Inventory is often the most significant asset balance on the balance sheet. If you operate a retailer, manufacturer, or wholesale business, inventory may require a large investment, and you need to track the inventory balance carefully. Managing inventory requires the owner to assign a value to each inventory item, and the two most common accounting methods are FIFO and LIFO.
The first in, first out (FIFO) cost method assumes that the oldest inventory items are sold first, while the last in, first out method (LIFO) states that the newest items are sold first. The inventory valuation method that you choose affects cost of goods sold, sales, and profits.
The average cost is a third accounting method that calculates inventory cost as the total cost of inventory divided by total units purchased. Most businesses use either FIFO or LIFO, and sole proprietors typically use average cost. Accounting standards allow companies to use all three methods.
Before diving into the inventory valuation methods, you first need to review the inventory formula. The components of the formula are used to calculate FIFO and LIFO accounting values.