Money Matters

From expense to investment – What is capital expenditure? (CapEx)

Explore Capital Expenditure (CapEx) - its meaning, significance, and difference from operational expenditure. Learn how CapEx shifts perspective from an expense to an investment, propelling business growth.

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Capital expenditures (CapEx) or expenses are critical to your business’s long-term growth and success. 

Imagine, for example, that you are the CFO of a successful manufacturing company.  

But you run into a problem—your ageing equipment is slowing production and affecting product quality.  

This is where capital expenditure comes in.  

CapEx is the money you spend on that new machinery and technology.  

Over months and years, your new machinery and tech increases productivity, improves product quality, and reduces manufacturing time.  

Your reputation grows, which means you attract new clients and boost profits.  

Your investment in capital expenditure has propelled your manufacturing business to success and ensured you remain competitive.  

What you’ll get from this article

We will explore the concept of CapEx and why you need to consider capital expenditure as an investment rather than an expense.  

We will discuss the definition of CapEx, its distinct types, formula and calculation methods, challenges, best practices, and business importance. 

Finally, we’ll provide practical tips if you want to develop a CapEx strategy that aligns with your long-term goals.  

Whether you’re a business owner, CFO, or investor, this guide will help you understand the importance of CapEx and how to make informed decisions from now on. 

Here’s what you get.:

What is CapEx?

Capital expenditures (CapEx) are funds you use to acquire, upgrade, or maintain assets that provide long-term value. These could be physical assets like property or equipment or intangible assets like patents or software.  

The purpose of CapEx is to invest in the future of your business.  

For example, if you are the CFO of a SaaS company, you might spend a significant amount on capital expenditure to develop a new software product.  

  • This CapEx-funded product, once developed, is expected to generate revenue for the company over a long period, justifying the initial investment. 

If you’re the CFO of a manufacturing company, you might invest capital expenditure in new robotic machinery to improve production efficiency.  

  • This CapEx-bought machinery could increase your production rate and product quality over several years, providing long-term value to your business. 

Capital expenditures – key facts


  • Could help increase your overall efficiency, productivity, and competitiveness. 
  • Is a critical business metric that shows how much money you invest in long-term assets to grow and improve your operations. 
  • Is typically capitalized on the balance sheet and not expensed directly on your income statement.  
  • Can be categorized into several types, including maintenance capex, growth capex, tangible capex assets, and intangible capex assets. 

Examples of capital expenditures

  • Property: Purchasing or constructing a new building, renovating an existing one, or acquiring land for future development 
  • Equipment: Buying machinery, vehicles, or other equipment necessary for your business’s operation. 
  • Technology: Investing in software, hardware, or other technology that improves the efficiency or productivity of your business. 
  • Furniture and fixtures: Buying furniture, fixtures, and other items used in your business for an extended period. 
  • Research and development: Investing in R&D to create or improve products and services. 
  • Infrastructure: Investing in roads, bridges, and utilities necessary for your business’s operation. 

Types of capital expenditures

Maintenance CapEx—maintaining or repairing key assets 

Maintenance CapEx refers to expenses made to maintain or repair existing assets to ensure they function correctly. 

You need to spend maintenance CapEx to keep assets in good working order and extend their useful lives, which can help you avoid more significant expenses in the future. 

Maintenance CapEx applies to any asset requiring ongoing maintenance, including buildings, equipment, machinery, and vehicles.  

Here are a couple of examples: 

  • A manufacturing company invests in regular maintenance for its production line equipment to ensure it continues operating efficiently.  
  • A real estate company invests in maintenance and repairs for its rental properties to keep them in good condition for tenants. 

While maintenance CapEx doesn’t typically lead to significant improvements or new revenue streams, it could be an essential part of your business strategy. 

If you don’t invest in maintenance CapEx, you may get hit more by equipment failures and costly repairs. It’ll reduce productivity and efficiency, hurting your bottom line. 

Growth CapEx—expanding your operations, driving revenue 

Growth Capital Expenditure is money you spend on projects or assets to expand your business, improve operations, or increase income over time. 

Here are some benefits of investing in growth CapEx: 

  • Expansion opportunities 

If you spend money on expanding your operations, you may be able to add new products or services and increase production capacity. You could then enter new markets, attract different customers, and increase your market share. 

  • Improved efficiency 

Spend cash on improving your business’s efficiency with technology that can help streamline operations, reduce waste, and optimize processes.  

Eventually, in the long run, this initial spending will help you save money and increase profitability by reducing costs and improving your productivity. 

  • Futureproofing 

You might invest in modern technology, equipment or infrastructure to help you remain competitive. 

Tangible CapEx assets—physical investments driving success 

Tangible CapEx assets are physical assets and investments, such as land, buildings, and equipment you can see, touch, and feel. 

Here are some key benefits of investing in tangible CapEx assets: 

Improved business operations 

Tangible CapEx assets can help you improve your operations by providing the necessary infrastructure and equipment to run efficiently.  

You might, for example, want to invest in new machinery or upgrade existing equipment to increase production capacity and reduce downtime, leading to improved productivity and profitability. 

Increased asset value 

Tangible CapEx assets can also increase the value of your assets over time.  

If you invest in a new building or upgrade the infrastructure of an existing building, you can increase its value and make it more attractive to potential buyers or investors. 

Long-term investment 

Tangible CapEx assets are long-term investments that can provide value for many years. While they may involve significant initial costs, they could provide a steady income stream and cost savings over their useful life. 


Tangible CapEx assets are also subject to depreciation, which means you can expense the asset’s cost over its useful life. This can help you manage your cash flow and reduce your tax liability. 

Intangible CapEx assets—invisible investments driving you forward 

Intangible CapEx assets are non-physical assets you can’t see or touch but can still provide long-term value. 

While these assets may not be visible or tangible, they may still be critical to your success. Here are some key benefits of intangible CapEx assets: 

Protecting intellectual property 

You can prevent competitors from using or copying your ideas, products, and services by securing intangible CapEx assets such as patents, trademarks, and copyrights. 

Enhancing brand value 

Intangible CapEx assets can also enhance your brand value if they assist you in creating a unique identity and reputation.  

For example, investing in intangible CapEx assets through marketing and advertising campaigns can help you build brand recognition and loyalty, increasing the perceived value of your products or services. 

Long-term investment and depreciation 

Like tangible CapEx assets, intangible CapEx assets are long-term investments that can provide value for many years.  

While intangible CapEx assets may not have a physical presence, they can still provide a steady income stream and cost savings over their useful life. They can even be subject to depreciation, which you can use to expense the intangible asset’s cost over its useful life.  

Operating expenses (OpEx)

Operating expenses, expenditures, or revenue expenses (RevEx) are necessary ongoing costs your business incurs to maintain its day-to-day operations.  

They could include rent, utilities, employee salaries, insurance, marketing expenses, supplies, and other costs related to your regular operations.  

Capital expenditures versus operating expenses 

OpEx are distinct from CapEx investments that have long-term value and are not consumed or used up in day-to-day operations. 

Capital expenditure is: 

  • Often made with the expectation of generating future value or cost savings 
  • A 1-time expense that is recorded on the balance sheet and depreciated over the asset’s useful life. 

Operating expenses: 

  • Are often necessary to maintain ongoing operations. 
  • Represent day-to-day business expenses. 
  • Are typically recurring expenses deducted from revenue to calculate net income. 

How can CapEx affect OpEx? 

No fixed percentage of CapEx is OpEx, as they are 2 different expense types. But it’s worth noting that CapEx and OpEx are closely related. 

CapEx investments can impact OpEx in the long run by improving the efficiency and productivity of your operations.  

For instance, if you invest in new machinery that is more energy-efficient, it may reduce your energy costs in the long term, resulting in lower OpEx. 

Capital expenditures: Formula and calculation  

Calculating CapEx is important in managing your finances and making informed investment decisions.  

First, you need to know these terms: 

  • Total acquisition cost includes the purchase price of the asset as well as any associated costs such as installation and transportation.  
  • Salvage value is the asset’s estimated value at the end of its useful life, which can be determined by estimating the expected resale value or scrap value. 

The formula for calculating CapEx is as follows:  

CapEx = total acquisition cost – salvage value 

For example, if you purchase a new machine for $10,000 and expect it to have a salvage value of $2,000 after 5 years, the CapEx would be calculated as follows:  

CapEx = $10,000 – $2,000 = $8,000 

You’ve invested $8,000 in the machine, which will depreciate over its useful life. 

By understanding the total cost of acquiring or improving an asset and estimating its future salvage value, you can accurately calculate the expected return on investment. It’ll also give you information to help you decide when to replace or upgrade. 

Capital expenditures calculation methods  

You can use 2 methods to calculate CapEx—direct or indirect. Your use depends on your needs and how accurate you need to be. 

  • A different level of detail is involved between direct and indirect CapEx calculations. 
  • The direct method records all CapEx costs immediately, while the indirect method observes how long-term assets change over time. 

Direct method 

The direct method of calculating CapEx is more accurate as it tracks all costs when they happen. It’s good for businesses that buy or improve assets often and needs precise accounting. 

  • You note down all costs when you buy or improve lasting assets, including the purchase price and extra costs like setup and transport.  
  • You can find the total money spent on your assets at a certain time. 

Indirect method 

The indirect method is simpler and quicker, using existing balance sheet data. It’s useful for smaller businesses or those with fewer assets. However, it may not catch all costs and relies on accurate depreciation estimates. 

  • It checks how your long-lasting assets change over time.  
  • You calculate the difference between the start and end values of assets, and consider any value loss over time (depreciation).  
  • The change in asset value gives the CapEx for that period. 

Challenges of CapEx 

CapEx can present various challenges you must overcome to maximize your investments.  


Market conditions, regulatory changes and other unforeseen events can affect your CapEx investments. You might find it difficult to accurately forecast CapEx return on investment, leading to unexpected costs or delays. 

Measurement problems  

Measuring the effectiveness of CapEx investments can be difficult, particularly regarding long-term and indirect benefits such as improved productivity or customer satisfaction.  

Additionally, measuring the success of CapEx investments can be complicated by factors such as depreciation, maintenance costs, and obsolescence. 


Capital expenditures often involve significant upfront costs, impacting cash flow and making investing in other business areas difficult.  

Additionally, the benefits of CapEx investments may be spread out over a longer period, making it hard to see the return on investment in the short term. 

However, the accounting concept of depreciation allows you to expense the asset’s cost over its useful life—you can maximize its value and minimize its overall cost. 


CapEx investments are often irreversible. This highlights the importance of careful planning and due diligence. By making informed decisions about CapEx investments, you can minimize the risk. 

High initial costs  

High initial CapEx costs can be a barrier to entry. But you must remember these costs are often necessary for long-term benefits.  

By carefully budgeting and planning, you can ensure you get the best possible return on investment. 

Capital expenditures—best practices for successful investments 

Despite the challenges, there are steps you can take to make the most of your CapEx investments.  

Look at collaborating with trusted advisors and experts who can provide guidance and support throughout the CapEx investment process. You’ll need careful planning, budgeting, and execution.  

Here are some best practices to consider: 

Structure before you start  

Conduct thorough research and due diligence before making any CapEx investments. It’s important to have a clear structure to make informed and strategic decisions. 

  • Create a detailed plan for managing cash flow, ensuring that CapEx investments don’t impact other business areas.  
  • Outline your goals, metrics, budget, and timeline, identifying your needed resources and expertise. 

Think long term  

CapEx investments are typically long-term commitments, so it’s important to consider their impact over time. 

  • Consider factors such as maintenance costs, depreciation, and obsolescence, as well as identifying opportunities for growth and expansion. 
  • Ensure that you align CapEx investments with your overall business strategy. 

Use good accounting software  

Effective budgeting is critical when it comes to CapEx investments. You can ensure that your CapEx investments are sound and aligned with financial goals. 

Good accounting software can help you: 

  • Create detailed budgets and forecasts  
  • Track your expenses 
  • Identify areas where you can save money 

Capture accurate data  

Accurate data is essential when it comes to making informed CapEx investments.  

  • You’ll want to capture data on everything from market trends and customer behavior to maintenance costs and equipment performance. 
  • By capturing accurate data, you can identify areas where you can improve efficiency, reduce costs, and make more informed investment decisions. 

Creating clear policies 

By creating clear policies, you align everyone around your CapEx investment strategy.  

This transparency will make decision-making easier and boost responsibility, ensuring stakeholders understand how CapEx investments help meet your goals—even ones that aren’t easy to measure. 

You might want to have clear policies around the following: 

  • Budgeting 
  • Procurement 
  • Approval processes 
  • Maintenance 
  • Repair 
  • Replacement 

Business importance of capital expenditures 

Capital expenditures are essential for your business to grow and remain competitive in the long run.  

Here are some reasons why CapEx is important: 

Improve productivity and efficiency 

CapEx investments in equipment, technology, and infrastructure can help you improve your productivity and efficiency, leading to increased profitability and competitiveness. 

Enhanced customer experience 

CapEx investments in property, furniture, and fixtures can help you create a better customer experience, increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

Increased revenue  

CapEx investments in research and development and new products or services can help you increase revenue by expanding your offerings and attracting new customers. 

Reduced costs 

CapEx investments in energy-efficient equipment or infrastructure can help you reduce operating costs, leading to increased profitability in the long run. 

Meeting regulatory requirements 

CapEx investments in compliance with regulatory requirements, such as environmental or safety regulations, can help you avoid fines and penalties—and protect your reputation. 

Maintain competitiveness 

Keep up with what your rivals are doing. CapEx investments are necessary to remain competitive in your industry.  

Final thoughts on capital expenditures 

Capital expenditures are essential for your long-term growth and success. 

While they may involve high initial costs and have long-term irreversible effects, CapEx can provide value over the long term, improving efficiency, increasing production capacity, and enhancing customer service.  

Make informed decisions about CapEx investments and carefully manage and maintain your business assets. Ensure you get the best possible return on investment, and your business will thrive.