How to Calculate Cost of Goods Sold for Smarter Budgeting

Learn the simple steps to calculate the cost of goods sold and understand your business’s true profitability.

Feeling lost in the wild labyrinth of accounting? Fear not! If you’re looking to crack the code on calculating the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) without spiraling into an existential crisis, you’ve hit the jackpot.

We’ll break it down: starting with your beginning inventory, adding purchases, and subtracting the ending hoard. Plus, we’ll spice things up with different accounting methods—FIFO, LIFO, and the Average Cost Method. Grab your calculator and a cup of coffee; let’s make those numbers dance!

Key takeaways:

  • Calculate COGS: Beginning inventory + purchases – ending inventory.
  • Different accounting methods: FIFO, LIFO, average cost method.
  • FIFO: Sell oldest inventory first, accurate inventory valuation.
  • LIFO: Sell newest inventory first, useful in inflationary times.
  • Average Cost Method: Average out costs for all inventory.

Cost of Goods Sold Formula

goods sold

Alright, let’s break it down simple. Calculating this is like baking a cake – but instead of flour and sugar, you need beginning inventory, purchases, and ending inventory.

Start with your beginning inventory – this is what you had on the shelves at the start of the period.

Add purchases. Any stock you bought during the period goes into the mix.

Subtract ending inventory. What’s left at the end? That total comes out.

Voilà! The result is your cost of goods sold. If only it was as sweet as cake.

What Are Different Accounting Methods For COGS?

In the wild world of accounting, determining how you calculate the Cost of Goods Sold can be like choosing your favorite flavor of ice cream: lots of options and everyone has their preference. Here are the three main scoops:

First-In, First-Out (FIFO) – Imagine your inventory as a line at the amusement park. The first ones who get into the line are the first ones on the roller coaster (or out the door). This method assumes the oldest inventory items are sold first, which often matches the actual flow of goods for many businesses. Cue a sigh of relief from the accounting department.

Last-In, First-Out (LIFO) – Opposite to FIFO, it’s like playing Tetris in reverse. The newest blocks, or inventory, are the ones to be sold first. This method can be useful in times of rising prices, as it matches higher cost goods with current revenues, reducing taxable income. Not all countries accept LIFO though, so check local regulations before jumping on this bandwagon.

Average Cost Method – Think of this as the “can’t make up my mind” option. It calculates COGS based on the average cost of all goods available during the period. It’s like blending all ice cream flavors together in one giant, sometimes confusing but handy, scoop. This method smooths out price fluctuations, offering a middle-ground approach.

With these methods in your accounting toolkit, you’re ready to tackle the COGS calculation maze with a bit more flair and maybe even a smile.


Imagine your inventory is like a pack of cookies. You eat the oldest one first (unless it’s Grandma’s special stash at the back). This is basically how FIFO works. Here’s the scoop:

Under FIFO, the first items you buy are the first ones you sell. In inflationary times, this means you’re selling cheaper items first, making profit margins look rather dazzling.

Benefits? More accurate inventory valuation and profits that might make your accountant smile.

Considerations? Higher taxes due to significant profit, but hey, it’s a sign you’re doing great, right?

Think of FIFO like having a superhero inventory system that helps you keep things fresh and tidy.


Think of LIFO as a game of Jenga, but financially. In LIFO, the last goods you slap onto the stack are the first ones you snatch away when calculating your costs. It stands for “Last In, First Out.”

Here are the essential bits:

  1. Recent Costs First: You’re pulling the latest costs for items sold, so recent purchases are deemed out the door first. This can mean higher costs if prices are rising. Hello, bigger tax deductions!
  1. Older Inventory: The stuff that arrived first, in your metaphorical Jenga tower, stays buried under newer items. It’s valued at older, often cheaper rates.
  1. Inflation Warrior: In periods of inflation, LIFO works its magic by cutting down on taxable income since your higher latest costs reduce gross profit.
  1. Not Global-Friendly: LIFO isn’t much loved outside the U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) allows it, while International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) do not.

So, if you’re looking to navigate your Jenga tower wisely during inflationary times, LIFO might be your trusty ally!

Average Cost Method

The idea behind the Average Cost Method is as simple as pie. Messy pie, but pie nonetheless!

Imagine you have a mix of goods bought at different times and varying prices. How on earth do you decide which costs go where? Simple. You average it all out.

  • Here’s how:
  • Add up the total cost of all inventory available for sale during the period.
  • Count up all the units of inventory available for sale.
  • Now, divide the total cost by the total number of units to get the average cost per unit.

This average cost per unit is then used to determine the cost of goods sold and ending inventory values. Picture it like making a smoothie – all those different-priced bananas, strawberries, and bits of kale get blended into one gulpable sum. No strawberries get left behind!

It’s a method that’s fair, just like a good smoothie, blending out the kinks and giving you a consistent, balanced flavor. No fancy tricks here, but oh, so satisfying!

Steps to Calculate Cost of Goods Sold

First, grab your starting inventory amount. This is what you had in stock at the beginning of the period.

Next, roll up your sleeves and look at the purchases made during the period. Add these to your starting inventory. Don’t miss a single paperclip!

Now, calculate your ending inventory, the stuff that didn’t fly off the shelves by the end of the period.

Finally, it’s showtime! Subtract your ending inventory from the sum of the starting inventory and purchases. Voilà, you’ve got your COGS.

Math wizards, rejoice.

Reporting COGS On an Income Statement

When you dive into your income statement, you’ll spot COGS right near the top, just under revenue. Why the prime real estate? It’s crucial for calculating your gross profit. Gross profit is basically your friendly neighborhood superhero telling you how much money you’re making before expenses duke it out.

Now, once you’ve got your COGS from your calculations, you simply plug it into the income statement. Here’s the magic formula in action:

  1. Revenue: All the lovely money flowing in from customers.
  2. COGS: The not-so-pleasant cost of making or buying those goods.
  3. Gross Profit: Revenue minus COGS. This is where you high-five yourself.

A quick example: Let’s say your lemonade stand had $1,000 in sales last month. The lemons, sugar, cups, and magical secret ingredients cost you $400. So, your COGS is $400. Revenue ($1,000) minus COGS ($400) leaves you with a gross profit of $600. And just like that, your income statement is looking fizzy and fabulous!

Example for Retailers

Imagine you run a hip little bookstore. Your beginning inventory is 100 books, costing you a cool $1,000. Over the quarter, you just couldn’t resist and bought another 200 books for $2,500. Way to go, bookworm!

Now, what’s left at the end of the quarter? After all the literary adventures, you’ve got 50 books still on your shelves.

Here’s a simple way to get to your COGS:

  1. Add up your beginning inventory value: $1,000.
  2. Sprinkle in your purchases (additional inventory): $2,500.
  3. That gives you the cost of goods available for sale: $3,500.
  4. Subtract the cost of your ending inventory: let’s say the 50 books left cost you $800.
  5. Boom, COGS: $3,500 – $800 = $2,700.

Tada! Your cost of goods sold for the quarter is $2,700. And now, back to the exciting world of book selling!

Example for Manufacturers

Let’s break it down with an example. Suppose you’re manufacturing custom skateboards. Here’s where you start:

First up, calculate the beginning inventory. Imagine you have $5,000 worth of skateboard parts and materials at the year’s start.

Next, add purchases. During the year, you bought wheels, decks, and trucks totaling $20,000.

Now, factor in direct labor costs. Your team of skateboard artisans racked up $10,000 in wages.

Don’t forget manufacturing overhead. This includes utilities, equipment maintenance, and factory rent, which let’s say come to $8,000.

Calculate ending inventory. At year’s end, you have $3,000 worth of materials left.

With all this data, your COGS equation looks like this:

COGS = Beginning Inventory + Purchases + Direct Labor + Manufacturing Overhead – Ending Inventory.

Plugging the numbers in:

COGS = $5,000 + $20,000 + $10,000 + $8,000 – $3,000.

So, your COGS for the year is $40,000. Easy peasy, right?

Are Salaries Included in COGS?

Now, onto the matter of salaries. It’s a bit of a tricky labyrinth, so let’s navigate it together.

First, direct labor costs—the wages of employees directly involved in producing goods—often make it into the COGS basket. Think of the folks on the assembly line or the artisans crafting those bespoke candles.

However, administrative and sales staff salaries? Not so fast. These don’t typically get cozy with COGS; they live in the operating expenses neighborhood. So, your friendly receptionist’s paycheck isn’t part of the merchandise cost.

Here are a few principles to remember:

  • Direct vs. Indirect: If the salary is for someone who has a hand in making the product, it usually counts. Otherwise, ship it over to the operating expense.
  • Manufacturing Love: Manufacturers often see more salaries included in COGS compared to retailers since producing goods demands more hands-on-deck.
  • Consistency is Key: Keep your accounting consistent. Mixing up what you include will lead to financial faux pas.

Next time you’re looking at your costs, remember—not all salaries are created equal in the land of COGS.

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