Variable Cost: Definition, Examples and Formulas

variable cost

For example, if the number of units required to become profitable is very high, you can look into ways to increase sales, reduce your variable costs per unit, or find ways to cut down on fixed costs. If your monthly fixed costs are $5,000 and you’re able to do 1,000 oil changes, then your average fixed cost per unit is $5 per oil change. If you’re able to increase oil changes up to 2,000, your average fixed cost per unit will be cut in half to $2.50.

  • Your ability to plan for growth or handle a downturn is fundamental to your continued success.
  • A physical asset is gradually expensed over time down to a value of $0.
  • You calculate your break-even volume by dividing your fixed costs by your revenue per unit after variable costs.
  • Similarly, the firm may benefit from economies of scale, meaning the variable cost goes up at a slower rate.

If the revenue that they are receiving is greater than their variable cost but less than their total cost, they will continue to operate will accruing an economic loss. If their total cost is less than their variable cost in the short run, the business should shut down. If revenue is greater than their total cost, this firm will have positive economic profit. Marginal cost refers to how much it costs to produce one additional unit. The marginal cost will take into account the total cost of production, including both fixed and variable costs.

Variable cost calculation

Although its total variable costs will increase, the cost to make an additional hamburger decreases. If a company makes zero sales for a period of time, then total variable costs will also be zero. But if sales are through the roof, variable costs will rise drastically. What your company should aim for are low variable costs that enable larger margins so your business can be more profitable. A labor shortage could mean that the bakery owner has to pay its bakers more per hour. Ingredient costs could change as well—an unfavorable year for wheat could raise the cost of flour.

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 costs are any expenses that change based on how much a company produces and sells. This means that variable costs increase as production rises and decrease as production falls. Some of the most common types of variable costs include labor, utility expenses, commissions, and raw materials.

Overview: What are fixed costs in accounting?

Understanding the difference between fixed and variable costs can help a business owner identify economies of scale, which occur when a business makes cost reductions as it increases its level of production. By achieving economies of scale, a business can spread out fixed costs over a larger number of products or services and decrease variable costs in the process, resulting in significant cost advantages. Variable cost is a production expense that increases or decreases depending on changes in a company’s manufacturing activity.

Those are all fixed costs because the cost does not change from month to month. A fixed cost is one that is generally paid over agiven period; usually a month, or year. By contrast, a variable cost is based onvolume of output, rather than time. Fixed costs are paid regardless of how much a business produces, so do not depend on output. By contrast, variable costs vary depending on how much a business produces. 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.

Examples of Variable Costs

She has consulted with many small businesses in all areas of finance. She was a university professor of finance and has written extensively in this area.

  • Direct raw materials are what the business uses to create the final product.
  • Some companies opt to reduce the number of packaging materials used for a product when the production volume or sales volume decreases.
  • As an example, you would still have to pay rent and insurance, which would be considered fixed costs.
  • In this guide, we’ll introduce you to both fixed costs and variable costs and how they impact your business.
  • The less variable cost there is, the more the additional revenue earned will contribute to the overall profit.
  • 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.

It is also worth noting that many products have variable components as well as fixed components. Management salaries, for example, are not usually dependent on the number of units produced.

Common Examples of Fixed Costs

When production or sales increase, variable costs increase; when production or sales decrease, variable costs decrease. For example, if a pencil factory produced 10,000 boxes of pencils in the most recent accounting period, at a per-unit cost of £1.50, the total variable cost would be £15,000. Variable costs are business expenses that vary depending on the number of goods or services you produce. These costs increase as your company’s revenues increase and decrease when revenues decrease. Fixed costs are not absolutely static, and can change; they are only fixed in that these changes are not correlated with production levels. There are also semi-variable costs, which are a more complex combination of variable and fixed. Tom’s fixed costs are the rent that he pays each month, the insurance on the building, and his three salaried employees.

That same principle is also applied to utilities, which can be considered a fixed cost in many cases. As an example, the electricity cost for your business will likely remain consistent if you run a service business.

What are variable costs?

Going back to Tom again, during a busy month, he ships twice as many airplane parts as he did the previous month. In addition, he added two additional temporary employees to help process and ship orders. Compensation may impact the order of which offers appear on page, but our editorial opinions and ratings are not influenced by compensation. Rosemary Carlson is an expert in finance who writes for The Balance Small Business.

The costs increase as the volume of activities increases and decrease as the volume of activities decreases. Cost accounting is a form of managerial accounting that aims to capture a company’s total cost of production by assessing its variable and fixed costs.

Businesses mustalways paytheir fixed costs regardless of how well they are doing. By contrast, variable costs only occur once there is a good or service being produced. Businesses must always pay their fixed costs regardless of how well they are doing. The total variable cost equals the total number of goods a business produces, multiplied by the cost per unit. If you add up everything you spent over the course of the month, it equals $4,000 in total costs. Then factor in all the tacos you sold throughout the month — 1,000 tacos. Each taco costs $3 to make when you consider what you spend on taco meat, shells, and vegetables.

What is variable cost with formula?

Variable Cost Formula. To calculate variable costs, multiply what it costs to make one unit of your product by the total number of products you've created. This formula looks like this: Total Variable Costs = Cost Per Unit x Total Number of Units.

An example of a semi-variable cost can be the electricity bill for your business. Some of the most common variable costs include physical materials, production equipment, sales commissions, staff wages, credit card fees, online payment partners, and packaging/shipping costs. Variable costs are the sum of all labor and materials required to produce a unit of your product. Your total variable cost is equal to the variable cost per unit, multiplied by the number of units produced. Your average variable cost is equal to your total variable cost, divided by the number of units produced. Small businesses with higher variable costs are not like those with high fixed costs—costs that don’t change with revenue and output, such as rent and insurance.

No matter how many tacos you sell every month, you’ll still be required to pay $1,000. One way variable cost is to simply tally all of your fixed costs, add them up, and you have your total fixed costs.

  • You should consider whether you understand how this product works, and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.
  • Whilst the graph depicts a straight line, this may vary in real life.
  • These materials and products may be transported by land, sea or by air.
  • If a company makes zero sales for a period of time, then total variable costs will also be zero.
  • She pays an assistant hourly to help her and this billable labor is also a variable cost.

In the long run, if the business planned to make 0 shirts, it would choose to have 0 machines and 0 rooms, but in the short run, even if it produces no shirts it has incurred those costs. Similarly, even if the total cost of producing 1 shirt is greater than the revenue from selling the shirt, the business would product the shirt anyway if the revenue were greater than the variable cost.

Variable Costs Explained

The higher the percentage of fixed costs, the higher the bar for minimum revenue before the company can meet its break-even point. Common examples of variable costs are shown in the chart below.

variable cost