Variable Costs Examples, Formula, Guide to Analyzing Costs

how to calculate variable costs

The more products your company sells, the more you might pay in commission to your salespeople as they win customers. Note that product costs are costs that go into the product while period costs are costs that are expensed in the period incurred. Essentially, if a cost varies depending on the volume of activity, it is a variable cost.

how to calculate variable costs

How to Calculate Variable Cost: Examples and Best Practices

As a consultant, you’ll be spending most of your time dealing with a company’s P&L (or the income statement). Because your job is to identify revenue or savings that will drop to the bottom line. And as we’ve already established, cutting variable costs (i.e. outsourcing, replacing parts, optimizing processes) is much easier than cutting fixed costs. You’ll be dealing a lot with these costs throughout your time as a consultant. 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.

Examples of variable costs

Kevin is currently the Head of Execution and a Vice President at Ion Pacific, a merchant bank and asset manager based Hong Kong that invests in the technology sector globally. Prior to joining Ion Pacific, Kevin was a Vice President at Accordion Partners, a consulting firm that works with management teams at portfolio companies of leading private equity firms. If this figure falls below the break-even mark, you will lose money on each transaction. Numerous expenses are covered under maintenance, such as those cleaning supplies, mechanical repairs, or yearly tune-ups for automobiles.

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Amy asks for your opinion on whether she should close down the business or not. Additionally, she’s already committed to paying for one year of rent, electricity, and employee salaries. If a higher volume of products is produced, the amount of delivery and shipping fees also incurred increases (and vice versa) — but utility costs remain constant regardless. When the manufacturing line turns on equipment and ramps up production, it begins to consume energy. When it’s time to wrap up production and shut everything down, utilities are often no longer consumed.

What are Examples of Variable Costs?

In addition, she has already agreed to cover the cost of a year’s worth of rent, energy, and employee wages. Fixed costs are costs that don’t change in response to the number of products you’re producing. Put simply, it all comes down to the fact that the more you sell, the more money you need to spend.

There are many analytical methods available to help you improve your company’s performance, all of which require you to keep accurate track of both fixed and variable costs. Overall, variable costs are directly incurred from each unit of production, while fixed costs rise in a step function and are not based on each individual unit. Alternatively, a company’s variable costs can also be calculated by multiplying the cost per unit by the total number of units produced. Since a company’s total costs (TC) equals the sum of its variable (VC) and fixed costs (FC), the simplest formula for calculating a company’s variable costs is as follows.

Consider the variable cost of a project that has been worked on for years. An employee’s hourly wages are a variable cost; however, that employee was promoted last year. The current variable cost will be higher than before; the average variable cost will remain something in between. These employees will receive the same amount of compensation regardless of the number of units produced.

how to calculate variable costs

If these costs increase at a rate that exceeds the profits generated from new units produced, it may not make sense to expand. A company in such a case will need to evaluate why it cannot achieve economies of scale. In economies of scale, variable costs as a percentage of overall cost per unit decrease as the scale of production ramps up. Variable costs fluctuate as output levels change, as was previously noted. Contrarily, fixed costs are expenses that are consistent independent of the amount of production (like office rent).

  1. Don’t stress if you do not clearly understand the concept of the two and the difference between them.
  2. Additionally, she’s already committed to paying for one year of rent, electricity, and employee salaries.
  3. For example, if your company sells sets of kitchen knives for $300 but each set requires $200 to create, test, package, and market, your variable cost per unit is $200.
  4. Variable costing is a concept used in managerial and cost accounting in which the fixed manufacturing overhead is excluded from the product-cost of production.
  5. In this scenario, we can observe that there are $1,700 in total fixed costs and $2,300 in total variable costs.

The way fixed production expenses are handled is the fundamental distinction. While absorption costing allocates both variable and fixed manufacturing costs to goods, variable costing treats fixed manufacturing costs as period expenses. The variable costing approach helps businesses understand how their variable costs and contribution margin contribute to covering their fixed costs and profitability. While total variable cost shows how much you’re paying to develop every unit of your product, you might also have to account for products that have different variable costs per unit.

Over 1.8 million professionals use CFI to learn accounting, financial analysis, modeling and more. Start with a free account to explore 20+ always-free courses and hundreds of finance templates purchasing account manager jobs employment and cheat sheets. High operating leverage can benefit companies since more profits are obtained from each incremental dollar of revenue generated beyond the break-even point.

This may result in a distortion of profit figures, particularly if fixed costs are significant. For each variable cost category, calculate the variable cost per unit. To do this, divide the total variable cost for that category by the number of units produced. Your company’s total costs should be equal to the sum of all fixed costs and all variable costs.

For example, if it costs $60 to make one unit of your product and you’ve made 20 units, your total variable cost is $60 x 20, or $1,200. The number of units produced is exactly what you might expect — it’s the total number of items produced by your company. So in our knife example above,if you’ve made and sold 100 knife sets your total number of units produced is 100, each of which carries a $200 variable cost and a $100 potential profit. Companies who have high variable costs are more likely to have lower profit margins but they are also companies that can achieve the breaking point very easily.

For others who are tied to an hourly job, putting in more direct labor hours results in a higher paycheck. The firm’s specific needs, objectives, and reporting needs should guide the decision between variable costing and absorption costing. Many businesses employ both techniques to grasp their cost structures and profitability for various reasons fully. Variable costing focuses more on short-term decision-making because it avoids fixed manufacturing costs.

The cost of goods sold (COGS) does not include fixed production costs as they are treated as period expenses. By confining and crediting variable costs to products or administrations, variable costing gives a more exact representation of how much it costs to create each unit. This may be particularly important in businesses with fluctuating production volumes or complex product lines.

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