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Payback method formula, example, explanation, advantages, disadvantages

Also, it doesn’t factor in the time value of money—a dollar today isn’t worth the same as a dollar years from now—which could lead to undervaluing longer-term gains or savings. Make sure you include every amount that goes out as an investment and comes in as a return. Payback is used measured in terms of years and months, though any period could be used depending on the life of the project (e.g. weeks, months). Financial modeling best practices require calculations to be transparent and easily auditable.

Start by collecting all the financial details of your investment project. Look at past data, market research, or expert forecasts to estimate these figures accurately. Initially the project involves a cash outflow, arising from the original investment of £500,000 and some project losses in Year 1 of £50,000. The other project would have a payback period of 4.25 years but would generate higher returns on investment than the first project. However, based solely on the payback period, the firm would select the first project over this alternative. The implications of this are that firms may choose investments with shorter payback periods at the expense of profitability.

  1. A discounted payback period’s net present value aspect does not exist in a payback period in which the gross inflow of future cash flow is not discounted.
  2. Financial analysts will perform financial modeling and IRR analysis to compare the attractiveness of different projects.
  3. Others like to use it as an additional point of reference in a capital budgeting decision framework.
  4. To make the best decision about whether to pursue a project or not, a company’s management needs to decide which metrics to prioritize.
  5. A modified variant of this method is the discounted payback method which considers the time value of money.
  6. To begin, the periodic cash flows of a project must be estimated and shown by each period in a table or spreadsheet.

Getting repaid or recovering the initial cost of a project or investment should be achieved as quickly as it allows. However, not all projects and investments have the same time horizon, so the shortest possible payback period needs to be nested within the larger context of that time horizon. For example, the payback period on a home improvement project can be decades while the payback period on a construction project may be five years or less. Although calculating the payback period is useful in financial and capital budgeting, this metric has applications in other industries. It can be used by homeowners and businesses to calculate the return on energy-efficient technologies such as solar panels and insulation, including maintenance and upgrades. Machine X would cost $25,000 and would have a useful life of 10 years with zero salvage value.

Calculating the Payback Period With Excel

If the discounted payback period of a project is longer than its useful life, the company should reject the project. The basic method of the discounted payback period is taking the future estimated cash flows of a project and discounting them to the present value. You’ll need your initial investment cost and your expected annual cash flows data ready before starting your calculation in Excel. It helps quickly sift through potential projects to find ones that return the initial investment swiftly. This method favors cash flows occurring earlier in the project lifecycle, which can be especially useful for organizations aiming to recover costs sooner rather than later.


Despite these issues, many people use this method because it’s straightforward and does a fast job at sizing up an investment’s risk. Firstly, it fails to consider the time value of money, as cash flow obtained in the initial years of a project is valued more highly than cash flow received later in the project’s process. For instance, two projects may have the same payback period, but one generates more cash flow in the early years and the other generates more profitability in the later years. In this case, the payback method does not provide a strong indication as to which project to choose.

Payback Period Example

Despite its limitations, payback period analysis remains a key tool for initial screening of investment opportunities. Since the payback period ignores what happens after breaking even, it’s not always perfect. You don’t see future cash flows or how the value of money can change over time.

In DCF analysis, the weighted average cost of capital (WACC) is the discount rate used to compute the present value of future cash flows. WACC is the calculation of a firm’s cost of capital, where each category of capital, such as equity or bonds, is proportionately weighted. For more detailed cash flow analysis, WACC is usually used in place of discount rate because it is a more accurate measurement of the financial opportunity cost of investments.

In Excel, you divide the total invested money by the yearly cash flow to get the payback period. Let’s assume that a company invests cash of $400,000 in more efficient equipment. The cash savings from the new equipment is expected to be $100,000 per year for 10 years.

Do I need advanced Excel skills to figure out the payback period?

The payback period is expected to be 4 years ($400,000 divided by $100,000 per year). Ideally, businesses would pursue all projects and opportunities that hold potential profit and enhance their shareholder’s value. However, there’s a limit to the amount of capital and money available for companies to invest in new projects. The situation gets a bit more complicated if you’d like to consider the time value of money formula (see time value of money calculator). After all, your $100,000 will not be worth the same after ten years; in fact, it will be worth a lot less. Every year, your money will depreciate by a certain percentage, called the discount rate.

Guide to Understanding Accounts Receivable Days (A/R Days)

The payback period is an essential assessment during the calculation of return from a particular project. It is advisable not to use the tool as the only option for decision-making. During similar kinds of investments, however, a paired comparison is useful. In the case of detailed analysis like net present value dine, shop and share or internal rate of return, the payback period can act as a tool to support those particular formulas. Under payback method, an investment project is accepted or rejected on the basis of payback period. Payback period means the period of time that a project requires to recover the money invested in it.

The breakeven point is a specific price or value that an investment or project must reach so that the initial cost of that investment or project is completely returned. Whereas the payback period refers to the time it takes to reach the breakeven point. Payback focuses on cash flows and looks at the cumulative cash flow of the investment up to the point at which the original investment has been recouped from the investment cash flows.

The payback period is the expected number of years it will take for a company to recoup the cash it invested in a project. By adopting cloud accounting software like Deskera, you can track your costs, send purchase orders, overview your bills, generate expense reports, and much more – through a single, user-friendly platform. Since IRR does not take risk into account, it should be looked at in conjunction with the payback period to determine which project is most attractive.

Note that in both cases, the calculation is based on cash flows, not accounting net income (which is subject to non-cash adjustments). For example, if solar panels cost $5,000 to install and the savings are $100 each month, it would take 4.2 years to reach the payback period. In most cases, this is a pretty good payback period as experts say it can take as much as years for residential homeowners in the United States to break even on their investment.