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Variable Cost Definition 4 Examples And Formula

variable cost definition and example

To calculate the total variable costs for a business you have to take into account all the labor and materials needed to produce one unit of a product or service. The total variable cost formula can then be described as the total quantity of output times the variable cost per unit of output. Be careful that you don’t mix up variable cost with variable costing, which is an accounting method used to report variable cost. In accounting, variable costs are costs that vary with production volume or business activity. Variable costs go up when a production company increases output and decrease when the company slows production. Variable costs are in contrast to fixed costs, which remain relatively constant regardless of the company’s level of production or business activity. Combined, a company’s fixed costs and variable costs comprise the total cost of production.

variable cost definition and example

Further, he notices that the cost of a vehicle is fixed, which is not changing and is $40,000. On average, he requires sauce, butter, and other stuff, which costs him around $5 per piece. Here, the company produces three products, namely, Lux, Clinic Plus, and Fair & lovely. For example, the utility cost that furnishes power for an office is fixed; but the cost to power machines and equipment to build something is variable. For example, insurance is a fixed cost, because the premium is normally not affected by the production level, but an insurance premium may change from one period to the next.


Conversely, because it does not change, the total fixed cost curve remains horizontal. When production equals zero, the company must pay a fixed cost so that the value will not equal zero, as in the picture above. Variable costs are the opposite of fixed costs, as they’re susceptible to change over time. These costs are related to how many goods your business is producing for that period, meaning the more goods your company creates, the higher your variable costs will be. The steps you take to lower your variable cost per unit and increase your profit margin will depend on what kind of business you run. So, you’re taking variable cost per unit into account, you’re making $10 per mug.

  • In a survey of nearly 200 senior marketing managers, 60 percent responded that they found the “variable and fixed costs” metric very useful.
  • While it usually makes little sense to compare variable costs across industries, they can be very meaningful when comparing companies operating in the same industry.
  • If your company makes furniture and receives a big order, it will see an increase in expenses like wood, sandpaper, and other materials that are needed to craft a piece of furniture.
  • It is important to identify variable costs because they are important in break-even analysis, variable costing and budgeting.
  • By reducing the variable expense, the company can increase the profit or contribution margin.

They decrease or increase depending on the production volume of the company. They rise when production increases and falls when production decreases. From this data, you first need to add up all these variable costs and get $32 per unit variable costs ($10 + $14 + $8).

Variable Cost Definition 4 Examples And Formula

In these cases, the salesperson earns a consistent base pay, which is a fixed cost. But their commission pay is variable since it’s dependent on the business’s sales, so when it’s combined with their base pay, you have a semi-variable cost. Using the example of our ceramics studio, say you are thinking of pricing the pots at $90. Since the variable cost per unit is $50 and fixed costs are $15,000, the breakeven point would be at pot 375.

A company who pursues to increase its profit by decreasing the variable expense will have to decrease the expense on changing costs for raw materials, direct labor and advertising. By reducing the variable expense, the company can increase the profit or contribution margin.

By contrast, variable costs only occur once there is a good or service being produced. Direct raw materials are what the business uses to create the final product. Examples include wood, metals, meat, vegetables, and tobacco, among many others. An important distinction to make is that these materials only cover those that businesses use to create the final product – not What is bookkeeping other factors of production. If Amy were to shut down the business, Amy must still pay monthly fixed costs of $1,700. If Amy were to continue operating despite losing money, she would only lose $1,000 per month ($3,000 in revenue – $4,000 in total costs). Therefore, Amy would actually lose more money ($1,700 per month) if she were to discontinue the business altogether.

variable cost definition and example

So get familiar now with how these costs impact a business, and how a variable-cost-based business model differs from a fixed-cost-based business model. Company ABC received an order to deliver 3,000 packaging items to another firm for a total sales price of $125,000. The management wants to calculate the gross profit for this order by determining first the total variable cost. A fixed cost is one that is generally paid over a given period; usually a month, or year. By contrast, a variable cost is based on volume of output, rather than time.

Fixed And Variable Expenses: What Do These Terms Mean?

Fixed costs, on the other hand, do not fluctuate with the production levels. It doesn’t matter whether the piano manufacturer makes 10 pianos or 100 pianos, bookkeeping the rent expense will always be the same. As an example of variable cost, let’s assume that the UK was currently experiencing an economic recession.

One example is machine oil, which is difficult to measure based on how much or how often the machines are used. Because the cost of machine oil varies with production volume, it can be considered a variable cost. The materials that are used for packaging goods may be considered variable costs because the amount used may vary depending on the volume of sales and production. Some companies opt to reduce the number of packaging materials used for a product when the production volume or sales volume decreases. In management accounting, variable costs are cost items whose total cost varies proportionately with some underlying activity level such as total units, labor hours, machine hours, etc. As I have mentioned, variable costs change in proportion to the production output.

variable cost definition and example

In accounting, variable costs are looked at through a short-term lens because you can adjust them quickly by shifting production levels. To accurately forecast corporate expenses, you need to learn how to calculate variable costs. But what are variable costs and how do they compare to fixed expenses? variable cost definition and example Thus, much of their labor becomes a variable cost– though not the cost of the managers, whose salaries are paid regardless of output. However, if the company was to make 0 televisions, its costs would decrease to zero. Yet at 10 televisions, its costs increase in line with the number it produces.


Then, you multiply the result by the total output to get the total variable cost, which is $3,200 ($32 x 100 units). It’s always a good idea to be aware of all of the different types of expenses you have within your business.

Late fees and interest charges can quickly become expensive – and they’re avoidable if you keep an organized payment schedule and budget for them. Fixed costs are what most people refer to as “overhead.” These are the expenses that don’t really change regardless of how much business you’re doing.

Academic Research For Variable Cost

High prices, versus high volume at a lower price, is how Coach maximizes profitability. Understanding the classification of your costs is critical to the calculation. Understanding the difference between variable costs and other costs, such as fixed costs, will allow you to better classify costs correctly. Most of the time many of the costs will be easy to recognize, but in some cases it can be more difficult.

Each month, compare your actual expenditure for each variable expense to the budgeted amount. Note if you were over-budget or-under budget for each expense category. Imagine John Doe Inc. has received an order for 5,000 door-handles for a total sales price of $10,000. It wants to find out what the gross profit will be when it has completed and delivered the order.

Calculating Profit Margin With Variable Costs

As output increases, variable costs increase, and when output declines, variable costs decline. Things like machinery oil are consumed based on the amount of machinery usage, so these costs vary with production volume. cash flow Shipping costs tend to vary depending on the company’s sales and production volumes. These costs typically increase with higher production and sales volumes and decrease with lower sales and production volumes.

Companies may resort to piece-rate labor when the cost of monitoring production volume has to conform to the quality of the work performed. Piece-rate labor is also the preferred method of payment when production requires personnel with variable skills. Variable costs, fixed costs and mixed costs are three categories into which cost items are classified based on the relationship between their total cost and activity level. The need for decisions like these is why it pays to keep an eye on your fixed and variable expenses, as it might lead to fruitful negotiations. You should continuously review your balance sheets, income statements and other financial statements to make any necessary adjustments. Understanding how these costs work will help you figure out what’s best for your company at all times. There may also be times when you have to decide between paying fixed or variable costs, and there are benefits and risks associated with each.

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