Variable Cost: What are Variable Costs?

variable cost

Proper distribution of fixed versus variable costs is fundamental to being able to survive the tough times and capitalize on opportunities. Running a company out of their home can dramatically reduce their fixed costs, allowing them to be more profitable. The relative lack of space may limit the amount of business they can conduct long term, but it’s a viable option if they’re just starting out or plan to remain a small operation.

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. A company can increase its profits by decreasing its total costs. Since fixed costs are more challenging to bring down , most businesses seek to reduce their variable costs. Examples of variable costs can include the raw materials required to produce each product, sales commissions for each sale made, or shipping fees for each unit.

Fixed Costs Vs Variable Costs: Which is Better?

By performing variable cost analysis, a company can easily identify how scaling or decreasing output can impact profit calculations. It costs $12 to produce one t-shirt, including materials, labor, supplies, and shipping the final product to the customer. You’ll have a range of fixed costs and variable costs that you’re required to pay each month. Now that you know the difference between fixed costs and variable costs, let’s look at how you can calculate your total fixed costs.

variable cost

Share parts of your Google Sheets, monitor, review and approve changes, and sync data from different sources – all within seconds. A break-even analysis is a financial calculation used to determine a company’s break-even point. Businesses that receive credit card payments from their customers will incur higher transaction fees as they deliver more services. Break-even analysis, which helps businesses determine what they need to do or produce in order to make a profit on their initial investment. High operating leverage can benefit companies since more profits are obtained from each incremental dollar of revenue generated beyond the break-even point. For instance, a fixed cost isn’t sunk if a piece of machinery that a company purchases can be sold to someone else for the original purchase price. Peggy James is a CPA with over 9 years of experience in accounting and finance, including corporate, nonprofit, and personal finance environments.

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And, because each unit requires a certain amount of resources, a higher number of units will raise the variable costs needed to produce them. Many variable costs, such as inventory and freight, go up in line with the number of sales a business is making. Investments in marketing, trade shows, and sales travel might be intended to drive up sales, but they won’t always match up perfectly. For instance, if a company pays a 5% sales commission on every sale, the company’s sales commission expense will be a variable cost.

Try Shopify for free, and explore all the tools and services you need to start, run, and grow your business. In effect, a company with low operating leverage can be at an advantage during economic downturns or periods of underperformance. Essentially, if a cost varies depending on the volume of activity, it is a variable cost. A sunk cost is an expenditure that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered.


If you automate certain parts of your product’s development, you might need to invest in more automation equipment or software as your product line gets bigger. Get free online marketing tips and resources delivered directly to your inbox. If the total VCs incurred were $100,000, the VC per unit is $100.00 per hour. Suppose that a consulting company charged 1,000 hours of services to its clientele. The Structured Query Language comprises several different data types that allow it to store different types of information… Therefore, for Amy to break even, she would need to sell at least 340 cakes a month. Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work.

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. Fixed costs are those that remain unchanged in the short-term, regardless of a company’s production levels. For example, rent or lease payments for factory space are typically fixed costs.

If one loaf is produced, the total cost of flour will be $0.40. When 10 loaves are produced, the total cost of flour will be $4. If 50 loaves are produced, the cost of flour will be $20 (50 loaves X 1 pound X $0.40 per pound). Over a one-day horizon, a factory’s costs may be almost entirely fixed costs, not variable.

  • We’ll highlight the differences between fixed costs and variable costs and even give you a few more financial formulas to take your business to the next level.
  • Launch a store that comes with everything you need to start selling, including marketing tools.
  • Location will be a major factor in what type of clientele the restaurant can attract and how expensive the rent will be.
  • 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.
  • As more incremental revenue is produced, the growth in the VCs can offset the monetary benefits from the increase in revenue (and place downward pressure on the company’s profit margins). are expenses that vary in proportion to the volume of goods or services that a business produces. In other words, they are costs that vary depending on the volume of activity. The costs increase as the volume of activities increases and decrease as the volume of activities decreases. Over a five-year horizon, all costs can become variable costs. It can change its entire labor force, managerial as well as line workers. Because variable costs scale alongside, every unit of output will theoretically have the same amount of variable costs. Therefore, total variable costs can be calculated by multiplying the total quantity of output by the unit variable cost.

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