Scaling In: Definition, Strategy, and Real-Life Examples


Scaling in is a trading strategy that involves buying shares as the price decreases, ultimately aiming to lower the average purchase price. In this article, we’ll explore what scaling in means, how it works, its advantages, and how it compares to scaling out. We’ll also provide valuable insights for traders looking to implement this strategy effectively.

Understanding scaling in

Scaling in, often referred to as “scaling into a position,” is a trading strategy that can be a valuable tool in an investor’s toolkit. It involves buying shares of a stock as the price decreases, with the intention of lowering the average purchase price. The core concept is simple: set a target price, and then start investing in increments as the stock’s price falls below that target. This buying process continues until the price stabilizes or the intended trade size is achieved.

How scaling in works

When implementing a scaling-in strategy, traders begin by identifying a target price at which they believe the stock is a good buy. Let’s say a stock is currently valued at $20, and the investor aims to accumulate 1,000 shares. Instead of buying all the shares at once, they choose to scale in.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how scaling in works:

  1. When the stock’s price reaches $20, the investor initiates the process by purchasing 250 shares immediately.
  2. As the price further decreases, the investor continues buying shares in smaller increments. For instance, they might acquire 250 shares at $19.90, another 250 at $19.80, and the final 250 at $19.70.
  3. If the stock price stops declining or reverses course, the investor concludes their scaling-in strategy.
  4. The average purchase price, in this case, would be $19.85, rather than the initial $20.

However, it’s important to consider that scaling in may result in additional trading fees compared to making a single large trade, which can impact overall profitability.

Advantages of scaling in

Scaling in offers several advantages for traders:

  • Reduced slippage: By making smaller trades at various price points, traders can minimize slippage, which occurs when there’s a significant difference between the expected price and the actual execution price.
  • Reduced risk: Scaling in allows traders to begin with smaller trade sizes and add to the position only when it becomes profitable. This approach lowers the initial risk while maintaining the potential for greater returns.
  • Profit amplification: When a trade moves in the trader’s favor, larger trade sizes result in larger profits, enhancing the overall profit potential.

One common scenario where scaling in can be particularly beneficial is when a trade is showing early promise. Traders can start with a smaller position, risk less, and expand it as the trade becomes profitable. This strategy not only increases the potential for gains but also minimizes the risk associated with larger initial positions.

Scaling in vs. scaling out

Scaling in and scaling out are two complementary trading strategies with distinct approaches:

Scaling in: As discussed earlier, scaling in involves buying shares as the price decreases. The trader begins with a smaller position and incrementally adds to it as the trade progresses favorably.

Scaling out: Scaling out is the reverse of scaling in. Instead of closing an entire position once a target price is reached, traders choose to partially exit the trade in increments. This allows some shares to ride the stock’s movement further into profitable territory while capturing some profits along the way.

Additionally, when employing a scaling-out strategy, it’s common to adjust the stop-loss level to break even or beyond once an initial profit target is met. This approach helps ensure that the remaining open position carries minimal risk.

Common mistakes to avoid when scaling in

While scaling in can be a powerful trading strategy when executed correctly, it’s essential to be aware of common mistakes that traders often make. Avoiding these pitfalls can help you make the most of your scaling-in approach:

1. Neglecting proper analysis

One of the gravest errors when scaling in is failing to conduct thorough research and analysis. Before setting a target price and initiating your scaling-in strategy, make sure you’ve considered technical and fundamental factors. Ignoring these can lead to poor decisions and potential losses.

2. Overcommitting to a losing position

Scaling in should not be a blind commitment to a losing position. Some traders make the mistake of continuously buying more shares as the stock price falls, hoping for a rebound. It’s crucial to set predefined exit points or stop-loss orders to limit potential losses and protect your capital.

3. Ignoring trading costs

As mentioned earlier, scaling in can result in higher trading costs due to multiple transactions. Failing to consider these costs in your strategy can significantly impact your overall profitability. Ensure that the potential gains outweigh the expenses associated with scaling in.

Real-life examples of scaling in

Let’s delve into real-life scenarios to better understand how scaling in works in practice:

Example 1: Tech stock enthusiast

Imagine an investor with a keen interest in a tech company’s stock. The stock is currently valued at $50 per share, and the investor believes it has strong growth potential. Instead of buying 1,000 shares outright, the investor decides to scale in. They set a target price of $45 per share and proceed as follows:

  1. They start by purchasing 100 shares when the stock reaches $45.
  2. The stock price drops to $44, and they acquire an additional 200 shares.
  3. As the price continues to decrease, they buy another 300 shares at $43 per share.
  4. Ultimately, they reach their target trade size of 1,000 shares at an average purchase price of $43 per share.

This scaling-in strategy allows the investor to secure a lower average purchase price, enhancing the potential for future gains.

Example 2: Commodity trader

Now, consider a commodity trader looking to build a position in crude oil futures. The current price per barrel is $60, and the trader aims to accumulate a substantial position. They opt to scale in with a target price of $58 per barrel:

  1. They initiate their strategy by purchasing 50 contracts when the price hits $58 per barrel.
  2. As the price experiences fluctuations, they buy an additional 30 contracts at $57 per barrel.
  3. With patience, they continue scaling in and reach a total position of 100 contracts at an average price of $57 per barrel.

Scaling in this manner enables the trader to manage risk and enter the market at a more favorable price point.

Key considerations for successful scaling in

Successful scaling in relies on strategic planning and careful execution. Here are key considerations to ensure your scaling-in strategy is effective:

1. Define clear entry and exit points

Before you start scaling in, establish specific entry and exit points. This prevents you from overcommitting to a losing trade and helps you secure profits when the stock moves in your favor.

2. Use stop-loss orders

Implement stop-loss orders to limit potential losses. Setting a stop-loss level ensures you have a predefined exit strategy in place to protect your investment.

3. Diversify your portfolio

Consider diversifying your portfolio to spread risk. Instead of scaling into a single stock, explore different assets or sectors to reduce your exposure to a single position.

4. Stay informed

Regularly monitor market conditions and news that may impact your chosen asset. Staying informed allows you to make informed decisions and adjust your scaling-in strategy accordingly.

By considering these factors and learning from real-life examples, traders can effectively implement a scaling-in strategy and make the most of potential opportunities while managing risk.


Scaling in is a valuable trading strategy that allows investors to accumulate shares at lower prices, potentially lowering the average purchase price and reducing risk. Traders use this approach for various reasons, including risk management, profit amplification, and minimizing slippage. Understanding the differences between scaling in and scaling out is crucial for making informed trading decisions.

Frequently asked questions about scaling in

What is the difference between scaling in and dollar-cost averaging?

Scaling in involves buying shares at different price points as the stock price decreases, with the goal of lowering the average purchase price. Dollar-cost averaging, on the other hand, is a long-term investment strategy that involves regularly purchasing a fixed dollar amount of an investment, regardless of its price. While scaling in is a trading strategy aimed at capitalizing on short-term price movements, dollar-cost averaging is more about consistent, long-term investing.

Is scaling in suitable for all types of securities?

Scaling in can be applied to various securities, including stocks, commodities, and forex. However, the suitability of this strategy depends on market conditions and individual trading goals. It’s essential to assess each situation carefully to determine if scaling in is the right approach.

What are the key risks associated with scaling in?

One of the primary risks of scaling in is the potential accumulation of additional trading fees due to multiple transactions. This can eat into your overall profitability. Additionally, there’s a risk of overcommitting to a losing position if the stock price continues to decline. Proper risk management and analysis are essential to mitigate these risks.

Can scaling in be used in combination with other trading strategies?

Yes, scaling in can be integrated into a broader trading strategy. Traders often use scaling in to capitalize on short-term price fluctuations while implementing other risk management techniques, such as stop-loss orders. Combining scaling in with other strategies can provide a more comprehensive approach to trading.

What factors should I consider when setting a target price for scaling in?

When setting a target price for scaling in, it’s crucial to consider a combination of technical and fundamental factors. These may include support levels, historical price patterns, and market sentiment. A well-informed target price can enhance the effectiveness of your scaling-in strategy.

How can I best manage trading costs when scaling in?

To manage trading costs when scaling in, you can consider using a discount brokerage that offers lower transaction fees. Additionally, carefully analyze the potential gains and expenses associated with your scaling-in strategy. This will help you determine if the strategy is cost-effective and aligns with your overall trading goals.

Key takeaways

  • Scaling in is a trading strategy that involves buying shares as the price decreases, aiming to lower the average purchase price.
  • Traders set a target price and invest in increments as the stock’s price falls below that target.
  • Advantages of scaling in include reduced slippage, lower risk, and the potential for profit amplification.
  • Scaling in should be distinguished from scaling out, where traders partially close a trade while leaving room for additional gains.
  • Choosing an appropriate target price for scaling in requires a thorough analysis of market conditions and individual trading goals.
View article sources
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  2. The Limits of Scale – Harvard Business Review
  3. Using Scaling Laws to Build Trading Models – Semantic Scholar