What Is Variable Cost? Learn Why Variable Costs Are Important To A Business

By contrast, variable costs are calculated using multiplication. You can plug production data into the variable cost formula to determine total cost. They are fixed because they are paid out regularly and are independent of revenue level or production volume. But, other forms of labor are dependent on these factors, according to Accounting Tools. Over a five-year horizon, all costs can become variable costs. It can change its entire labor force, managerial as well as line workers. In general, companies with a high proportion of variable costs relative to fixed costs are considered to be less volatile, as their profits are more dependent on the success of their sales.

What are 3 fixed costs?

Common examples of fixed costs include rental lease or mortgage payments, salaries, insurance payments, property taxes, interest expenses, depreciation, and some utilities.

Companies with high variable costs need to produce less to break even but they also have lower profit margins than companies with high fixed costs, according to Business Dictionary. Unlike variable costs, a company’s fixed costs do not vary with the volume of production. Fixed costs remain the same regardless of whether goods or services are produced or not.

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If sales increase, the amount of materials and labor needed also increases. If sales decrease, resources and labor needed decreases as well. A business incurs a shipping cost only when it sells and ships out a product.

what is variable costs

Variable costs stand in contrast to fixed costs, which do not change in proportion to production or sales volume. The one variable cost you may have difficulty negotiating is direct labor costs.

What Is A Variable Cost? A Simple Definition For Small Businesses

Commission is also a variable cost as salespeople only get paid if they sell a product or service. Things like machinery oil are consumed based on the amount of machinery usage, so these costs vary with production volume. For example, ABC has a lease of $10,000 a month on its production facility and it produces 1,000 mugs per month.

Which of the following are variable expenses?

Some examples of variable expenses include: Utility bills (electricity, water, gas, etc.) Car repairs. Credit card payments.

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. Capitalize on lower costs when dealing with high production, which can affect variable costs in the following way. These changes could be due to the need for more raw material, less staff or the need to rent extra equipment to finish an order. Variable costs are important to track as they can highlight when there is a need to audit processes and suppliers.

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If they use this model to draw up pricing is it important to consider the loss they would incur if they only sold 20 cakes. $30 x 20 cakes equate to $600 but the cost to produce these cakes was $1000. This means that the company will lose $400 if they only sell 20 cakes when they have forecasted 40 cakes to be sold per week. Direct labor and overhead are often called conversion cost, while direct material and direct labor are often referred to as prime cost. Fixed costs may include lease and rental payments, insurance, and interest payments. Variable costs vary based on the amount of output produced. Operating leverage is a cost-accounting formula that measures the degree to which a firm can increase operating income by increasing revenue.

  • As production volume increases, it is often possible to negotiate, or renegotiate, purchasing agreements to further reduce your per-unit cost.
  • If no production occurs, a fixed cost is often still incurred.
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  • Variable costs vary based on the amount of output produced.
  • However, if the company does not produce any units, it will not have any variable costs for producing the mugs.

Variable costs are hugely important to a business as it can have a major impact on how a company spends their money. Depending on the strategic goals of a business, variable costs can be quite high or quite low. If variable costs are low the business will have more budget to spend in areas of the business as there will be no sudden costs incurred. Employees that are paid based on billable hours is another variable cost.


The table below shows how the variable costs change as the number of cakes baked vary. Examples of fixed costs are rent, employee salaries, insurance, and office supplies. A company must still pay its rent for the space it occupies to run its business operations irrespective of the volume of products manufactured and sold. If a business increased production or decreased production, rent will stay exactly the same. Although fixed costs can change over a period of time, the change will not be related to production, and as such, fixed costs are viewed as long-term costs. Full costing is a managerial accounting method that describes when all fixed and variable costs are used to compute the total cost per unit.

But what are variable costs and how do they compare to fixed expenses? As production volume increases, it is often possible to negotiate, or renegotiate, purchasing agreements to further reduce your per-unit cost. The higher the production volume, the greater your negotiating power. Thus, much of their labor becomes a variable cost– though not the cost of the managers, whose salaries are paid regardless of output. Therefore, it’s not useful to compare the variable costs of a car manufacturer and an appliance manufacturer, for example, because their product output isn’t comparable. So it’s better to compare the variable costs between two businesses that operate in the same industry, such as two car manufacturers. A fixed cost is a cost that does not change with an increase or decrease in the amount of goods or services produced or sold.

what is variable costs

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. You may calculate variable costs by multiplying the quantity of output by the variable cost per unit of output.

Businesses with high variable costs such as contract consulting work have lower margins than other companies but also lower break even points, according to Business Dictionary. Using the same example above, suppose company ABC has a fixed cost of $10,000 per month to rent the machine it uses to produce mugs. If the company does not produce any mugs for the month, it would still need to pay $10,000 for the cost of renting the machine. On the other hand, if it produces one million mugs, its fixed cost remains the same. The variable costs change from zero to $2 million in this example. Variable costs can be found by simply adding all variable costs together but sometimes it is not that straight forward. For example, a utility bill can vary from month to month depending on production levels.

Calculating Variable Cost

Variable costs, like the costs of labour or raw materials, change with the level of output. Industries with high fixed costs, like airlines, are less vulnerable to competition. They require huge amounts of investment in machinery and other physical items to start up. For example, a company relies on materials and personnel to produce goods.

  • Direct labor may not be a variable cost if labor is not added to or subtracted from the production process as production volumes change.
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  • Marginal cost refers to how much it costs to produce one additional unit.
  • In this case, we can see that total fixed costs are $1,700 and total variable expenses are $2,300.

In this case, you should add the costs into the right categories and plan according to these changes. You simply divide your total variable costs from the accounting period in question by the total number of units produced. They are a regular recurring expense and the amount paid out is set. A commission, such as a percentage paid out for every unit sold on top of a salary, is a variable cost because it depends on output, according to Inc.. Common examples of variable costs include costs of goods sold , raw materials and inputs to production, packaging, wages, and commissions, and certain utilities . Let’s assume that it costs a bakery $15 to make a cake—$5 for raw materials such as sugar, milk, and flour, and $10 for the direct labor involved in making one cake.

Variable costs increase or decrease depending on a company’s production or sales volume—they rise as production increases and fall as production decreases. The implication of high variable costs for a company is more room for fluctuation in production output while still maintaining profitability.

The level of variable cost is influenced by many factors, such as fixed cost, duration of project, uncertainty and discount rate. An analytical formula of variable cost as a function of these factors has been derived. It can be used to assess how different factors impact variable cost and total return in an investment. A variable cost is an expense that changes in proportion to production or sales volume. The more fixed costs a company has, the more revenue a company needs in order to break even, which means it needs to work harder to produce and sell its products. That’s because these costs occur regularly and rarely change.

  • For example, a company relies on materials and personnel to produce goods.
  • Decomposing Total Costs as Fixed Costs plus Variable Costs.
  • The price of a greater amount of goods can be spread over the same amount of a fixed cost.
  • Fixed costs remain the same regardless of whether goods or services are produced or not.

Industries with high variable costs, like the service industry, that depends heavily on labor, are much more vulnerable to competition because there is less investment required to start up. Salespeople are paid a commission only if they sell products or services, so this is clearly a variable cost.

Is Marginal Cost The Same As Variable Cost?

One strategy for reducing those costs is to switch to a payment-per-piece produced, rather than an hourly wage. A business consultant has many variable costs because she does many different types of contracts that incur their own specific expenses. She also has to travel to visit the client and the cab fare is a variable expense. She pays an assistant hourly to help her and this billable labor is also a variable cost. Variable costs change based on how many goods are produced or services provided.

what is variable costs

In the meantime, start building your store with a free 14-day trial of Shopify. Get free online marketing tips and resources delivered directly to your inbox. Decomposing Total Costs as Fixed Costs plus Variable Costs. Excel Shortcuts PC Mac List of Excel Shortcuts Excel shortcuts – It may seem slower at first if you’re used to the mouse, but it’s worth the investment to take the time and… Learn accounting fundamentals and how to read financial statements with CFI’s free online accounting classes.

It’s important to look at variable vs. fixed costs, because if your variable costs are higher, this indicates that your business is turning a consistent profit. On the other hand, higher fixed costs in relation to variable costs indicate that profits are higher per-unit once the break-even point has been achieved. You’ll need to look at both figures together to get the full profitability picture. Conversely, a company with lower variable costs and higher fixed costs will likely have higher profits once its fixed costs are covered. That’s because once break-even is achieved, profits are higher per-unit, thanks to lower variable costs.

Direct labor may not be a variable cost if labor is not added to or subtracted from the production process as production volumes change. A variable cost is a cost that varies in relation to either production volume or the amount of services provided. If no production or services are provided, then there should be no variable costs. If production or services are increasing, then variable costs should also increase. In most organizations, the bulk of all expenses are fixed costs, and represent the overhead that an organization must incur to operate on a daily basis. In marketing, it is necessary to know how costs divide between variable and fixed.

what is variable costs

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This distinction is crucial in forecasting the earnings generated by various changes in unit sales and thus the financial impact of proposed marketing campaigns. In a survey of nearly 200 senior marketing managers, 60 percent responded that they found the “variable and fixed costs” metric very useful. If Amy did not know which costs were variable or fixed, it would be harder to make an appropriate decision.

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