Variable Costs Examples, Formula, Guide to Analyzing Costs

variable costing

For example, a company has to pay its manufacturing property mortgage payments every month regardless of whether it produces 1,000 products or no products at all. A company may see an increase in gross profit after paying off a mortgage or finishing the depreciation schedule on a piece of manufacturing equipment. These are considerations cost accountants must closely manage when using absorption costing.

During 2018, the company manufactured 1,000,000 phone cases and reported total manufacturing costs of $598,000 (around $0.60 per phone case). For example, let’s say that Company ABC has a lease of $10,000 a month on its production facility and produces 1,000 mugs per month. If it produces 10,000 mugs a month, the fixed cost of the lease goes down to the tune of $1 per mug.

Absorption Costing

(4) Contribution margin is listed after deducting all variable costs from sales. (5) Fixed production costs are shown below the contribution margin on the income statement with fixed operating costs. Using the absorption costing method on the income statement does not easily provide data for cost-volume-profit (CVP) computations.

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Furthermore, it means that companies will likely show a lower gross profit margin. In any case, the variable direct costs and fixed direct costs are subtracted from revenue to arrive at the gross profit. Therefore, a company can use average variable costing to analyze the most efficient point of manufacturing by calculating when to shut down production in the short-term.

Is Marginal Cost the Same As Variable Cost?

Calculating variable costs can be done by multiplying the quantity of output by the variable cost per unit of output. However, if the company doesn’t produce any units, it won’t have any variable costs for producing the mugs. Similarly, if the company produces 1,000 units, the cost will rise to $2,000. Variable cost per unit is the cost of one production unit, but it includes only variable cost, not fixed one. It comprises labor cost per unit, direct material per unit, and direct overhead per unit. A company manufactures plastic bags, the raw material cost for the production of 1 bag is $2, the labor cost for manufacturing 1 plastic bag is $10, and the company’s fixed cost is $200.

variable costing

Under absorption costing, fixed factory overhead costs are expensed only when the product is sold. As is shown on the variable costing income statement, total sales is matched with the total direct costs of generating those sales. The difference between sales and total variable costs is the contribution margin, which is the amount available to pay all fixed costs. For example, assume a new company has fixed overhead of $12,000 and manufactures 10,000 units. Direct materials cost is $3 per unit, direct labor is $15 per unit, and the variable manufacturing overhead is $7 per unit.

Contribution Margin

The table below shows how the variable costs change as the number of cakes baked vary. The concept of relevant range primarily relates to fixed costs, though variable costs may experience a relevant range of their own. This may hold true for tangible products going into a good as well as labor costs (i.e. it may cost overtime rates if a certain amount of hours are worked). Consider wholesale bulk pricing that prices goods by tiers based on quantity ordered. Examples of fixed costs are rent, employee salaries, insurance, and office supplies. A company must still pay its rent for the space it occupies to run its business operations irrespective of the volume of products manufactured and sold.

  • Both costing methods can be used by management to make manufacturing decisions.
  • As the production output of cakes increases, the bakery’s variable costs also increase.
  • Public companies are required to use the absorption costing method in cost accounting management for their COGS.
  • On the contrary, absorption costing allows income to rise in tandem with production.
  • Figure 6.13 shows the cost to produce the 8,000 units of inventory that became cost of goods sold and the 2,000 units that remain in ending inventory.
  • Figure 6.11 shows the cost to produce the 10,000 units using absorption and variable costing.

Many private companies also use this method because it is GAAP-compliant whereas variable costing isn’t. One of those cost profiles is a variable cost that only increases if the quantity of output also increases. While a fixed cost remains the same over a relevant range, a variable cost usually changes with every incremental unit produced. Though this cost structure protects a company in the event demand for their good decreases, it limits the update profit potential the company could have received with a more fixed-cost focused strategy.

Variable Costing vs. Absorption Costing

Costs are fixed for a set level of production or consumption and become variable after this production level is exceeded. However, if the company fails to sell all the inventory manufactured in that year, there would be poor matching between revenues and expenses on the income statement. It is commonly used in managerial accounting and for internal decision-making purposes. Variable costing poorly upholds the matching principle, as related expenses are not recognized in the same period as related revenue. In our example above, under variable costing, we would expense all fixed manufacturing overhead in the period occurred. First, it is important to know that $598,000 in manufacturing costs to produce 1,000,000 phone cases includes fixed costs such as insurance, equipment, building, and utilities.

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Another issue with variable costing is the reduction of reported net income. Expensing fixed production costs as a period expense lowers net income for each accounting period. Companies will face lower tax liabilities from government agencies, saving the business money. Government agencies, however, can see this as inappropriate financial reporting and challenge the company’s financial accounting method. Variable costing refers to the direct costs and variable overhead incurred in the production or manufacturing of a product or service and excludes all fixed costs.


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. The variable cost of production is considered at the time of fixing the selling price for a special order. Variable costing can readily supply data relating to the variable cost of production. Fixed manufacturing overhead is not treated as a product cost under this method. The variable cost per unit of plastic boxes is the company manufactures $8 and 10,000 boxes. The variable cost per unit of plastic balls is $5, and the company manufactures 15,000 boxes.

  • Let’s assume that it costs a bakery $15 to make a cake—$5 for raw materials such as sugar, milk, and flour, and $10 for the direct labor involved in making one cake.
  • Thus a brief explanation of variable costing and the difference between it and full costing.
  • It focuses on costs that are directly impacted and affected by changes in production, unlike fixed costs, which are static and stationary.
  • We can say that expenses depend on the output with a change in the output of production input expense change.
  • Recently, ABC International was approached with a special order to manufacture 50,000 mobile phones for one of its corporate clients.

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 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.






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