Budgeting tools can help ensure a project operates within its fiscal means and is able to account for all of the money it has been allocated. Tools for managing a project's funds range from online applications to those based in computer spreadsheets. While some tools have specific applications -- such as creating a budget for public housing -- others can be customized to meet the needs of individual projects.
Tools for Specific Projects
Depending upon the nature of your project, governing agencies and professional organizations may offer budgeting tools to help you better manage your finances. The United States Housing and Urban Development Authority, for example, has programmed a computer spreadsheet that performs budgetary calculations for state-level and local-level housing authorities that need to develop project budgets. An effective template-based project-budgeting tool should include spending parameters for common expenditures, such as salaries, market research and travel costs. The tools should also help estimate costs and allow the user to input cost variables that are specific to the project at hand, while helping project managers stay within spending parameters.
Tools From Financial Institutions
Some web-based budgeting tools offer a more general approach to budgeting by monitoring cash flows in and out of a project's bank accounts. The Bank of the West, for example, offers a budgeting tool that reports to its account holders how a project's budget is spent and offers alerts when cash flows slow down and when due dates for bills and other expenditures are approaching. Similar tools from financial institutions also allow project managers to set spending goals and input accounting journal and ledger entries.
Software applications also offer robust budgeting tools for projects. Though they often are not free, these tools incorporate features such as time and expense reporting, returns on investments and inventory and sales. Users of software-based tools are responsible for inputting more data than users of tools based on templates or cash flows through bank accounts. Some project-budgeting software is web-based and can be integrated with other financial software, such as tax-preparation and accounting applications. Software-based budgeting tools fill a variety of niches, including budget analysis and project management.
Customizing Your Own
By using macros and the programming language Visual Basic for Applications (VBA), a project manager can program a computer spreadsheet to function as a budgetary tool. Macros, which are commands which are stored within VBA code, instruct a computer spreadsheet to automatically perform repetitive tasks, such as monitoring expenditures or downloading credit card data from your financial institution. Computer spreadsheets can be a tool to monitor adherence to an existing budget or to prescribe spending limits to establish a budget.
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