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Cash Flow Statements for SaaS: Examples and Solutions

by Timothy Ware. Last updated on May 27, 2024

The cash flow statement, also known as the statement of cash flows, is one of three main financial statements every company needs, along with the balance sheet and income statement.

The cash flow statement summarizes all the money flowing in and out of your company over a specified period. That’s important because cash-in is not necessarily good, and cash-out is not necessarily bad.

Accurate and up-to-date cash flow statements are essential for large and small businesses. The good news is that you don’t need to be an accounting guru to grasp the fundamentals of this financial principle.

This article explains how cash flow is placed on the cash flow statement. We also walk you through an Amazon cash flow statement, followed by a prepared example specifically geared toward a SaaS business.

Finally, we show you how specialized software can automatically generate your cash flow statement from the information readily found on your balance sheet and income statement. That’s the first step in easier, more accurate cash flow modeling and financial forecasting.

What Is a Cash Flow Statement?

Cash flow is the money moving in and out of your business. It’s different from many other accounting principles as it’s completely separate from your company’s profitability or value. The cash flow statement illustrates your company’s cash flow for a specific period.

A business's typical cash flow statement format includes operating, investing, and financing activities. These three terms are the sections on a cash flow statement. Let’s explore these activities a bit more.

Cash Flow Statement - Operating, Investing, FinancingParts of the Cash Flow Statement

Cash flow from operating activities

Operating activities are generally understood as a business's normal, day-to-day operations. If you sell cupcakes, operating activities will include selling cupcakes or buying the sugar and flour to bake your cupcakes.

This way, cash flow from operating activities includes all the money coming into and leaving your business due to these normal, day-to-day processes. The following are some examples of cash flows from operating activities:

  • Cash flow in: The main, and sometimes only, cash flow from operating activities is the receipt of cash from the sale of goods or services. Note that receipt of cash is used instead of revenue because sometimes, revenue is recorded before cash is received or cash is received before revenue is recorded.
  • Cash flow out: Expenses are the main cash outflow from operating activities. These can include interest payments, tax payments, rent, payments to suppliers, and so on. For SaaS companies, hosting fees and subscriptions to needed business software are common ways cash flows out of the company due to operating activities. Note that only cash expenses are listed on the cash flow statement, which means depreciation and amortization are not included. We’ll discuss this more below.

Cash flow from investing activities

When you hear “investing activities,” you probably first think about stocks. Cash flow from investing activities includes selling or purchasing stocks, but that’s not all. While the investing activities of individuals are often limited to stocks, those of businesses are more diversified.

The investing activities of a business can also include the purchase or sale of large assets. These are things of value that the company owns. Your company might purchase physical assets, such as an office building or a large server, to carry out its business. These are usually referred to as tangible assets because you can touch them.

You might also buy intangible assets you cannot touch, such as new software that improves your platform or a patent. Here are some examples of cash flows from investing activities:

  • Cash flow in: The sale of securities (stocks), land, or old assets are common positive cash flows from investing activities.
  • Cash flow out: Negative cash flows from investing activities are essentially the opposite of the cash flows in. These include purchasing stocks or new assets such as a building or equipment.

Cash flow from financing activities

Financing activities are how a company is funded. This includes equity and liability financing. For example, a company can use a bank loan to finance operations, or the owners can invest more of their personal savings into the business.

Some examples of cash flow from financing activities are as follows:

  • Cash flow in: The company opening a new loan or the owners putting more money into the business are examples of positive cash flows from financing activities. An initial public offering (IPO) or the issuance of new stocks is also positive cash flows from financing activities.
  • Cash flow out: Issuing a dividend is a good example of negative cash flow from financing activities. Repaying a loan is another example. The company could also repurchase some of its stock to increase its price. In all of these cases, the cash flowing out of the company would be a signal that the company is doing well.



How to Calculate Cash Flow

A company’s cash flow can be calculated using either the direct or indirect method. Both options are permitted by generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). However, many small businesses prefer the indirect method.

Calculating cash flow with the direct method

In the direct method, you must record all cash as it enters and leaves your business. This is a huge added bookkeeping burden because you need to keep two general ledgers for all activities and another for tracking cash transactions.

Not only is this method more time-consuming than the indirect method, but you will still need to do some of the indirect methods. Following the indirect method, reconciling the cash flow statement to the income statement must still be done.

Calculating cash flow with the indirect method

The indirect method starts with the cash from operating activities. The net income (or loss) is taken from the income statement. Then, the accountant works backward by removing all the non-cash revenue and expenses and adding in all the revenue that has not been recognized and expenses that have not yet been incurred.

The cash flows from investing and financing activities are straightforward in the indirect and direct methods. Since they are cash transactions, no special accounting magic must be performed.

How Do Cash Flow Statements Compare to Income Statements and Balance Sheets?

The cash flow statement is intrinsically related to the balance sheet and income statement. If you have your balance sheet and income statement in front of you, then you have all the information required to draft your cash flow statement.

However, there are some key differences, and they relate to each other in special ways.

Cash flow statement vs. balance sheet

The balance sheet is a snapshot of a business's book value for a specific date in time. It shows all the assets on one side and all the liabilities and equity on the other.

The cash flow statement shows how cash has flowed over a period of time. Since the balance sheet shows things on a day instead of over a period, it’s easier to draft an accurate cash flow statement with the balance sheet from the start and the one from the end of the period in front of you.

For example, if you’re drafting a cash flow statement for 2024, you should have your December 31st, 2023, and December 31st, 2024 balance sheets ready.

The differences in owner’s equity and liabilities, as well as those for depreciation and amortization, if applicable, will directly affect your cash flow statement. We’ll see this a bit more clearly when we look at the Amazon example.

Cash flow statement vs. income statement

The income statement and cash flow statement reveal information about the company for a period of time. The income statement presents all of the revenue and expenses over a period of time, as well as the final net income (or loss).

Revenue recognition rules (primarily ASC 606) mean that sometimes the money is in your account before you have earned it, or you’ve earned the revenue but not yet received the payment. The same can be said about when you pay for expenses versus when they are incurred.

That means that the cash flow from operating activities is similar to but not the same as the revenue and expenses found on the income statement.

An income statement summarizes all the funds that have entered and left your business. This discrepancy is one of the hardest parts of drafting accurate and audit-proof cash flow statements.

Statement of Cash Flows Examples

Example cash flow statement from Amazon

Look at the example below: Amazon’s 2016 cash flow statement. A lot of information can be gleaned from this cash flow statement.

First, the top of every financial document should show four things:

  • The company name (Amazon)
  • The type of statement (consolidated statements of cash flows)
  • The timeframe (the years ending December 31st, 2014, 2015, and 2016)
  • The currency (in millions)

A consolidated statement is simply one that has multiple periods on it. In this case, Amazon wants to show how its cash flow has changed over three years.

As mentioned above, some items on the income statement need to be adjusted for the cash flow statement. We call this “reconciling” the two documents.

The first is removing/adding any revenue and expenses to match the above cash flows. The trickier one is dealing with depreciation and amortization. These are the ways that assets are turned into expenses.

Let’s say you buy a laptop for $2,000 that you expect to last five years. Tax authorities allow you to claim a depreciation expense of ($2,000/5) $400 annually. However, this isn’t a cash expense.

Note: This is a simplified linear depreciation example. Depending on the asset class and location, you may be required to calculate depreciation differently. Please consult your accountant. 

The cash flow occurred as an investing activity because you bought an asset. The yearly depreciation is just a tax-reduction system; no money changes hands. That means all depreciation needs to be added back from the income statement.

The same is true for amortization; only the assets are intangible, such as relationships, contracts, or patents.

The red lines highlight the next cash flows from operating, investing, and financial activities. At the bottom, we can see that Amazon’s cash position has steadily climbed from around $9 billion at the end of 2013 to $19 billion at the end of 2016.

One final thing to mention is that negative numbers are shown in brackets. This is a standard accounting practice. A black-and-white photocopy would be very confusing if they were in red.

Likewise, degraded copies can sometimes get random marks that might look like minus signs.

Figure 1. Amazon’s Statements of cash flow for 2014–2016. Source:

Figure 1. Amazon’s Statements of Cash Flow for 2014–2016. Source:

Example SaaS cash flow statement

Here’s an example of a typical SaaS cash flow statement. The first difference is that the numbers are much smaller in the thousands. Next, this cash flow statement is for a single year.

As is typical for single-year statements, subtotals are found in the middle column, totals in the right column, and individual numbers in the left column. This improves the document's readability.

As is common for startups, this one is pretty lean. There aren’t many large equipment purchases and the values of financing activities—equity and loans—are rather small. Conversely, there is substantial cash flow in from customers and out from typical expenses. This includes labor, hosting services, and so on.

Overall, the company is cash flow positive and is at little risk of unexpected expenses crushing their profitability.

Cash Flow Statement Example in Baremetrics

Cash Flow Statement within Forecast+ by Baremetrics

Related: What is Net Cash Flow?

What Does a Cash Flow Statement Tell You About Your Business?

A cash flow statement helps determine your enterprise’s strength, profitability, and long-term viability.

It helps you gauge your level of liquidity, or, in other words, whether you have sufficient cash to pay your expenses. Shareholders and investors look closely at a company’s cash flow statements and use them to determine the organization’s overall financial health.

Cash flow statements also provide a means to predict your future cash flow, which is helpful for budgeting. In addition, if you have your sights set on applying for a loan or a line of credit, you’ll need to provide up-to-date financial statements to your lender.

Benefits of Cash Flow Planning for SaaS Businesses

Good cash flow planning is invaluable for any company, and subscription-based businesses are no exception. Here are a few specific benefits for your SaaS business:

  • If you can accurately visualize and track your expenses, you’ll be able to quickly identify any inconsistencies and eliminate unnecessary expenses, ultimately increasing your profit.
  • A clear line of sight into your liquidity parameters gives you the information to optimize your outgoing and incoming money streams.

SaaS-Specific Cash Flow Problems

There are several persistent cash flow-related problems that most SaaS business owners face from time to time. Let’s look at some of them.

1. Balancing payment terms

Depending on your business model, your customers’ credit terms may extend to 30 or 60 days. All too often, however, you’ll have bills that need to be paid immediately or within a few weeks, which can upset your cash flow. For this reason, it’s a good idea to set up an upfront payment structure for customers wherever possible.

This problem can arise when your accounts receivable terms are more generous than your accounts payable ones. Accounts receivable are recognized revenue from customers who haven’t paid you yet. Accounts payable are incurred expenses that you haven’t paid yet.

If your customers tend to pay months after using your services, consider negotiating better terms with your suppliers to match your cash flows in and out.

2. Getting a handle on accounts receivable

Accounts receivable can get out of hand if you aren’t strictly watching out for late payments. Most companies consider payments 30 days late 25% uncollectible, which rises to 100% uncollectible at 120 days late.

That’s why it’s sensible to set up an automated billing mechanism to ensure your customers pay you on time. Automating reminders to customers to alert them of the upcoming billing cycle is also helpful in reducing the chance of payments failing.

If customers’ payments don’t go through (due to expired credit cards, insufficient funds, or other issues), you can put a dunning system in place to remind customers to update their payment information.

3. Customer churn

As SaaS businesses are inherently subscription-based, when a customer stops using your software or doesn’t renew their subscription, it will negatively impact your cash flow and liquidity. You should be as proactive as possible about reducing customer churn.

One way to reduce customer churn is to maintain a dialog with your customers that helps you understand the features they want and then develop them.

Look to advanced SaaS analytics solutions like Baremetrics to understand which customers you’re losing and why. Then, move quickly to take countermeasures. The higher your customer retention rate, the better your longer-term cash flow will be.

4. Burn rate

Burn rate measures how quickly your company is losing money. It can be expressed as a percentage of the total cash you have on hand or the number of months you have left.

Especially getting from the pre-revenue phase to “ramen profitability” can be difficult. One of the best ways to stretch your cash flows during this time is to use subscription services yourself. That way, you turn higher upfront costs, from expensive software to servers, into manageable monthly expenses.

Create Better Cash Flow Statements With Baremetrics

Did you know Forecast+ by Baremetrics can automatically generate your cash flow statements? This removes tedious and difficult accounting tasks, including reconciling your cash flow statement to the income statement.

Look no further if you’re looking for profit and loss, cash flow, balance sheets, and business metrics in the same tool. Sign up for Baremetrics and start financial modeling now.


  • What is a Cash Flow Statement, and Why is it Important for My SaaS Business?
    Think of a cash flow statement as a record of all the money flowing in and out of your company over a specific period. It's like a bank statement but for your entire business. This is crucial for understanding how well your SaaS business is doing in terms of keeping cash on hand (liquidity), making money (profitability), and staying afloat in the long run (viability). For SaaS businesses specifically, it helps you track money coming in from subscriptions, money spent on developing your software, and activities related to financing, like raising capital or paying back loans. Accurate cash flow statements are essential for planning your finances, creating budgets, and securing funding from investors.
  • How Can I Accurately Track Cash Flow from Operating Activities in My SaaS Business?
    Cash flow from operating activities refers to all the money coming in and going out due to your daily business operations. For SaaS businesses, this typically involves income from subscriptions and expenses for hosting your software, salaries for your team, and costs associated with developing your software. To track this accurately, make sure you record every time a customer pays you and every time you pay a business expense. Accounting software that connects with your billing system can automate this process and save you time.
  • What Are Common Cash Flow Challenges for SaaS Businesses and How Can I Address Them?

    Common cash flow challenges for SaaS businesses include balancing payment terms, managing accounts receivable, reducing customer churn, and controlling the burn rate. Address these by setting upfront payment structures, automating billing and reminders, engaging with customers to understand and meet their needs, and using subscription services to manage expenses. Tools like Baremetrics can help track these metrics and provide insights to improve cash flow management - start a trial today

  • How Does the Cash Flow Statement Differ from the Income Statement and Balance Sheet?
    The cash flow statement focuses on the movement of cash in and out of your business over a period. It categorizes this movement into three main activities: operating (day-to-day business), investing (buying or selling assets), and financing (borrowing or repaying money). The income statement, on the other hand, summarizes your revenue and expenses to show your net profit or loss over a period. Finally, the balance sheet provides a snapshot of your company's financial health at a specific point in time, showing what you own (assets), what you owe (liabilities), and what's left over (equity). All three statements work together to give you a complete picture of your company's financial health.
  • Can Specialized Software Help Me Generate Accurate Cash Flow Statements?
    Yes! Software like Forecast+ by Baremetrics can automate the generation of cash flow statements using data from your balance sheet and income statement. This software simplifies the process, reduces the risk of errors, and provides a clear picture of your cash flow. It also helps you forecast and model your finances, allowing you to make informed business decisions and plan for future growth.

Timothy Ware

Tim is a natural entrepreneur. He brings his love of all things business to his writing. When he isn’t helping others in the SaaS world bring their ideas to the market, you can find him relaxing on his patio with one of his newest board games. You can find Tim on LinkedIn.