting -This approach uses a budget prepared using a previous period’s budget or actual performance as a base, with incremental amounts added for the new budget period. The advantage of this approach is that it is simple and creates a more stable and consistent environment for managers. However, this approach encourages spending up to the budget so that the budget is maintained for the subsequent year, doesn’t respond to changing circumstances and perpetuates misallocations of resources.
Zero based budgeting - By contrast, in zero-based budgeting, each item in the budget must be justified starting from the zero-base. The zero based approach is indifferent to whether the total budget is increasing or decreasing. The advantage of this approach is that it promotes a more efficient allocation of resources, requires manager to find more cost effective ways to improve operations and helps detect inflated budgets. Since everything has to be justified this approach will obviously be more time consuming.
Zero sum budgeting – This approach is used in personal finance to describe the practice of allocating or budgeting every dollar of income received. With this approach, if the budget for one item is increased then some other part of the budget must be adjusted downward so that the total budget remains unchanged.
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