The accounting method that a company decides to use to determine the costs of inventory can directly impact the balance sheet, income statement and statement of cash flow. There are three inventory-costing methods that are widely used by both public and private companies:
First-In, First-Out (FIFO)
This method assumes that the first unit making its way into inventory is the first sold. For example, let’s say that a bakery produces 200 loaves of bread on Monday at a cost of $1 each, and 200 more on Tuesday at $1.25 each. FIFO states that if the bakery sold 200 loaves on Wednesday, the COGS is $1 per loaf (recorded on the income statement) because that was the cost of each of the first loaves in inventory. The $1.25 loaves would be allocated to ending inventory (appears on the balance sheet).
Last-In, First-Out (LIFO)
This method assumes that the last unit making its way into inventory is sold first. The older inventory, therefore, is left over at the end of the accounting period. For the 200 loaves sold on Wednesday, the same bakery would assign $1.25 per loaf to COGS, while the remaining $1 loaves would be used to calculate the value of inventory at the end of the period.
This method is quite straightforward; it takes the weighted average of all units available for sale during the accounting period and then uses that average cost to determine the value of COGS and ending inventory.
An important point in the examples above is that COGS appears on the income statement, while ending inventory appears on the balance sheet under current assets.