Zero-Based Budgeting - ZBB

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DEFINITION of 'Zero-Based Budgeting - ZBB'

A method of budgeting in which all expenses must be justified for each new period. Zero-based budgeting starts from a "zero base" and every function within an organization is analyzed for its needs and costs. Budgets are then built around what is needed for the upcoming period, regardless of whether the budget is higher or lower than the previous one.

ZBB allows top-level strategic goals to be implemented into the budgeting process by tying them to specific functional areas of the organization, where costs can be first grouped, then measured against previous results and current expectations.

BREAKING DOWN 'Zero-Based Budgeting - ZBB'

Because of its detail-oriented nature, zero-based budgeting may be a rolling process done over several years, with only a few functional areas reviewed at a time by managers or group leadership.

Zero-based budgeting can lower costs by avoiding blanket increases or decreases to a prior period's budget. It is, however, a time-consuming process that takes much longer than traditional, cost-based budgeting. The practice also favors areas that achieve direct revenues or production; their contributions are more easily justified than in departments such as client service and research and development.

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