Variable Costs Explained: Definitions, Formulas and Examples
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how to calculate variable cost

With that said, the cost structure concept is industry-specific, so companies operating in different industries cannot always be compared to each other. Otherwise, the company must adjust its business model (e.g. increase pricing) because its profit margins will inevitably compress, which is not sustainable over the long run. In effect, a company with low operating leverage can be at an advantage during economic downturns or periods of underperformance. For example, a company executive’s base salary would be considered a fixed cost because the dollar amount owed by the company is outlined in an employment contract signed by the relevant parties. You might pay to package and ship your product by the unit, and therefore more or fewer shipped units will cause these costs to vary.

What Are Some Examples of Variable Costs?

In this case, labor is a variable cost because workers will earn more if production increases, they hit targets or make sales, or they work more hours. They’ll earn less in commission or wages if sales fall or they work fewer hours. If you have a salary, this is calculated at a basic rate, which is fixed for a set term. Your salary will be classified as a fixed cost if you are an employee and you have an employment contract, which specifies a set wage per year. Variable costs will often differ between businesses operating within different industries.

how to calculate variable cost

What Is the Formula for Total Variable Cost?

The average variable cost uses the total variable cost calculation to determine how much, on average, it costs to produce each unit. The average variable cost is not always the same as the total variable cost for each product because it takes the variable costs per unit of different products into account. Depending on the products or services your company provides, you will need to calculate the total and the average variable costs for each product or service.

Why is variable cost analysis important?

For this reason, it’s often unhelpful to compare the variable costs of companies in different sectors, for example, a company that manufactures TV sets and a car manufacturer. The variable cost helps businesses to set the price for their products or services and help in overall budgeting for their production process. If the total variable expenses incurred were $100,000, the variable cost per unit is $100.00 per hour. Both variable and fixed costs are essential to getting a complete picture of how much it costs to produce an item — and how much profit remains after each sale. 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.

Variable vs. fixed costs

This will allow them to carry out different types of financial analysis, like break-even analysis or profitability analysis. However, the company’s total fixed cost – the gross value rather than per unit – is constant despite the increase in production volume, while the total variable cost rises in tandem. The average variable cost is calculated by dividing a company’s total variable cost by the quantity of output (i.e. the number of units produced).

Factors that can influence the value include sales revenues and company output. Examples of variable costs include labor, distribution expenses, and supplies and materials. If your company provides multiple products or services, you will have to calculate the total variable cost for each product and add them all together to get the total for the whole company. By multiplying the average variable cost by the quantity of units (or production), the total variable cost is $10k. In practice, cost structure analysis refers to the disaggregation of a specific company’s cost composition into fixed costs and variable costs. Labor is also referred to as piece rate labor as it is the wage that is paid out to laborers based on their output as compensation for their work.

For example, raw materials may cost $0.50 per pound for the first 1,000 pounds. However, orders of greater than 1,000 pounds of raw material are charged $0.48. In either situation, the variable cost is the charge for the raw materials (either $0.50 per pound or $0.48 per pound). For the example above, if you sold 20 units of product 1 and 10 units of product 2, the calculation would be $10 x $20 plus $5 x $10 divided by 30 (total units sold). If Product 1 has a variable cost of $10 per unit and Product 2 has a variable cost of $5 per unit, for example, the calculation for the average cost will combine the figures. A break-even analysis is a financial calculation used to determine a company’s break-even point.

Marginal cost only comes into play when variable costs are a factor in total production cost. The contribution margin is your product’s selling price minus its variable cost per unit. This measurement is the money your company brings in after using sales to cover variable costs.

  1. To improve the profitability, the company must either have a high selling price or low variable cost.
  2. They play a role in several bookkeeping tasks, and both your total variable cost and average variable cost are calculated separately.
  3. Variable cost and average variable cost may not always be equal due to price increases or pricing discounts.
  4. With variable costs, the relevant range is the range in which the cost of adding one more is the same as when adding the last.

The more products you create, the more employees you might need, which means a bigger payroll, too. These articles and related content is the property of The Sage Group plc or its contractors or its licensors (“Sage”). Please do not copy, reproduce, modify, distribute or disburse without express consent from Sage.These articles and related content is provided as a general guidance for informational purposes only. Accordingly, Sage does not provide advice per the information included. These articles and related content is not a substitute for the guidance of a lawyer (and especially for questions related to GDPR), tax, or compliance professional. When in doubt, please consult your lawyer tax, or compliance professional for counsel.

In short, fixed costs are more risky, generate a greater degree of leverage, and leave the company with greater upside potential. On the other hand, variable costs are safer, generate less leverage, and leave the company with a smaller upside potential. If a business increases production or decreases 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. Fixed costs are expenses that remain the same regardless of production output. Whether a firm makes sales or not, it must pay its fixed costs, as these costs are independent of output.

This includes marketing and sales campaigns to reach more customers, the production costs of more goods, and the time and money required for new product development. That said, labor completed by salaried employees is a fixed cost because it is the same every pay period, regardless of hours worked. In general, labor is a variable cost because the total expense for labor depends on how many hours employees have worked. For instance, in some months, an employee may work a standard 40 hours per week. When taking a deeper look at the types of variable costs you and your business encounter, here are some important considerations to keep in mind.

how to calculate variable cost

Unlike fixed costs, which remain the same no matter how much you produce, variable costs increase the more you produce. For this reason, it’s important to ensure that all variable costs are accurately recorded. In this article, you will learn about the different types of variable costs, including semi-variable ones. You will also learn how to calculate variable costs in Google Sheets, to find the total and the average variable costs. To learn more about fixed costs and how to calculate them, check out our related article on How To Find Fixed Cost.

If your product has a proportionately lower variable cost than its selling price, then it has a high contribution margin. 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 bank draft definition on the success of their sales. There is also a category of costs that falls between fixed and variable costs, known as semi-variable costs (also known as semi-fixed costs or mixed costs). These are costs composed of a mixture of both fixed and variable components.

Another name for variable cost is “unit-level cost” because it varies on the number of units your business produces. With variable costs, the relevant range is the range in which the cost of adding one more is the same as when adding the last. If your pizzeria has a monthly fixed cost total of $1,000 a month, here is what your monthly profits will look like depending on the number of pizzas you sell.

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