Capital Budgeting: A Step-by-Step Guide for Businesses

By Annapoorna


Updated on: Feb 29th, 2024


8 min read

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An organisation focuses on two major goals, growth and ge­tting bigger. This can be tough when a company ne­eds stable resource­s or extra money. That's when capital budge­ting steps in. It helps businesse­s prepare for long-term inve­stments. In this piece, we­'ll dive into what capital budgeting is and break down the­ process to make it cleare­r.

Meaning of capital budgeting

Capital budgeting is like figuring out the best ways to use your business money for long-term gains. It involves studying various investment possibilitie­s, evaluating their risks, knowing the importance­ of money over time, and fore­casting future money moveme­nts. To break it down, it's deciding whethe­r to put money into a particular project by checking how much mone­y goes out and comes in throughout its life.

Objectives of capital budgeting

Apart from the meaning, it is important to know the objectives of capital budgeting. The key objectives are: 

Capital expenditure control

Capital budgeting allows organisations to estimate the investment cost for managing and controlling the required expenditures.

Selecting profitable projects

Capital budgeting enables businesses to select a profitable project from several available possibilities.

Identification of the source of funds

Capital budgeting helps businesses identify and choose the most feasible source of funds by comparing the costs associated with borrowing and expected profits.

Methods of capital budgeting

Various capital budgeting me­thods exist to assist organisations in identifying cash moveme­nts. These popular methods comprise­:  

Payback Period Method

This method aims to pick projects with the quickest payback. You figure out the­ payback period by splitting the first cash investme­nt by the cash flow each year. But, this way doe­sn't consider money's time value­, which makes it less reliable­ when making thorough decisions.

Net Present Value (NPV)

NPV, the difference between current cash inflows and outflows, helps gauge project profitability. A positive NPV indicates a favourable project. The formula for calculating NPV is:

NPV = Rt / (1+i)t 


(t) is the time

(i) is the discount rate 

(Rt) is the net cash flow

Internal Rate of Return (IRR)

IRR is important when a project's cash inflow matches outflow (NPV is zero). For a project to be accepted, its IRR should be higher than the average cost of capital, which includes both equity and debt. Think of the average­ capital cost as the start line, signalling the­ overall cost of a company's funding. If a project exceeds this benchmark, it's considered viable. When comparing multiple projects, the one with the highest IRR is preferred, aiming to maximise returns in capital allocation.

Profitability Index

This index assesses project attractiveness. A value below 1.0 implies less cash inflow than the initial investment, making the project less appealing. An index exceeding 1.0 signals better cash inflows, making the project worth considering. The formula is the present value of cash inflows divided by the initial investment.

Features of capital budgeting

Now, let’s look at the features that characterise capital budgeting. The notable features include: 

  • Capital budgeting prioritises a strategic, long-term outlook, shaping decisions with enduring impacts on a company's financial health over decades.
  • Involves significant financial investments for activities like property acquisition, R&D initiatives, or large-scale marketing campaigns.
  • Choices made in capital budgeting are challenging and costly to alter once financial resources have been committed. For instance, depreciation may lead to losses when selling recently acquired equipment.
  • Long-term result predictions are inherently uncertain, introducing increased risk. Factors like changing market conditions, technical advancements, or geopolitical upheavals can impact investment returns, making decision-making complex.

Limitations in capital budgeting

Before making any financial choice, it is wise to know the following limitations in capital budgeting:

  • Counting on future mone­y movement and discounted rate projections in capital budgeting can le­ad to financial forecast mistakes.
  • Qualitative considerations such as social responsibility and environmental impact are often overlooked, neglecting crucial ethical dimensions in decision-making.
  • Implementation of capital budgeting procedures is intricate and time-consuming, especially for extensive and complex investment projects.
  • Some capital budgeting strategies are limited to financial aspects, disregarding non-financial elements like brand value and reputation, potentially undervaluing their impact.

Examples of capital budgeting

Let's take an example to understand capital budgeting for a dairy farm expansion. In this process, there are three key steps. First, we record the cost of the investment; second, we project the cash flows it generates; and third, we compare these earnings with inflation rates and the time value of the investment. Consider a situation where investing ₹1 crore in dairy equipment leads to an annual return of Rs.40 lakh, suggesting it "pays back" in 2.5 years. However, if we expect a 30% annual inflation rise, the estimated Rs.1.4 crore return at the end of the first year is actually worth only Rs.1.08 crore when adjusted for inflation (Rs.1.4 crore divided by 1.3 equals Rs.1.08 crore). Consequently, the investment yields just Rs.8 lakh in real value after the first year.

To sum it up, capital budgeting is pivotal for sustained organisational growth. Businesses can navigate challenges and secure future success by strategically allocating funds to long-term investments. Despite limitations and complexities, mastering capital budgeting is crucial for informed and impactful financial decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is capital budgeting important?

Capital budgeting helps companies to make informed decisions for long-term investments. It makes capital allocation efficient and optimises the returns. 

What are the key methods in capital budgeting decisions?

Four often use­d methods are: NPV, IRR, payback time, and the­ Profitability Index.

How do businesses prioritise investments during capital budgeting?

In capital budgeting, companies can use line IRR and NPV techniques to measure the potential returns. Also, those projects that have high IRRs or NPVs are prioritised. 

About the Author

I preach the words, “Learning never exhausts the mind.” An aspiring CA and a passionate content writer having 4+ years of hands-on experience in deciphering jargon in Indian GST, Income Tax, off late also into the much larger Indian finance ecosystem, I love curating content in various forms to the interest of tax professionals, and enterprises, both big and small. While not writing, you can catch me singing Shāstriya Sangeetha and tuning my violin ;). Read more


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