Variable Cost: What It Is and How to Calculate It
Variable Cost: What It Is and How to Calculate It

Your variable unit costs are $1 which includes paper coffee cups, coffee beans, and milk for spinning up lattes. Your income statement should serve as a blueprint for finding ways to make your business more profitable. The company purchases one unit of raw material for each widget it makes. Each unit of raw material costs one dollar and each hour of labor costs $10.

Having a finger on the pulse of your business metrics will be crucial to happily serving your customers for years to come. Assume that a retailer's cost of products is approximately 60% of their selling prices.

variable cost

So, you need to variable cost 200 t-shirts each month to break even. Since you sold 300 t-shirts in June, you're able to turn a profit.


Sticking with the bakery scenario, if your business picks up during the holiday season, you’ll need to buy more flour, sugar, eggs, butter, and packaging materials. You might even need to hire part-time, seasonal employees to help you meet the demand. If business increases substantially, you’ll find that your variable costs increase alongside your profits. Fixed costs include employee salaries, office rent, electricity bills, etc. Variable expense, on the other hand, depends on production levels. Variable expenses include raw materials, production costs, delivery costs, packaging, and labor tariffs. Variable costs refer to expenses that fluctuate over time.

Variable Cost Examples

Do you need an easy way to track your business’s expenses? Patriot’s online small business accounting software makes it easy. A cost that varies with a change in the volume of output while remaining uniform on a per-unit basis, as cost of labor . You may benefit from utilizing these 10 deductions to lower your taxable income. Key deductions include those for home office expenses, health insurance premiums, and startup costs.

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This would mean that the company might need to cut jobs or buy in less of the materials that they use to make their products. Please ensure you understand how this product works and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing money. The cost of packing and shipping finished goods to customers. Variable cost metrics are needed for many types of financial analysis. If there’s a downturn in business after the holidays, for example, you won’t bring in as much profit. But you also won’t be spending as much money on ingredients, packaging, or seasonal employees. Launch a store that comes with everything you need to start selling, including marketing tools.

What is the variable cost ratio?

For example, every car that is produced must have a set of four tires. If the tires cost $50 each, the tire costs for each manufactured car are $200. Because the manufacturer only pays this cost for each unit produced, this is a variable cost. If 100 cars are produced, the tire costs would be $20,000. Add the individual costs to get the total variable cost for Product A. A restaurant owner will need a brick-and-mortar space in order to do business, so rent and insurance will be among their most notable fixed costs.

Likewise, your fixed costs will account for a smaller percentage of your total expenses if your bakery increases in popularity and generates more sales. Your average variable cost uses your total variable cost to determine how much, on average, it costs to produce one unit of your product. It is the aggregation of expenses incurred by a business, where some components are fixed costs and others are variable expenses. Usually, this is witnessed in mass production—costs are fixed to a specific production level. They are a regular recurring expense and the amount paid out is set.

How to Calculate Total Variable Costs

The cost per unit is the amount of labor, materials, and other resources required to produce your product. For example, if your company sells sets of kitchen knives for $300 but each set requires $200 to create, test, package, and market, your variable cost per unit is $200. The average VC — also known as the “variable cost per unit” — equals the total VCs incurred by a company divided by the total output (i.e. the number of units produced).

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  • Direct labor may not be a variable cost if labor is not added to or subtracted from the production process as production volumes change.
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  • Variable costs earn the name because they can increase and decrease as you make more or less of your product.

You either need to price your graphic t-shirts higher, lower your fixed costs, or figure out how to sell a lot more shirts each month without spending more money. Variable costs are important to know because they can impact your bottom line. If you know what your variable costs are, you can price your products or services accordingly to ensure you are making a profit. Every business, no matter its size, incurs both fixed and variable costs. But cost structure differs greatly from industry to industry. If you’re a graphic designer who works from a home office, your fixed costs will be very different from those of a restaurant owner or a furniture manufacturer.

Examples of Fixed Costs

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. 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).

direct labor

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