FIFO Method Accounting

What is the FIFO Method?

The FIFO method (First In First Out) is a way of determining which items of inventory have been sold during a period and which items remain in inventory at the end of the period. This will allow a business to determine the cost of goods sold and the value of the ending inventory. A method is needed because all items are not purchased at the same price.


The FIFO method assumes that the goods are used in the order in which they were put into inventory. It should be noted that it is not necessary for the business to physically use the goods in this order only to value it based on that assumption.
The FIFO method is summarized in the diagram below which shows the sale of two units. The number inside each unit represents its cost price.

fifo method v 1.0

Using the FIFO method the two units sold are the first in, which in this example are part of the beginning inventory.

FIFO Method Example

By way of illustration.

If a business had the following inventory information for October:
October 1 Beginning inventory 100 units @ 5.00 cost per unit
October 4 Purchased 400 units @ 5.50 cost per unit
October 10 Sold 200 units

Under the FIFO method the following happens:

  1. 100 units are added at 5.00 as beginning inventory
  2. 400 units are added at 5.50 as purchases
  3. 100 units are sold at with a cost of 5.00 (first units sold are those in beginning inventory)
  4. 100 units are sold with a cost of 5.50 (all beginning inventory has been used, so some of the purchases at 5.50 are now sold)

The cost of the goods sold would be given by 100 x 5.00 + 100 x 5.50 = 1,050.  After the items have been sold 300 units (100 + 400 – 100 – 100) remain in ending inventory with a cost of 300 x 5.50 = 1,650

The FIFO method used in this example is demonstrated in the tables below.

FIFO Method Showing Units

The first table shows the movement in units. The items sold comprise 100 of the 5.00 units  and 100 of the 5.50 units.  It also shows that because the beginning inventory has all been sold, the remaining ending inventory is all 5.50 units.

FIFO Method Showing Units
Units @ 5.00 Units @ 5.50 Total
Beginning 100 100
Additions 400 400
Sales – 100 – 100 – 200
Ending 0 300 300

FIFO Method Showing Value

This table converts the units in the table above to values at either 5.00 or 5.50 per unit.

FIFO Method Showing Value
Value @ 5.00 Value @ 5.50 Total
Beginning 500 500
Additions 2,200 2,200
Sales – 500 – 550 – 1,050
Ending 0 1,650 1,650

The FIFO method is one of the available methods used in inventory management. Clearly the method used to determine which units are sold and which remain in ending inventory determines the value of the cost of goods sold and the ending inventory. As profit depends on the cost of goods sold, the method chosen will affect the profits of a business.

Other methods of determining inventory movements included LIFO (last in first out) and Average Cost.

Last modified July 16th, 2019 by Michael Brown

About the Author

Chartered accountant Michael Brown is the founder and CEO of Double Entry Bookkeeping. He has worked as an accountant and consultant for more than 25 years and has built financial models for all types of industries. He has been the CFO or controller of both small and medium sized companies and has run small businesses of his own. He has been a manager and an auditor with Deloitte, a big 4 accountancy firm, and holds a degree from Loughborough University.

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