Variable Costs Examples, Formula, Guide to Analyzing Costs

variable expenses definition

For example, you may take vacations or trips two to three times a year. The amount you spend each time may vary, but you’re not paying for those How to Do Accounting for Small Business: Basics of Accounting expenses monthly. Instead, you may budget for those kinds of variable expenses using sinking funds—money that you set aside for this purpose.

Why are variable expenses?

Variable expenses are those that change in cost and occurrence. These expenses are more difficult to plan for, as they can vary depending on several factors, such as unforeseen events and discretionary spending.

You could also consider refinancing student loans or consolidating debts with a low-interest rate personal loan to save money. For this reason, variable costs are a required item for companies trying to determine their break-even point. In addition, variable costs are necessary to determine sale targets for a specific profit target. The athletic company also won’t incur some types labor if it doesn’t produce more output. Some positions may be salaried; whether output is 100,000 units or 0 units, certain employees will receive the same amount of compensation. For others that are tied to an hourly job, putting in direct labor hours results in a higher paycheck.

Definition of Fixed Expenses

These kinds of payments can be the same each month for the entire period of time in which you’re obligated to pay them. The cost to package or ship a product will only occur if certain activity is performed. Therefore, the cost of shipping a finished good varies (i.e. is variable) depending on the quantity of units shipped. 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.

  • 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.
  • Profit-maximizing manufacturing companies use the AVC to help them decide at which time they should end the production for a specific good.
  • A variable cost is an ongoing business expense that is subject to change directly based on how much of product is made or sold.
  • Thus, much of their labor becomes a variable cost– though not the cost of the managers, whose salaries are paid regardless of output.
  • The concept of relevant range primarily relates to fixed costs, though variable costs may experience a relevant range of their own.

The goal is for your income minus expenses to equal zero at the end of the month. To create this type of budget, write down how much you take home each month. Although you won’t know how much you’ll spend on variable expenses, allocate a certain budget toward each.

Variable Cost: What It Is and How to Calculate It

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. 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.. Rents go up, salaries increase and insurance premiums tend to rise.

But the advantage of doing so is that you end up with a balanced budget without the risk of racking up high-interest debt. Take your learning and productivity to the next level with our Premium Templates. Therefore, for Amy to break even, she would need to sell at least 340 cakes a month. Start your free trial, then enjoy 3 months of Shopify for $1/month when you sign up for a monthly Basic or Starter plan.

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