Small Business Glossary

Capital Expenditure or CapEx

Capital Expenditure Planning is determining, scheduling and budgeting for capital projects and asset purchases.

In the world of small businesses, understanding financial terms is crucial to the success and growth of your venture. One such term that often comes up in financial discussions is Capital Expenditure, often abbreviated as CapEx. This term is a vital part of business operations, and understanding it can be the key to making informed decisions about your company's future investments.

Capital Expenditure or CapEx refers to the funds used by a company to acquire, upgrade, and maintain physical assets. This could include property, buildings, an industrial plant, or equipment. CapEx is often used to undertake new projects or investments within the company. Understanding CapEx is crucial as it provides insight into the company's growth and future prospects.

Understanding Capital Expenditure (CapEx)

Capital Expenditure (CapEx) is a significant component in the financial outlook of a company. It is a measure of how much a company is investing in its own operational growth. These expenditures are made by companies to increase their scope of operations or their efficiency. The amount of capital expenditure a company is likely to have depends on the industry and sector in which it operates.

CapEx is important because it is a clear indicator of the scale and potential for future growth. A company that is investing heavily in its own operations is likely to be a company that is planning for the future, and this can be a positive sign for investors and stakeholders.

How is CapEx calculated?

CapEx is calculated by adding the increase in property, plant, and equipment (PPE) to the current period's PPE and subtracting the previous period's PPE. It can also be calculated directly from the cash flow statement by taking the total cash spent on acquisitions and subtracting the cash received from the sale of long-term assets.

It's important to note that CapEx is not accounted for in the income statement. Instead, it is treated as an asset on the balance sheet and is depreciated over the life of the asset. The depreciation is then recorded as an expense on the income statement.

Why is CapEx important?

CapEx is a critical factor in the financial health of a company. It shows how much a company is investing in its future growth. A high level of CapEx could indicate that a company is aggressively pursuing growth, while a low level could suggest that a company is being more conservative with its investments.

Additionally, CapEx can impact a company's cash flow. Since CapEx is a cash outflow, it reduces the company's cash balance. Therefore, companies need to ensure they have sufficient cash flow to cover their capital expenditures.

Types of Capital Expenditures (CapEx)

Capital expenditures can be classified into two main types: maintenance CapEx and growth CapEx. Both types are essential for a company's growth and development, but they serve different purposes.

Maintenance CapEx, also known as replacement CapEx, is the capital expenditure necessary to maintain the current level of operations. This includes the replacement of worn-out or obsolete assets, repairs and renovations, and other expenses that help maintain the company's existing revenue stream.

Growth CapEx

Growth CapEx, on the other hand, is the capital expenditure incurred to acquire new assets or upgrade existing ones in order to increase the company's capacity or efficiency, or to enter into new markets. This type of CapEx is directed towards the long-term growth prospects of the company.

Understanding the difference between these two types of CapEx can help a company make strategic decisions about where to allocate its capital. For instance, a company with a high level of growth CapEx is likely to be a growth-oriented company, while a company with a high level of maintenance CapEx may be more focused on maintaining its current operations.

Examples of CapEx

Examples of capital expenditures include the purchase of new equipment, the construction of a new plant, the refurbishment of existing facilities, the purchase of new vehicles for company use, or the acquisition of other companies. These are all considered capital expenditures because they are significant investments that will provide a benefit to the company for more than one fiscal year.

It's important to note that not all large expenditures are considered CapEx. For example, costs related to research and development or marketing campaigns are typically considered operating expenses, not capital expenditures, because they are expected to generate benefits within the same fiscal year.

CapEx vs OpEx

Capital Expenditure (CapEx) and Operating Expenditure (OpEx) are both types of business expenses, but they are categorized differently in accounting. Understanding the difference between CapEx and OpEx can help you better understand your company's financial health and make more informed decisions.

CapEx refers to the money spent to acquire or improve long-term assets such as buildings or equipment. OpEx, on the other hand, refers to the money spent on the day-to-day operations of a business, such as salaries, utilities, and maintenance.

Accounting for CapEx and OpEx

In accounting, CapEx and OpEx are treated differently. CapEx is capitalized, meaning it is recorded as an asset on the balance sheet and is depreciated over the life of the asset. This means that the cost of the asset is spread out over several years, rather than being recorded all at once.

OpEx, on the other hand, is expensed, meaning it is recorded as an expense in the income statement in the period it is incurred. This means that OpEx has an immediate impact on the company's profitability.

Impact on Cash Flow

CapEx and OpEx also have different impacts on a company's cash flow. CapEx is a cash outflow, meaning it reduces the company's cash balance. However, because it is capitalized, it does not reduce the company's profitability in the period it is incurred.

OpEx, on the other hand, is also a cash outflow, but because it is expensed, it reduces the company's profitability in the period it is incurred. This means that a high level of OpEx can lead to a decrease in a company's net income.


Understanding Capital Expenditure or CapEx is crucial for any small business owner. It's a key indicator of a company's financial health and future growth prospects. By understanding CapEx, you can make informed decisions about your company's investments and strategic direction.

Remember, CapEx is not just about spending money. It's about investing in your company's future. So, don't be afraid to make those big purchases if they're going to help your company grow. Just make sure you're making the right investments, and that you have a clear plan for how these investments will lead to greater profitability in the future.

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