Project Cost Tracking Best Practices for Small Business Owners

Table of Contents

What is Project Cost Tracking?

Project cost tracking refers to the process of monitoring and recording all the expenses associated with a specific project. This includes tracking costs related to labor, materials, equipment, and any other resources that are necessary to complete the project. The purpose of project cost tracking is to ensure that the project is completed within budget, and to identify any cost overruns or potential cost-saving opportunities.

Effective project cost tracking involves accurately tracking all project expenses, regularly reviewing and adjusting the project budget, and communicating with team members to ensure that everyone is aware of the project budget and any changes that have been made. By tracking project costs, businesses can improve project profitability, increase efficiency, and make informed decisions about future projects.

Important Terms of Project Cost Management

Project cost management is an essential component of project management, which involves planning, estimating, budgeting, financing, funding, managing, and controlling project costs. To effectively manage project costs, it is important to be familiar with the following key terms:

  • Cost baseline: The approved version of the project budget, against which actual project costs are monitored and measured.
  • Cost estimate: The approximation of the anticipated costs associated with the completion of a project or a project task.
  • Cost management plan: A formal document that outlines how project costs will be managed, including how costs will be estimated, budgeted, tracked, and controlled.
  • Cost performance index (CPI): A metric used to measure the value of work completed against the actual costs incurred. A CPI value greater than 1 indicates that the project is under budget, while a CPI value less than 1 indicates that the project is over budget.
  • Earned value (EV): A measurement of the value of work that has been completed on a project, expressed in terms of the budgeted cost of that work.
  • Forecast: A prediction of the future project costs based on the current project performance and historical data.
  • Funding limit reconciliation: The process of ensuring that the project’s budget is aligned with the available funding.
  • Management reserve: An amount of the project budget that is set aside for unforeseen events or risks that may arise during the project.
  • Sunk cost: A cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered, regardless of whether the project is completed or not.
  • Variance: The difference between the actual project costs and the budgeted costs.

By understanding and effectively managing these key terms, project managers can more effectively plan, execute, and control project costs, ultimately leading to a successful project outcome.

7 Project Cost Tracking Best Practices

As a small business owner, keeping track of project costs is crucial for the success of your business. However, cost tracking can be a complex and time-consuming process, especially when you have limited resources. To help you effectively manage your project costs, we’ve put together a list of best practices that small business owners should follow.

Define Project Scope and Budget

The first step in effective project cost tracking is to define the project scope and budget. This means creating a detailed plan that outlines the project’s objectives, deliverables, timeline, and budget. Without a clear understanding of what the project entails, it can be difficult to accurately track costs and expenses.

Assign Responsibilities

Assigning responsibilities is crucial to ensure that everyone involved in the project is aware of their roles and responsibilities. This includes designating a project manager who will oversee the project, and assigning team members to specific tasks. Each team member should be responsible for tracking the costs associated with their tasks.

Use a Project Management Software

Using a project management software can simplify the cost tracking process, and provide real-time updates on project costs and expenses. There are a variety of cost tracking tools available, including project planning, task tracking, workflow management, budget tracker and online project management platforms. Choose an all-in-one project management software that is easy to use, and fits within your budget.

Track All Project Costs

It’s important to track all project costs, including direct and indirect costs. Direct costs are those directly related to the project, such as labor, materials, and equipment. Indirect costs are those not directly related to the project, such as rent, utilities, and office supplies. Failure to track indirect costs can result in inaccurate project costing.

Regularly Review and Adjust the Project Budget

Regularly reviewing and adjusting the project budget is essential to ensure that the project stays on track. Review the budget on a regular basis to ensure that costs are aligned with the budget, and make adjustments as necessary. This will help to prevent cost overruns and ensure that the project is completed within budget.

Maintain Accurate Records

Maintaining accurate records is crucial for effective cost tracking. Keep track of all invoices, receipts, and expenses associated with the project. This will make it easier to track costs, and provide an accurate record of all project expenses.

Communicate with Team Members

Communication is key to successful cost tracking. Regularly communicate with team members to ensure that everyone is aware of the project budget, and any changes that have been made. This will help to ensure that everyone is on the same page, and working towards the same goals.


In conclusion, effective project cost tracking is essential for the success of your small business. By following these best practices with the help of project management software, you can ensure that your projects stay on track, and are completed within budget. Remember to define project scope and budget, assign responsibilities, use a cost tracking system, track all project costs, regularly review and adjust the project budget, maintain accurate records, and communicate with team members.

By doing so, you’ll be well on your way to effectively managing your project costs, and growing your business.