Calculate Percentage Difference Between Two Numbers in Excel

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Written By Chris

Just a simple "data guy". Changing the world one formula at a time.

Calculating percentage difference between two numbers is a handy way to measure changes and compare data. Whether it’s adjusting budget estimates, tracking growth percentages, or analyzing data fluctuations, Excel makes this process incredibly efficient. The essence of this calculation is to express the difference between two values as a percentage of their average or one of the values, depending on your need.

In Excel, the calculation doesn’t require complex programming skills; you only need to input a straightforward formula. Understanding how to manipulate this tool will save you time from scouring ad-filled online calculators!

Calculating Percentage Difference

When dealing with two numbers, understanding how to measure their variance in terms of percentage can reveal a lot about the changes they’ve undergone.

Basic Percentage Difference Formula

To find the percentage difference, you’ll essentially be seeking to comprehend the extent of change from an old value to a new value. The basic formula to calculate this in percentage is as follows:

  1. Subtract the old value from the new value to find the difference.
  2. Divide this difference by the old value.
  3. Finally, multiply the result by 100 to get the percentage change.

This can be represented by the formula: ((New Value – Old Value) / Old Value) * 100.

Using Excel Formulas for Percentage Increase

Excel simplifies the process with its built-in functions and arithmetic capabilities. Here’s how you can use Excel to calculate a percentage increase.

setting up formula for percent increase

In this example our 2023 sales surpass the previous year totals. The steps to calculate the increase are as follows:

  1. Click on the cell where you want the result to appear. (C2 in my example)
  2. Enter the formula: =(New Value – Old Value)/ (Old Value)* 100.
(C3 – C2) / C2 * 100
  1. Press Enter to see the percentage difference.
results of percentage increase

This will show the change as a percentage, clearly highlighting an increase from the original value.

Handling Negative Values or Percent Decrease

When the new value is less than the old value, the percentage difference can be negative. To always get a positive percentage difference, use the ABS function:

=ABS((New Value – Old Value)/Old Value) * 100

This formula will provide the absolute percentage change, regardless of whether the new value is higher or lower.

If I switch up the totals for each year, to make 2022 the higher value, you’ll see the different results, with and without the ABS function.

handling negative percent difference

Calculate Discount Percentage

Calculating the discount percentage in Excel can be particularly useful when analyzing financial data or sales figures. Or, if you just consider yourself a savvy shopper!

The formula in Excel will be: =(Original Price – Sale Price)/Original Price * 100.

Just like the previous examples, the setup of this calculation doesn’t change. We just have a new application to apply to it.

Let’s say we’re shopping for a new pair of shoes and we fall in love with a pair that just happen to be on sale! The sticker says the price is currently $49.99, while the original price was $109.99. To figure out the percent of savings you’re about to boast about, you’d use the following steps:

  1. Subtract the sale price from the original price to find the amount of the discount.
  2. Divide the discount by the original price.
  3. Multiply this result by 100.
($109.99 - $49.99) / $109.99 * 100 = 54.55%

Remember to format the cells to show results as percentage for any of these examples, ensuring the accuracy of decimal places based on your needs.

Advanced Excel Techniques

Exploring more sophisticated approaches, you can sharpen your Excel skills for a variety of scenarios, like analyzing sales data or monitoring stock prices. Now, let’s dive into some advanced functions that could be pivotal in your data analysis.

Utilizing Percentile Function

When you’re working with a large dataset, like sales data, you might want to understand more than just the average performance. The Percentile Function helps you do just that. Let’s say you want to find the 90th percentile of your sales figures:

  1. Click on the cell where you want the result to appear.
  2. Type =PERCENTILE.EXC(array, k) for exclusive or =PERCENTILE.INC(array, k) for inclusive, where array is your sales data range and k is the percentile value as a decimal (0.9 for the 90th percentile).
  3. Hit Enter and the percentile value will be displayed.

Automating with the IF Function

Sometimes you need to make decisions based on the percentage change in data, like a sudden spike in gasoline prices affecting your logistics costs. Or, using our first examples, if the percentage increase didn’t meet the predicted goal of 35%, we can ask for review.

You can combine percentage calculations with the IF Function for automated decision-making like this:

  1. Select a cell for the IF function result, C8 in our case.
  2. If we want to check if the 35% increase was met, type =IF(((New_Value/Old_Value)/Old Value * 100) < 35, “Review Strategies”, “Great Job Everyone!”).
  3. Press Enter, and you’ll see “Review Strategies!” if the condition is met or “Great Job Everyone!” otherwise.
if function with percent difference in excel

These techniques provide you with a clearer insight into your datasets, assisting in more strategic decisions.

So, give it a try on your own percent change problems and see how much easier it is than spammy online calculators!

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