Call them by any name – Budget vs. Actual, Target vs. Actual, Goal vs. Progress, KPIs, Performance charts, but they are the bread and butter of business charting. So how about a drop dead gorgeous and insightful chart for your next meeting with the folks upstairs? Something like this:
Create Budget vs Actual chart with smart labels in Excel – Tutorial
If you are in a hurry to make such a chart, download the template, plug in your values and you are good to go. For instructions on how to create them in Excel, read along.
Step 1: Getting the data
Set up your data. Let’s say you have budgets and actual values for a bunch of categories (products, months, departments etc.) in this format. Calculate variance and variance % using simple formulas as shown below.
Step 2: Create a column chart
Simply select your category, budget and actual columns and insert a column chart (clustered). You will get this.
Step 3: Add Budget and Actual data again to the chart
It feels wrong, but trust me on this one. Add budget and actual values to the chart again. We now end up with a cluster of 4 columns per category, as shown below.
Step 4: Change the newly added columns to lines
Right click on either of the newly added columns, choose “Change series chart type” and convert both of them to lines.
This step looks different in older versions of Excel, where you have to do it for each column. In Excel 2013 or above, you will go to “Combination chart” screen and you can adjust the series types for all series from there.
Step 5: Add up / down bars to these lines
Select either of the lines and use the + icon to insert up/down bars. In earlier versions of Excel, you need to use either Insert ribbon or menu to do the same.
Step 6: Format up down bars and columns
Quickly adjust the colors of each bar (don’t touch the lines yet) as you see fit.
Step 7: Adjust gap width and series overlap
This is the tricky bit. Use below instructions.
- Select the columns first. Go to format series (Ctrl+1)
- Adjust series overlap to 0%
- Set gap width to 150%
- Now select the lines
- Adjust the gap width to 300%
- Feel free to adjust / experiment with various gap width combinations to see which works best for your eyes.
Your result should look like this:
Step 8: Make the lines invisible
Select the lines (one at time) and yell gently reducto
If you are muggle, simply set the outline color to no line and you are gold. We get this:
Step 9: Add a title to your chart and remove unnecessary legend items
Double click on the chart title and type something meaningful. Alternatively, you can also link it to a cell value. To do that, select the title, press = and point to a cell that has the title you want to use.
To remove legend entries, click on the chart legend, now click again on the series 3, hit DEL key. Repeat the process for series 4.
Step 10: Add data labels to both lines
Select the lines one at a time (remember, the lines are invisible, so just click where they are supposed to be or use the format box to select them). Now use the + button to add data labels. In older versions of Excel, you need to use either ribbon or menus to add labels. At this stage, your chart should look like this:
Step 11: Calculate new labels
This is the fun part. Start by setting up rules for what symbol+value you want to show. For example, you may want to show,
- Thumbs down if the variance is below -5%
- fingers crossed if the variance is between -5% and 0%
- OK symbol if variance is positive and less 10%
- Thumbs up if it is between 10% and 25%
- Double thumbs up if it is more than 25%
Create a range where your symbol % mapping will go and fill up the symbols using Insert > Symbol option. Select Segoe UI Emoji font to insert cool emojis.
Your mapping table should look like this:
Note the first value. It means we will display thumbs down for all values between -5% and -100%.
Now, let’s calculate the labels. There are two sets of labels. Positive and Negative. This gives you finer control on formatting them. Our raw data area now looks like this:
Formulas for labels:
- Symbol: =VLOOKUP(var%, mapping-table, 2) We are using the approximate lookup technique to get relevant symbol.
- Var 1: =IF(var%<0, Symbol & TEXT(ABS(var%), “0%”),””)
- Var 2: =IF(var%>=0, Symbol & TEXT(ABS(var%), “0%”),””)
Replace the words var%, mapping-table, Symbol with actual cell references in your workbook.
Step 12: Plug our smart labels in to the chart
Now that we have gorgeous labels, let’s replace the old ones with these.
- Select first line (budget)’s labels and press CTRL+1 to go to format options.
- Click on “Value from cells” option and point to Var 1 column.
- Repeat the process for second line (actual) labels too.
We get this.
Step 13: Adjust label position
We are almost there. Click on the labels and choose position as “Above”.
Our kick ass budget vs. actual chart is ready.
Download FREE Budget vs. Actual Chart Template
Click here to download the chart template. Just type in your data and see the chart. If you want to learn how to make the chart, there are instructions in the workbook too. Scroll down to see them. Have a play and use it in your work to be a hero in front of your boss.
More such charts for you:
If you liked that chart, check out these additional resources for more inspiration and wow factor.
- Rider on a hill – Dynamic target tracking chart
- 6 charts to compare % progress
- Thermometer chart with last year markers
- Gauge chart in Excel
- 14 charts for budget vs. actual
How do you make your budget vs. actual charts?
What about you? What charts do you use to make budget vs. actual charts? Please share your thoughts in comments.
Problem re-creating this chart in Excel?
If you face difficulty making budget vs actual chart in Excel, check:
- You have Emoji font installed. Windows should have added this by default long ago. The font name is Segoe UI Emoji.
- Labels are set to Segoe UI Emoji font. In some versions of Excel, emojis are available only on few fonts. If you see funny symbols or boxes with ? inside them, select labels and set the font to Segoe UI Emoji.
- Any other problem… post a comment so one of our readers or I can help you.