What Is First In First Out (FIFO)? Meaning And Guide

what does fifo stand for
Photo by Ono Kosuki

Because it fits many business models, the first-in, first-out method is one of the most popular inventory methods. What FIFO stands for and why it is important should be clear to anyone who does inventory management. In this article, we will outline the FIFO concept, what it stand for and does in accounting, and why it is important.

What Exactly is FIFO?

FIFO is a cost-flow method used by businesses to calculate inventory. It requires the oldest inventory to be removed or sold first, ensuring the most recently purchased items remain available at the end of the sales period.

The first in, first out (FIFO) accounting method assumes that sellable assets acquired first, such as inventory, raw materials, or components, are sold first. In other words, the oldest merchandise is sold first, and the costs associated with it are used to determine profitability.

Examples of FIFO Inventory Calculations

The FIFO cost flow assumption states that you use the cost of the initial inventory and multiply the COGS by the amount of inventory sold. Here are a couple of examples:

Example 1.

Vegan Fresh Foods spent £3 on 80 boxes of oat treats. The company then purchased 150 additional boxes for £4 each after the supplier’s price increased. Vegan Fresh Foods now has 230 boxes of oat treats in stock, and it sells 100 boxes per week. The total cost of the items sold would be:

COGS = (Number of original units multiplied by their value) + (Remaining units of the second purchase multiplied by their value)

COGS = (80 times 3) + (20 times 4) = £320

In the COGS calculations, Vegan Fresh Foods uses the cost of the oldest inventory first, which is the initial purchase of 80 boxes at £3 each. It uses the second purchase cost of £4 per box for the remaining 20 boxes in the group. Here is the formula for calculating the ending or remaining inventory of 130 boxes:

Ending inventory value = remaining units multiplied by their respective values

Inventory ending value = 130 x 4 = £520

Example 2. 

Oats Delight is a company that makes two batches of treats. The first produced ten units for £30 per unit for a total cost of £300. The second produced 50 units for £40 per unit, for a total of £2,000. It sells 20 of the 60 total units in stock. The COGS formula is as follows:

COGS = (Number of original units multiplied by their value) + (remaining units from the second purchase multiplied by their value).

COGS = (10 times 30) + (10 times 40) = £700

Oats Delight used the entire first batch and 10 units from the second batch in this. It now computes its ending inventory value by adding the value of the 40 remaining second batch units:

Ending inventory value = remaining units multiplied by their respective values

Inventory ending value = (40 x 40) = £1,600

Example 3 

Consider another example of a manufacturer producing dog treats. The pumpkin treats were made in two batches with the following specifications:

BatchUnit countCost per unitTotal cost
Batch 110£30£300
Batch 250£40£2,000

Under FIFO, the manufacturer would assume that if they sold 20 of the 60 total units in stock, they had sold 100% of Batch 1 (10 units from Batch 2) (the remaining 10 units at £40/each)). The following is how the COGS would be calculated:

COGS = (Number of Original Units x Value) + (Number of Remaining Units From Second Purchase x Value)

COGS = (£700) x (10 x £30) x (10 x £40)  

Furthermore, the ending inventory value is calculated by adding the value of Batch 2’s remaining 40 units.

Ending Inventory Value = Number of Remaining Units x Their Value

Inventory Ending Value = (40 x £40) = £1,600

Benefits of a FIFO System

It is important to know what FIFO stands for and why it is important to people who do accounting. Some of the benefits of FIFO include

#1. Consistent Material Flow

A first in, first out (FIFO) system assists you in avoiding overproduction of a specific part. Furthermore, because a first-in, first-out system includes a production cutoff once you reach an inventory limit for a component, it prevents over-stuffing your system with intermediate products. As a result, no part will rot within the system by being left idle for too long.

#2. Material Flow Lean

Because of the cap on a FIFO lane, you will not overfill a specific system. As a result, all forms of waste will be limited. You specifically prevent the worst kind of waste, which is overproduction.

#3. Visual Management Has Been Improved

It is simple to see if a FIFO lane is full, allowing managers to easily depict workflow in diagrams. Fortunately, bottlenecks emerge because upstream inventories are likely to be depleted.

#4. Information Management Is Limited

Upstream processes are not required to communicate with downstream processes. The downstream processes only need to use the components in their inventory in the correct order. This structure reduces the amount of information that managers must process while maintaining a consistent material flow.

What Does FIFO Stand For In Accounting? FIFO In Cost Of Goods Sold Accounting

What does FIFO stand for in accounting? is a popular question in this new financial language. In accounting, FIFO does stand for the order in which products are sold, which influences what is called profit computation.

As an accounting method, FIFO assumes that the first raw materials you purchase are the first ones used to manufacture your product. This is important because material and production costs fluctuate over time, so you need a consistent way to allocate inventory costs in your financial statements.

At the end of the year, you must account for your cost of goods sold by deducting your beginning inventory from your ending inventory.

However, the items you purchased in January may have been less expensive than those purchased in December. Accounting for COGS using the FIFO method is a simple way to track inventory flow. It can also assist you in keeping your balance sheets neat.

What FIFO stands for and does in accounting is hard, yet keeping financial records is crucial for firms.

Best Practices for Considering FIFO

When considering FIFO in accounting, there are a few aspects to consider. Some of these things are as follows:

#1. Don’t Get FIFO Production Mixed Up With a FIFO Accounting System

Accounting thought that they shared the same acronym; a FIFO production system does not necessitate a FIFO accounting system. In many situations, a company can use a FIFO production method while using a last in, first out (LIFO) accounting method.

#2. Consider Each Major Step To Be a Lane in A FIFO System

Consider each intermediate step in the production process as a lane to remind yourself that each process occurs concurrently rather than sequentially. Parts move through a system in a sequential order, but processes run concurrently.

#3. No Part Should Take Precedence Over Another

The most basic interpretation of this rule is that parts should not “cut” the line. You keep this order in place to avoid fluctuations in throughput time. Wait times for other parts can increase if parts overtake one another, causing severe production disruptions.

#4. A Maximum Inventory For Each Lane Must Be Established

This rule is intended to prevent overproduction, which is the most damaging type of waste in lean manufacturing. When too much inventory accumulates, downstream processes struggle to “clear” inventory, resulting in a permanent backlog of unused parts.

Advantages and Disadvantages The FIFO Method

Now, is it important to consider the impact of FIFO on a company’s financial statements? While there is no right inventory valuation method, each has advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the advantages of using the FIFO method, as well as some of its disadvantages.


#1. A Higher Valuation for Ending Inventory

FIFO, or First-In First Out (FIFO), is a financial method that assumes lower-valued goods are sold first, leading to higher-valued ending inventory. This results in a higher valuation of ending inventory, which can improve a brand’s balance sheets and reduce inventory write-offs, making it highly beneficial for financial management.

#2. Increased Net Income

FIFO, a lower COGS valuation method, enables brands to log higher profits and net income by recognizing the original batch of mugs. For example, a coffee mug company purchases 100 mugs for £5 each, then charges £15 for each mug, resulting in a net profit of £10. This higher profit on each sale can be represented on the balance sheet.

#3. It Frequently Reflects Actual Inventory Movement

FIFO is a useful inventory valuation method for businesses, particularly those selling perishable or short shelf lives. It simplifies inventory accounting by reflecting the order in which inventory is sold, avoiding obsolescence and deadstock. While not mandatory, it is intuitive for those using FIFO.


#1. Discrepancies if COGS Spikes

When COGS increases slowly and gradually over time, FIFO works best. If suppliers or manufacturers suddenly raise the price of raw materials or finished goods, a company may discover significant discrepancies between its recorded and actual costs and profits.

FIFO calculates ending inventory value using lower COGS, but the company’s recorded profits on the balance sheet may not match their actual profits due to the out-of-date COGS number. The increased COGS from a higher price for candles may result in lower actual profits, as the COGS has risen since then. Therefore, the actual profits may be much lower than represented.

#2. Higher Taxes

Because net income is typically higher for FIFO brands, income taxes are typically higher as well. This can cause cash flow issues and further eat into the bottom lines of some businesses.

What is FEFO, and How Does It Differ From FIFO?

FEFO is an acronym that stands for “First Expired, First Out.” It is an improved version of FIFO that prioritises picking items closest to their expiration date rather than the oldest. This method is especially useful in industries where spoilage prevention is critical, such as food and beverages.

What is the Rule of First In and First Out?

First in, first out (FIFO) is a storage and rotation system for food. The food that has been in storage the longest (“first in”) should be the first food used (“first out”) in FIFO. This method assists restaurants and homes in organising their food storage and using food before it spoils.

What Are The Characteristics Of  Last In First Out?

The cost of the most recent products purchased (or manufactured) by your company is the first expense in your cost of goods sold (COGS) calculation using the LIFO method. This means you’ll report the lower cost of the older products as inventory, potentially resulting in lower taxes.

How is FIFO Monitored?

The procedure for monitoring FIFO includes

  • Find products with the most recent best before or use-by dates.
  • Remove any items that have passed their expiration dates or are damaged.
  • Put the items with the earliest due dates first
  • Stock new items behind the front stock and those with the most recent dates at the back.
  • First, use/sell stock at the front.

How is Data Stored in a FIFO?

A first-in, first-out (FIFO) buffer is a type of data storage that operates on a first-in, first-out basis. It typically stores data in an array of contiguous memory. Data is written to the “head” of the buffer and read from the “tail.” When either the head or tail reaches the end of the memory array, it wraps around to the beginning.


In accounting, comprehending what FIFO stands for and why it is important is crucial for inventory management. The First-In-First-Out (FIFO) method is a standard accounting practice that assumes assets are sold in the same order in which they are purchased. In some jurisdictions, all businesses are required to account for inventory using the FIFO method.

Even in cases where it is not required, it is a popular standard due to its simplicity and transparency. Understanding what FIFO stands for, what it does in accounting and why it is important is essential for managing inventory effectively.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *