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Net cash flow | Definition and calculation | Chaser

Net cash flow | Definition and calculation | Chaser

A business's net cash flow (NCF) is an indicator of its financial health over a specific period of time. Calculating net cash flow involves subtracting operating activities from the company's net income. It can help you understand if your company has a positive cash flow or needs more money to run effectively.

This guide will share the net cash flow formula and how to calculate net cash flow.  A business owner can make informed budgeting decisions and avoid lost money by calculating NCF.


Why is net cash flow important?

NCF is an indicator that helps you gain visibility over how much cash is coming in and going out of your business. Net cash flows help you understand how your business manages its total cash flows, which can help you avoid company financial issues.

Knowing the net cash flow formula also allows you to make more informed decisions about budgeting and spending and how to utilise the funds available to you most effectively. By tracking this metric and other indicators of a company's cash flows, like free cash flow and discounted cash flow, you can ensure that your business can meet its long- and short-term financial obligations.


What is included in net cash flow?

NCF includes all the components of a business's cash inflows and outflows, such as operating cash, capital investment, and financing activities. 

These three categories include more specific items:

Cash flow from operating activities

Cash flow from operating activities includes:

  • Cash paid by customers
  • Money paid for payroll, rent and other bills
  • Interest received on investments

Operating cash flow is the total cash generated from a company's business operations, such as customer cash and interest received on investments. Operating costs count towards the total cash outflow, such as the cash paid to employees or bills for existing services.

Cash flow from investing activities

Cash flow from investing activities include:

  • Money spent to purchase fixed assets, Property, Plant and Equipment (PP&E)
  • Money used to acquire or sell investments such as stocks and bonds
  • Money received from the sale of PP&E

Investing cash flows differ from operating cash flows in that they involve the money acquired from cash flow from investing and the money spent to acquire them.

Cash flow from financing activities

Cash flow from financing activities include:

  • Cash received from issuing new shares or bonds
  • Money paid out to buy back existing shares or bonds
  • Interest payments on debt and paying dividends on equity

Financial activities include all business undertakings related to bonds, shares or dividends.

What information do I need to calculate net cash flow?

A formal document outlining a company's cash flow is called a statement of cash, created in compliance with specific accounting frameworks. A company's cash flow statement informs whether a company invests or will have problems paying expenses and needs more money.

Before using the net cash flow formula, you need information on your cash outflow, which includes items like investment costs and bills, rent and payroll. You should know your administrative expenses and current liabilities and retain your cash receipts.

Ideally, you will have a balance sheet containing your income statement, capital expenditures, cash payments and cash equivalents, and net profit. Tracking net cash flow over time is essential, not just for a specific period.


How do you calculate net cash flow?

You calculate net cash flow by taking the total cash inflows that come into a business from all sources and subtracting the total cash outflows in the net cash flow formula.

This will give you an overall picture of how much money is in and out of your company. The formula for calculating net cash flow is:

NCF = Cash Inflows – Cash Outflows

The cash inflows include all sources of revenue, such as sales from customers and flow from investing activities. Cash outflows are all the expenses associated with running a business, such as payroll, rent, and taxes.

It can also be written as:

Net Cash Flow = NCF from Operating Activities + NCF from Financial Activities + NCF from Investing Activities


Examples of net cash flow

Here are some examples of how different companies can calculate their NCF using a simple balance sheet:

Example 1

Company A has total sales of $1,000,000, operating expenses of $500,000 and takes out a loan for $200,000. Their net cash flow would be calculated as follows:

NCF = $1,000,000 – ($500,000 + $200,000)

NCF = $300,000

Example 2

Company B has total operating expenses of $2,000,000 and receives a loan of $1,000,000. Their net cash flow would be calculated as follows:

NCF = 0 – ($2,000,000 + $1,000,000)

NCF = -$3,000,000

In the case of Company A, their net cash flow is positive since they have more inflows than outflows. Company B, however, has a negative net cash flow because they have more expenses than income.

What is negative or positive net cash flow?

Your company will have a positive or negative net cash flow, depending on the net cash flow formula results. A positive net cash flow shows a business's financial stability, demonstrating that it can pay shareholders and employees and grow the business. A negative net cash flow can indicate challenges regarding a company's future growth and ability to adapt to challenging circumstances.

How does net cash flow differ from cash flow?

NCF differs from overall cash flow, which looks at total cash inflow regardless of whether it comes from your business profits. NCF is how much cash a company generates on its own rather than total cash inflow.

Take the example of a negative cash flow. A negative cash flow means you are losing money and need funds to invest in your business. If you receive a loan or funding to run your business, you may have a positive cash flow, but your company's net cash flow may be affected.

Although a loan from a third-party provider counts as positive cash flow, because money is coming into the business, it could result in a negative net flow. This is because your loan costs your company money over time and detracts from your total net cash flows in the net cash flow formula.

Positive cash flows are a good indicator of the amount of cash a company has to meet its immediate financial outgoings. Positive net cash flow shows that the cash generated has come from the business's operating cash flows and investing activities.


How can I calculate net cash flow to make better decisions?

NCF can help you identify issues with operating cash flow early so that your total cash outflows stay within your total cash inflows. Net cash flow measures the impact that changes in operating cash flow or investing activities have on your company's finances. You can also use net cash flow to inform financial decisions, such as when to invest in equipment or hire new staff.

Finally, net cash flow can also give you a more accurate picture of how your business is performing financially and whether you have positive growth. It provides valuable insight into expenditures and earnings, which will help you assess your operations' overall efficiency.


What are the limitations of net cash flow?

Calculate net cash flow for a valuable metric to track your company's financial health. However, NCF only gives an overall picture and needs to provide more information on how your investing activities might generate success in the long term. It also does not consider non-cash expenses such as depreciation or amortisation.

Short-term factors such as seasonality or economic changes can also affect net cash flow. This means that it may not be a reliable indicator of long-term performance and should only be used to make decisions about immediate needs.

Finally, it is essential to remember that the net cash flow figure is only one metric and should be used in conjunction with other financial measures to get an accurate picture of your business's performance.


Net cash flow vs. net income

Net cash flows measure a business's actual inflows and outflows. In contrast, net income estimates are based on accrual accounting methods considering non-cash expenses and revenues. For example, depreciation is included in net income but not in net cash flow.

In addition, net income is based on historical data. It provides information about the past performance of a business, while net cash flow provides more immediate insight into current financial health and short-term financial viability.

By combining both metrics, you can better understand your business's overall health and financial stability.


A vital tool in your credit control toolbox

Net cash flow is a critical metric for any business and helps assess if the company is financially healthy. Furthermore, net cash flow can inform credit control decisions, allowing you to understand better and manage your debtors. NCF can help you ensure that negative cash flow is never an issue for your business so you can focus on running it efficiently and successfully.

However, as mentioned, net cash flow should be one of many metrics you rely on when managing your finances (such as free cash flow). Chaser's cutting-edge credit control platform combines automated reminders, AI-powered prediction tools, and a range of other features to help you take control of your credit control and accounts receivable management processes. With Chaser, you can ensure that cash flow issues never become a problem for your business.

To find out more about how Chaser can help you take control of your credit control, contact us for a demo or sign up for your no-obligation 14-day free trial today!

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