First In, First Out (FIFO)


First In, First Out (FIFO) is an inventory management principle where the items that were added to the inventory first are the ones to be sold, used, or disposed of first.

Detailed Explanation

FIFO is a fundamental concept in both accounting and inventory management. In accounting, FIFO is used to determine the cost of goods sold and the value of the remaining inventory. It assumes that the oldest items in inventory are the first to be sold, which can be particularly relevant for businesses dealing with perishable goods or products that can become obsolete.

In inventory management, FIFO ensures that products don’t become outdated or spoil. By selling or using the oldest items first, businesses can reduce the risk of inventory loss due to spoilage, obsolescence, or other factors that decrease the value of inventory over time.

While FIFO is a widely accepted method, it’s essential to note that it may not be suitable for all businesses or all types of inventory. Some businesses may use alternative methods, like Last In, First Out (LIFO), depending on their specific needs and the nature of their inventory.


A grocery store would use the FIFO method to ensure that perishable items like fruits and vegetables are sold while they’re still fresh. The oldest produce, which was stocked first, would be placed at the front and sold before newer shipments.

A tech store selling electronic gadgets might use FIFO to ensure that older models are sold before they become obsolete, making way for newer models.

Related Terms and Concepts:

Inventory Management, Last In, First Out (LIFO), Cost of Goods Sold (COGS), Perishable Goods

Frequently asked questions about First In, First Out

Why is FIFO important in inventory management?
FIFO helps businesses reduce losses due to spoilage, obsolescence, or decreased value of inventory over time. By ensuring that the oldest items are sold or used first, businesses can maintain the freshness and relevance of their inventory.

How does FIFO impact financial statements?
In accounting, FIFO affects the cost of goods sold and the valuation of remaining inventory on financial statements. Using FIFO can result in a lower cost of goods sold in times of rising prices, which can lead to higher reported profits.

Are there situations where FIFO might not be the best method?
Yes, for businesses where inventory items don’t deteriorate or become obsolete, or in industries where prices are falling, alternative methods like LIFO might be more appropriate.

How does FIFO compare to LIFO?
While FIFO assumes the oldest inventory items are sold first, LIFO (Last In, First Out) assumes the newest inventory items are sold first. The choice between FIFO and LIFO can have significant tax and financial statement implications.

Is FIFO universally accepted?
FIFO is widely accepted and used globally. However, it’s essential for businesses to be consistent in their inventory valuation method and to be aware of any specific accounting standards or regulations in their jurisdiction.


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