Cash Flow Statement: Explanation and Example

Aug 21, 2023 By Triston Martin

Cash flow statements are essential financial tools businesses and individuals use. The cash flow statement expresses the overall health of a business or individual, demonstrating where money is coming from and going. It's important to understand what information they contain to use them strategically to track your finances.

We'll explore how exactly cash flow statements function by providing examples and explanations that help clarify their purpose. By understanding the nuances of each component on these vital documents, you can ensure you're using them effectively for insight into your spending habits or monitoring your company's performance.

What Is a Cash Flow Statement?

A cash flow statement, also known as a Statement of Cash Flows, is a crucial financial record used to keep track of the money's sources and uses. Operating activities, investing activities, and financing activities make up the three divisions. This document describes the inflow and outflow of money over a specific time frame.

Structure of the Cash Flow Statement

Operating Activities

Operating activities include cash generated and used through the core operations of a business, such as sales of products or services. This section will show the income from customers and other sources, plus any expenses related to running regular business functions.

Investing Activities

Investing activities focus on investments made in long-term assets like property, plants, and equipment. This section will explain the purchase and sale of long-term investments and the related cash outflows and inflows.

Financing Activities

Financing activities are all about money generated through debt or equity financing. This includes cash from issuing shares or dividends plus money paid for repurchasing or retiring outstanding shares. Any cash outflows or inflows from taking on debt will be listed.

How the Cash Flow Statement Is Used

The cash flow statement is a powerful tool that helps business owners, and individuals gain insight into their financial situation. Businesses use it to evaluate the performance of their core operations, while individuals can use it as a budgeting tool to track spending and create an optimal savings plan.

It's also useful for investors who want more information about a company before investing. By perusing the cash flow statement, investors can understand how well the company manages its financial operations and whether profits are maximized.

How Cash Flow Is Calculated

The cash flow statement is calculated by subtracting the total cash outflows from the total cash inflows.

For businesses

Money generated through sales and other revenue streams minus any operating expenses are considered to be their net cash flows. Businesses use the cash flow statement to evaluate their core operations and make more informed decisions. It's essential to understand how their resources are being used and where areas can be improved.

The statement also helps owners plan for future investments, such as purchasing new equipment or expanding services. Companies may decide to borrow money or issue stock if it makes financial sense after analyzing the cash flow statement. The cash flow statement is a valuable resource for businesses to maximize their profits and ensure steady growth.

For individuals

Income minus expenses equates to their net cash flows. It's important to include all sources and uses of cash, including any investments or additional debt.

Individuals can use the cash flow statement to track spending and create an optimal savings plan. Considering all sources of income, such as wages, investments, or side hustles, they can compare this with all their outflows, like rent, bills, and entertainment costs. Individuals can make informed decisions about their finances by understanding their net cash flows from month to month or year to year.

The cash flow statement is invaluable for assessing overall liquidity and cash availability. This helps individuals understand how much money they have available for emergency expenses or investments shortly. Cash flow statements are a great way to gain insight into one's financial situation, whether a business or an individual.

Limitations of the Cash Flow Statement

Though the cash flow statement is a very useful financial tool, it does have some limitations. It doesn't consider non-cash items like depreciation or amortization, making it difficult to accurately track certain investments. It's only concerned with the total amount of cash rather than how efficiently it has been used within the company.

It's also important to remember that a cash flow statement only reflects the past, not the future. It is useful for understanding financial decisions already made, but it cannot predict future trends or help make investment decisions.

Example of a Cash Flow Statement

The following example provides an overview of the cash flow statement for a business:

Operating Activities

Cash generated from sales: $20,000

Operating expenses: $15,000

Net cash flows from operating activities: $5,000

Negative Activities

Long-term investments: $3,000

Net cash flows from investing activities: -$3000

Investing Activities

Long-term investments: $8,000

Net cash flows from investing activities: -$8,000

Financing Activities

Debt financing: $2,000

Dividend payments: $1,500

Net cash flows from financing activities:: -$3,500

Net Increase in Cash: $1,500

This example shows how the cash flow statement is calculated by subtracting the total cash outflows from the total cash inflows. It also indicates where money is coming from and going, which can be useful for budgeting or financial planning.

The cash flow statement's final result shows a net cash increase of $1,500. This means the business has seen an overall gain in its available cash flow. However, it's important to note that this does not necessarily mean they have made a profit; it simply indicates that more money was coming into the business than going out.

Is the Indirect Cash Flow Statement Method preferable to the Direct Method?

Direct and indirect procedures are the two main ways to prepare a cash flow statement. The primary distinction is that whereas the indirect approach concentrates on net income, the direct method adds a line item for each cash receipt.

For investors or individuals seeking additional information about a company's financial position, the direct method provides information on how money travels within a corporation. However, individuals who require a basic cash flow overview will find the indirect way to be simpler and easier to understand, making it the better choice.

Both methods have advantages and disadvantages, which can be beneficial depending on your needs. It's important to understand how each works to make an informed decision about which to use.


What is the main purpose of cash flow?

The main purpose of cash flow is to understand how money is coming in and going out of a business or individual. This can be useful for budgeting, financial planning, or evaluating performance.

What is the cash flow formula?

The cash flow formula is Cash Inflows - Cash Outflows = Net Cash Flow. This equation calculates the difference between money coming in and going out, which gives an accurate picture of a company's or individual's financial situation.

Is cash flow monthly or yearly?

Cash flow can be measured monthly, quarterly, or yearly depending on the business's or individual's needs. Measuring it regularly is important to track changes and gain insight into financial trends.


From examining a detailed example, we have seen the ins and outs of a cash flow statement that every business should know. Understanding what constitutes a cash flow statement is critical to any company’s success, as it can be used to assess its current financial standing appropriately. By paying attention to both inflows and outflows of funds and examining these businesses’ various choices, we are better suited to make decisions for our businesses regarding our finances. It is important to remember that effective cash flow management requires careful budgeting, long-term forecasting, an emergency fund, and continuous monitoring of short-term income and expenses.

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