What is QuickBooks Online’s Forecasting Tool & Should You Use It?

QuickBooks Cash Flow forecasting tool

In this quick guide we’ll go through how to create and edit forecasts in QBO and discuss strengths and weaknesses of the tool, so you can decided whether or not its right for your business.

Does QuickBooks Online have a forecasting tool?

Short answer: Yes! 

Slightly longer answer: Yes, but it might not have all the functionality you’re looking for. 

To see why that may be the case let’s dive into creating a forecast in QBO and checking out the features it has. 

How do I create a cash flow forecast in QuickBooks Online?

To start creating a cash flow forecast in QuickBooks Online select ‘Cash Flow’ from the menu on the left hand side. 

QuickBooks Online Cash Flow Forecasting screenshot 1

In the Cash Flow ‘Planner’ you can view your historical cash cash flow for the selected time period. You can change the time period by using the drop down menu in the top left. The cash flow forecast is generated from your QuickBooks data and connected accounts. 

QuickBooks Online Cash Flow Forecasting screenshot 2

You can view your cash flow graphic as a bar graph showing money in and out, or a line graph showing your cash balance. You can toggle between the two in the top right:

QuickBooks Online Cash Flow Forecasting screenshot 3

Below the graphs you’ll find a list of past and coming events. You can edit events by clicking on them and adjusting the date, name and amount. The change will only be reflected here for planning purposes and won’t change your accounting data.

You can also add an event to test upcoming payments or receivables. To add an event click ‘Add event’ below the cash flow graph. 

Then scroll down to the ‘Coming up’ section and edit your event. QuickBooks Online allows you to edit the date of the event, name, amount and whether the event is money coming in or money coming out. 

QuickBooks Online Cash Flow Forecasting screenshot 6

Click ‘Save’ to finish adding your event to your forecast. The events here are just for planning purposes and don’t affect your books so you can make changes as you like to test different scenarios. 

Should I use QuickBooks Online’s Cash Flow Forecasting Tool? 

If you aren’t currently doing any form of forecasting, or you’re frustrated with how long it can take in spreadsheets then QuickBooks Online’s cash flow forecasting tool can be a good starting point. QBO’s tool will let you see your future bank balance, transactions and in a limited way test events and scenarios. 

However, you’ll likely quickly run into its limitations and be left wanting more…

Helm vs. QuickBooks Online Cash Flow Forecasting

Let’s get some basic features out of the way before we get into the more exciting stuff. 

Helm integrates and syncs with your QuickBooks data so both Helm and QBO have access to the same data. This means you can rest easy knowing both tools will give your accurate data and forecasts. 

In both Helm and QBO’s forecasting tool allow you can:

  • View your cash flow in 1 month, 3 month, 6 month and 1 year increments. 
  • View your bank balance over time
  • Test future events and see their impact or your forecast
  • Edit the date, amount, and name of transactions coming in and out
  • See your bank account balance over time graph

That covers the basics and the core bare minimum features you’d want out of a forecasting tool. For QBO’s tool this is as far as it goes.

Helm also let’s you:  

  • Make payments directly from Helm (greatly simplifying and speeding up your payment process)

  • Test unlimited scenarios side by side to see the impact of multiple different paths your business could take, letting you make the best decisions for your business quickly and confidently. 

  • Tailor future events to reflect reality. Set when and how frequently events reoccur and adjust growth rates for more accurate and faster planning, compared to adding events one at a time. 

  • Add additional bank accounts, loans or other sources of funds that you don’t have/want in your accounting system, but want to include in forecasting. 

  • Drag and drop transactions directly from the transaction graph, making adjustments and collaboration as simple as picking something up and moving it

  • See the state of your business and ways you can improve your cash position at a glance with Helm Health Score Dashboard.

  • Add unlimited users so collaboration is easy. 

  • Plus get access to support backed by experience. Hem was designed by accountants and advisors who specialize in offering cash flow forecasts and outsourced controllership services for their clients. They designed Helm to help them work with their small business clients. There isn’t a cash flow question you can ask us we won’t know the answer to. 

Don’t take our word for it though try them for yourself! You can try Helm for free for 15 days here.