variable expenses definition

Cost-volume-profit analysis looks at the impact that varying levels of sales and product costs have on operating profit. Variable cost and average variable cost may not always be equal due to price increase or pricing discounts. 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.

Is food a fixed or variable expense?

Variable expenses include such things as groceries, gas for your vehicle, utilities, entertainment expenses, and clothing.

When you sit down to make your monthly budget, you don’t have to guess how much you’ll pay toward fixed expenses. You can simply carry over those amounts from last month’s budget.

Variable Cost Definition

The company faces the risk of loss if it produces less than 20,000 units. However, anything above this has limitless potential for yielding benefit for the company. Therefore, leverage rewards the company not choosing variable costs as long as the company can produce enough output. Perusing the annual report of a company that I am invested in, I got to thinking about how these two words are so much more than just accounting jargon. They affect your financial future to a much greater extent than you may think. So let’s break them down and look at what fixed, and variable expenses are – and aren’t. Many variable costs, such as inventory and freight, go up in line with the number of sales a business is making.

  • However, these costs are fixed in the sense that they don’t change based on your production volume.
  • So let’s break them down and look at what fixed, and variable expenses are – and aren’t.
  • In this guide, you’ll learn the definition of variable cost, how to calculate variable cost, and how variable costs can impact the profitability of your business.
  • It doesn’t hurt to ask for lower monthly payments on your leases or loans.
  • 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.
  • It can choose between paying $1,000 or $0.05 for every item manufactured.

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Variable costs change from week to week and month to month, depending on what the business is doing. Understanding variable costs will help a business set accurate budgets and better predict their cash flow needs. Variable cost is a business expense which is subject to change when sales volumes change. This could mean that variable costs either increase or decrease depending on a company’s current output. If Amy did not know which costs were variable or fixed, it would be harder to make an appropriate decision.

Don’t leave the understanding of fixed and variable expenses to the accountants. On another project, she needs to travel out of state and all her travel expenses are variable costs. She buys new software to suit the particular project and she takes a course online to learn the new software. She has to borrow money to buy the new software and finance the training and the interest on that loan is a variable cost as well. Assume that a website business sells a product and requires the customer to pay with a credit card. The credit card processor charges the business a fee of 3% of each amount charged.

Tips for Saving Money on Fixed and Variable Expenses

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. As the production output of cakes increases, the bakery’s variable costs also increase. When the bakery does not bake any cake, its variable costs drop to zero. Raw materials are the direct goods purchased that are eventually turned into a final product. If the athletic brand doesn’t make the shoes, it won’t incur the cost of leather, synthetic mesh, canvas, or other raw materials. In general, a company should spend roughly the same amount on raw materials for every unit produced assuming no major differences in manufacturing one unit versus another. Fixed costs, on the other hand, such as rent and utilities for the factory, remain constant whether the company is producing 1,000 widgets per day or 500 widgets per day.

  • As a company strives to produce more output, it is likely this additional effort will require additional power or energy, resulting in increased variable utility costs.
  • One way to reduce car usage is to increase the variable cost of using a car.
  • 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.
  • These fixed expenses occur repeatedly and typically can’t be dropped with a moment’s notice, should your financial situation change.
  • If the company manufacturers 20,000 units of output, the two options break even.
  • They are a regular recurring expense and the amount paid out is set.

Budget for essential expenses first, such as housing, car payments and child care. A worker’s salary can be a variable cost if their pay changes with increased production or sales. For instance, compensation for workers who are paid per piece or salespeople who earn a commission on each unit sold would be considered a variable cost. The one variable cost you may have difficulty negotiating is direct labor costs.