AWS Budgets Vs AWS Cost Explorer

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AWS Budgets vs Cost Explorer

AWS Budgets and AWS Cost Explorer are important tools of AWS Cost Management services. Combining them, enables you to perform a thorough analysis of your costs and usage patterns, the results of which, can be utilized to productively administer optimized costs and governance controls.

With a variety of filtering options, AWS Cost Explorer makes it easy to analyze and evaluate spending across all your AWS accounts helping you dive deeper into cost analysis and recommendations.

Customizing and setting up the required reports and notifications to precisely manage your spending using AWS Budgets is simple and effective.

In this blog, we will have a close look at both services to see how they can be compared and combined as needed.

AWS Budgets

If you are responsible for managing costs, you’ll want to set spending limits and know when your actual spending reaches or exceeds those limits. This can be especially important in the context of cloud computing, where users and automated systems create resources by design, with a high degree of freedom.

AWS Budgets allows you to create custom budgets to track your AWS costs and usage. Once set up, you can receive email alerts or SNS alerts. You can configure to notify you of the following alerts:

  • When forecasted or actual usage and costs exceed budget thresholds.
  • When the actual coverage or utilization of Reserved Instances and Savings Plans falls below the required threshold.

AWS Budget Actions allow you to configure actions based on usage and cost status. When thresholds are crossed, actions are taken to reduce excess spending, either automatically or with human intervene.

Types of AWS Budgets include –

  • Cost Budgets,
  • Usage Budgets,
  • Reserved Instance Usage Budgets,
  • Reserved Instance Applied Budgets,
  • Savings Plan Usage Budgets and
  • Savings plan applicable budget.

With these budgeting features, it is evident that the focus is more on planning the AWS costs before they are actually incurred. Budgeting is about controlling costs and setting thresholds to limit unexpected AWS expenses.

AWS Cost Explorer

AWS Cost Explorer is a free service that can be used to analyze your account’s resource usage and costs over time in the AWS public cloud.

With Cost Explorer, you can customize how AWS displays your usage data information and related costs so that it relates to your specific business needs. You can determine who and what factors are responsible for your AWS expenses by utilizing a broad category like “Team,” as well as subcategories like “Team A” and “Team B,” and so on.

The Cost Explorer dashboard enables usage of various filters to segment your AWS bills. This allows you to understand who or what services are using how many AWS resources in an environment.

Are there any similarities between Cost Explorer and AWS Budgets?

Cost Explorer and Budgets have a few similarities. For example, both are part of the AWS Cloud Financial Management Suite. As a result, AWS created both services to help users identify, monitor, and manage their costs.

Both also allow you to avoid unexpected costs by setting alerts to notify you of potential overspending or reaching the set limits through cost anomaly alerts in Cost Explorer and budget alerts in AWS Budgets.

Tagging features are used by both AWS cost management tools to collect, analyze, and report cost indicators such as events and metrics. Both services offer the option to send reports at daily, weekly, or monthly intervals.

Difference between AWS Cost Explorer and AWS Budgets

The main difference is that Cost Explorer creates custom reports to analyze your usage and cost data, while Budgets help you create custom spending plans so you can manage your costs and forecast your future spending.

Additionally, budgets focus on cost planning, implementation, and forecasting that have not yet been incurred. Cost Explorer can be used to visualize, analyze, and report incurred costs.

AWS Budgets depicts data on current, budgeted and forecasted costs along with their usage. Cost Explorer does more than just display historical data. It also includes recommendations for optimizing your cloud spend.

When to use AWS Budgets?

  • Used to budget before costs are incurred.
  • To set custom budgets that notify you when your costs or usage exceeds (or may exceed) the budgeted amount.

When to use Cost Explorer?

  • Used to investigate post-incurrence costs.
  • An easy-to-use interface that helps you visualize, understand, and manage your AWS costs and usage over time.


Cost Explorer and Budgets are not an alternative but complementary to each other. Both together with the AWS Cost and Usage Report (CUR), provide valuable insights into the cost activities of your AWS accounts. Cost and Usage Reporting relies on AWS Cost Allocation Tags to aggregate, allocate, and report data. AWS resources must be almost fully tagged as it helps in compiling a complete and authoritative set of data related to all cloud spends.

However, unfortunately, tagging is a challenge for most organizations. If the cost dimension changes, for example, due to changes such as team, branch, or company mergers, the tags must be recreated to maintain consistency. You also cannot create custom budgets directly from AWS Cost Explorer. To create custom budgets (spending plans) using insights from Cost Explorer, you must constantly switch between Cost Explorer and AWS Budgets.

Cost Explorer and Budgets often provide an overview of your total or average cost and usage for a particular service across all accounts. This approach does not provide details such as allocating costs and usage to specific teams, features, or customers.

Together, they assist you in effectively utilizing the cloud while understanding, controlling, and optimizing your AWS expenses.

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