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Incremental Cash Flow – Everything You Need To Know

When embarking on a new project,  campaign,  or investment,  it is crucial to ascertain its value in terms of the company’s resources. By utilizing incremental cash flow,  you can determine the additional cash flow that will be generated or lost by your business as a result of these ventures.  This approach provides an objective means to compare various opportunities against each other. 

If you have been pondering how to evaluate the return on investment (ROI) for a new campaign or expansion of a product line,  incorporating incremental cash flow will offer vital context and information.  This will enable you to make financially sound decisions for the business. 

This article aims to define incremental cash flow,  guide you through the formula for calculating it,  and discuss the advantages and limitations associated with this metric. 

Incremental Cash Flow

What Is Incremental Cash Flow?

Essentially,  incremental cash flow refers to cash flow that a company acquires when it takes on a new project.  If you have a positive incremental cash flow,  it means that your company’s cash flow will increase after you accept it.  

That’s a good indicator that it’s worth investing in a project.  On the other hand,  a negative incremental cash flow indicates that your cash flow will decrease,  which means that it may not be the best option. 

Why Is It Important To Understand Incremental Cash Flow?

It’s important to understand incremental cash flow because it determines whether a business can invest in a new project.  A company needs to know its incremental cash flow to help them decide whether to start a new project.  

Their review highlights the effects either decision has on future cash flow,  profitability and business operations. 

A company uses incremental cash flow for capital budgeting to find out the viability of current investments in equipment,  the replacement of a manufacturing plant or a product line. 

Why Should Businesses Calculate Incremental Cash Flow?

Forecasting incremental cash flow can help you compare different projects or ventures to determine which is the most viable or profitable for the company. 

This can help you see which project or opportunity would provide the business with the most cash.  Additionally,  it can be helpful to reject or avoid investing in opportunities that would end up with a negative incremental cash flow–or costing the company more money than it generated in revenues. 

Plus,  after the investment or project has been chosen,  you can continue tracking the incremental cash flow it’s producing to evaluate its performance and make changes or adjustments as necessary to boost profitability. 

For instance,  if you determine that a project is producing negative incremental cash flows,  you can see where you can cut costs to avoid losing money on the investment as a whole. 

Difficulties in Determining Incremental Cash Flow

Incremental cash flows are helpful,  especially in determining if a company should take on a new project or not.  However,  accountants also encounter certain difficulties when estimating incremental cash flow.  Here are some of the challenges:

Sunk costs

Sunk costs are also known as past costs that have already been incurred.  Incremental cash flow looks into future costs; accountants need to make sure that sunk costs are not included in the computation.  This is especially true if the sunk cost happened before any investment decision was made. 

Opportunity costs

From the term itself,  opportunity costs refer to a business’ missed chance for revenues from its assets.  For example, a mall owner sells everything at a premium in an existing mall catering to classes A and B, focusing on luxury shoppers. 

One example is a company that specializes in sound system installations that skips a project that requires the use of five sets of boom boxes.  Currently,  the business is only putting the five extra sets of boom boxes in its storage facility,  instead of taking on the project that will earn $5, 000.  This illustrates the opportunity cost of $5, 000. 


As mentioned above,  cannibalization is the result of taking on a new project that reduces the cash flow of another product or line of business.  For example,  an owner with an existing mall that caters to classes A and B,  and everything it sells is sold at a premium because it caters to luxury shoppers. 

In another part of the same city,  it decided to open a new mall that caters to classes B,  C,  and D,  selling the same items as the other mall but at a significantly lower price.  This will result in cannibalization because some people will no longer go to the first mall because they can get most things at the new mall for a much lower price. 

How to Calculate Incremental Cash Flow

On a basic level,  incremental cash flow is the net value of all cash inflows and outflows that a specific project will generate. 

But,  there are a few key pieces of information you will need to gather before you can determine this final value. 

Some of the main elements you’ll need to identify to calculate incremental cash flows include:

  • Initial cash outlay: the initial investment the business will make in the project
  • Revenue projections: the cash inflows you expect the project to generate
  • Expected expenses: the projected costs of the new project

As you can see,  each of the components in the incremental cash flow calculation is based on projections and expectations to some degree. 

Because of this,  there is some additional preparation work that will go into the incremental cash flow calculation,  as the components of the formula aren’t just items you can pull from your financial statements. 

Once you have each of these assumptions made,  you can use the following formula to calculate the incremental cash flow for a project:

Incremental CF = (Cash Inflow from Project – Cash Outflow from Project) – Initial Investment

Incremental Cash Flow Vs.  Total Cash Flow

Incremental and total cash flow both are notably different from each other. 

Incremental cash flow analysis tries to predict the  future cash flow of a business if it takes on a new project.  It helps management determine if a project is worth doing or not.  Projects will be considered if it is a positive incremental cash flow is generated and declined if negative cash flows are expected. 

Total cash flow analysis determines the total cumulative cash that’s been generated from doing a project or evaluating a business.  For example,  when a CEO wants to see the total cash flow of the company from each of the preceding five years.  To come up with the correct figure,  all the cash flows from each year in the last five years are put together. 

FAQ: Incremental Cash Flow

What is not included in incremental cash flow?

Cash receipts or debts from other parts of your business is not included.  It only includes the money made and spent on a specific project.  It also does not include sunk costs,  opportunity costs,  and cannibalization. 

What is the incremental concept?

The incremental concept involves estimating the impact of decision alternatives on costs and revenues,  emphasizing the changes in total cost and total revenue resulting from changes in prices,  products,  procedures,  investments or whatever else may be at stake in the decisions. 

What is the payback period of incremental cash flows?

The incremental change in cash flow represents a payback period of just over 1. 0 years,  which is highly acceptable as long as the upgraded equipment can be expected to operate for longer than the payback period. 


Understanding incremental cash flow is crucial for businesses to make informed financial decisions.  By considering the additional cash flows generated by a particular investment or project,  businesses can accurately assess its profitability and potential return on investment.  

While there are limitations to this approach,  such as the inability to account for intangible benefits,  the advantages of using incremental cash flow analysis outweigh the drawbacks.  To calculate it,  businesses need to identify the relevant costs and benefits associated with the project and subtract any existing cash flows. 

By doing so,  businesses can gain a clearer picture of the financial impact of their investments and make more confident decisions about allocating resources.  So,  next time you’re evaluating a potential project or investment,  remember to consider incremental cash flow as a valuable tool in your decision-making process.
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