First In First Out (FIFO)

Methods of calculating inventory cost

As inventory is usually purchased at different rates (or manufactured at different costs) over an accounting period, there is a need to determine what cost needs to be assigned to inventory. For instance, if a company purchased inventory three times in a year at $50, $60 and $70, what cost must be attributed to inventory at the year end? Inventory cost at the end of an accounting period may be determined in the following ways:

  • First In First Out (FIFO)
  • Last In First Out (LIFO)
  • Average Cost Method (AVCO)
  • Actual Unit Cost Method

First In First Out (FIFO)

This method assumes that inventory purchased first is sold first. Therefore, inventory cost under FIFO method will be the cost of latest purchases. Consider the following example:


Bike LTD purchased 10 bikes during January and sold 6 bikes, details of which are as follows:

January 1 Purchased 5 bikes @ $50 each

January 5 Sold 2 bikes

January 10 Sold 1 bike

January 15 Purchased 5 bikes @ 70 each

January 25 Sold 3 bikes

The value of 4 bikes held as inventory at the end of January may be calculated as follows:

The sales made on January 5 and 10 were clearly made from purchases on 1st January. Of the sales made on January 25, it will be assumed that 2 bikes relate to purchases on January 1 whereas the remaining one bike has been issued from the purchases on 15th January. Therefore, the value of inventory under FIFO is as follows:

Units$/Units$ TotalUnits$/Units$ TotalUnits$/Units$ Total
Jan 1550250550250
Jan 5250100350150
Jan 1015050250100
Jan 15570350570350
Jan 157450
Jan 25250100

As can be seen from above, the inventory cost under FIFO method relates to the cost of the latest purchases, i.e. $70.

Test Your Understanding

ABC Co. Ltd sells leather jackets. Due to the seasonal nature of the business, ABC Co sells its merchandise as soon as possible to avoid the risk of downward fluctuation in prices towards the end of the winter season. Which of the following methods is most suitable for the valuation of ABC Co's inventories?

LIFO Method

FIFO Method

Why accounting for inventory separate from purchase and sales accounting?

Every time a sale or purchase occurs, they are recorded in their respective ledger accounts. However, as we shall see in following sections, inventory is accounted for separately from purchases and sales through a single adjustment at the year end.

Theoretically, the cost of inventory sold could be determined in two ways. One is the standard way in which purchases during the period are adjusted for movements in inventory. The second way could be to adjust purchases and sales of inventory in the inventory ledger itself. The problem with this method is the need to measure value of sales every time a sale takes place (e.g. using FIFO, LIFO or AVCO methods). If accounting for sales and purchase is kept separate from accounting for inventory, the measurement of inventory need only be calculated once at the period end. This is a more practical and efficient approach to the accounting for inventory which is why it is the most common approach adopted.