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Capital Budgeting: Techniques & Importance

July 7, 2015
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In our last article, we talked about the Basics of Capital Budgeting, which covered the meaning, features and Capital Budgeting Decisions. In this article let us talk about the important techniques adopted for capital budgeting along with its importance and example.


There are different methods adopted for capital budgeting. The traditional methods or non discount methods include: Payback period and Accounting rate of return method. The discounted cash flow method includes the NPV method, profitability index method and IRR.

  • Payback period method:

As the name suggests, this method refers to the period in which the proposal will generate cash to recover the initial investment made. It purely emphasizes on the cash inflows, economic life of the project and the investment made in the project, with no consideration to time value of money. Through this method selection of a proposal is based on the earning capacity of the project. With simple calculations, selection or rejection of the project can be done, with results that will help gauge the risks involved. However, as the method is based on thumb rule, it does not consider the importance of time value of money and so the relevant dimensions of profitability.

Payback period = Cash outlay (investment) / Annual cash inflow



Project A


Project B





Expected future cash flow

Year 1




Year 2




Year 3




Year 4









2 years


1 year

Payback period of project B is shorter than A, but project A provides higher returns. Hence, project A is superior to B.

  • Accounting rate of return method (ARR):

This method helps to overcome the disadvantages of the payback period method. The rate of return is expressed as a percentage of the earnings of the investment in a particular project. It works on the criteria that any project having ARR higher than the minimum rate established by the management will be considered and those below the predetermined rate are rejected.

This method takes into account the entire economic life of a project providing a better means of comparison. It also ensures compensation of expected profitability of projects through the concept of net earnings. However, this method also ignores time value of money and doesn't consider the length of life of the projects. Also it is not consistent with the firm’s objective of maximizing the market value of shares.

ARR= Average income/Average Investment

  • Discounted cash flow method:

The discounted cash flow technique calculates the cash inflow and outflow through the life of an asset. These are then discounted through a discounting factor. The discounted cash inflows and outflows are then compared. This technique takes into account the interest factor and the return after the payback period.

  • Net present Value (NPV) Method:

This is one of the widely used methods for evaluating capital investment proposals. In this technique the cash inflow that is expected at different periods of time is discounted at a particular rate. The present values of the cash inflow are compared to the original investment. If the difference between them is positive (+) then it is accepted or otherwise rejected. This method considers the time value of money and is consistent with the objective of maximizing profits for the owners. However, understanding the concept of cost of capital is not an easy task.

The equation for the net present value, assuming that all cash outflows are made in the initial year (tg), will be:

Net Present Value  Method for Capital Budgeting

Where A1, A2…. represent cash inflows, K is the firm’s cost of capital, C is the cost of the investment proposal and n is the expected life of the proposal. It should be noted that the cost of capital, K, is assumed to be known, otherwise the net present, value cannot be known.



PVB = Present value of benefits

PVC = Present value of Costs

  • Internal Rate of Return (IRR):

This is defined as the rate at which the net present value of the investment is zero. The discounted cash inflow is equal to the discounted cash outflow. This method also considers time value of money. It tries to arrive to a rate of interest at which funds invested in the project could be repaid out of the cash inflows. However, computation of IRR is a tedious task.

It is called internal rate because it depends solely on the outlay and proceeds associated with the project and not any rate determined outside the investment.

It can be determined by solving the following equation:

Internal Rate of  Return Method for Capital Budgeting

If IRR > WACC then the project is profitable.

If IRR > k = accept

If IR < k = reject

  • Profitability Index (PI):

It is the ratio of the present value of future cash benefits, at the required rate of return to the initial cash outflow of the investment. It may be gross or net, net being simply gross minus one. The formula to calculate profitability index (PI) or benefit cost (BC) ratio is as follows.

PI = PV cash inflows/Initial cash outlay A,

Profitability Index  Method for Capital Budgeting

PI = NPV (benefits) / NPV (Costs)

All projects with PI > 1.0 is accepted.


1) Long term investments involve risks: Capital expenditures are long term investments which involve more financial risks. That is why proper planning through capital budgeting is needed.

2) Huge investments and irreversible ones: As the investments are huge but the funds are limited, proper planning through capital expenditure is a pre-requisite. Also, the capital investment decisions are irreversible in nature, i.e. once a permanent asset is purchased its disposal shall incur losses.

3) Long run in the business: Capital budgeting reduces the costs as well as brings changes in the profitability of the company. It helps avoid over or under investments. Proper planning and analysis of the projects helps in the long run.


  • Capital budgeting is an essential tool in financial management
  • Capital budgeting provides a wide scope for financial managers to evaluate different projects in terms of their viability to be taken up for investments
  • It helps in exposing the risk and uncertainty of different projects
  • It helps in keeping a check on over or under investments
  • The management is provided with an effective control on cost of capital expenditure projects
  • Ultimately the fate of a business is decided on how optimally the available resources are used

Example of Capital Budgeting:

Capital budgeting for a small scale expansion involves three steps: recording the investment's cost, projecting the investment's cash flows and comparing the projected earnings with inflation rates and the time value of the investment.

For example, equipment that costs $15,000 and generates a $5,000 annual return would appear to "pay back" on the investment in 3 years. However, if economists expect inflation to rise 30 percent annually, then the estimated return value at the end of the first year ($20,000) is actually worth $15,385 when you account for inflation ($20,000 divided by 1.3 equals $15,385). The investment generates only $385 in real value after the first year.


According to the definition of Charles T. Hrongreen, “Capital Budgeting is a long-term planning for making and financing proposed capital outlays.”

One can conclude that capital budgeting is the attempt to determine the future.


About the Author

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