# Variable Cost Explained in 200 Words

## Variable Cost Explained in 200 Words

With variable costing, only the variable costs or production are added to the cost of the product during the work in process phase, and the fixed costs are expensed in the period in which they are incurred. Thus, in the example where sales and production are equal, all costs have been accounted for since all of the produced inventory has moved through cost of goods sold. This means that net income under absorption costing would be the same as net income under variable costing. In most cases, increasing production will make each additional unit more profitable. This is because fixed costs are now being spread thinner across a larger production volume.

## Variable costing

All costs that do not fluctuate directly with production volume are fixed costs. Fixed costs include various indirect costs and fixed manufacturing overhead costs. Variable costs include direct labor, direct materials, and variable overhead. Outdoor Nation, a manufacturer of residential, tabletop propane heaters, wants to determine whether absorption costing or variable costing is better for internal decision-making. It manufactures 5,000 units annually and sells them for15 per unit.

This will lead to a steadier stream of profit, assuming steady sales.This is true of large retailers like Walmart and Costco. Their fixed costs are relatively low compared to their variable costs, which account for a large proportion of the cost associated with each sale. Conversely, when fewer products are produced, the variable costs associated with production will consequently decrease. Examples of variable costs are sales commissions, direct labor costs, cost of raw materials used in production, and utility costs. The total variable cost is simply the quantity of output multiplied by the variable cost per unit of output.

Variable costs, if known, can be combined with fixed costs to carry out a break-even analysis on a new project. A manager can scale up the number of units produced and estimate the fixed and variable costs for production at each step. This will allow them to see which level of production, if any, are most profitable. Absorption costing includes all costs, including fixed costs, related to production, while variable costing only includes the variable costs directly incurred in production.

Then, divide that by your production volume for that same time period to get your variable cost per unit produced. You can then multiply your variable cost per unit produced by the total number of additional units you want to produce to get your total variable costs of producing more. When a company produces more than it sells, net income will be less under variable costing than under absorption costing. In this scenario, there will be a buildup, or an increase, in inventory from the beginning of the period to the end of the period.

### What is included in variable costing?

Variable costing is a methodology that only assigns variable costs to inventory. This approach means that all overhead costs are charged to expense in the period incurred, while direct materials and variable overhead costs are assigned to inventory.

If you know the total variable cost (TVC) and unit variable cost (UVC), you can divide them(TVC/UVC) to get the volume produced. However, a company with a higher proportion of fixed costs would more easily be able to take advantage of economies of scale (greater production leading to lower per-unit costs). As an outside investor, you can use this information to predict potential profit risk.If a company primarily experiences variable costs in production, they may have a more stable cost per unit.

If the manager’s annual bonus or other compensation is linked to net income, then the manager may be motivated to overproduce in order to increase the potential for or the amount of a bonus. If the level of sales remain constant while manipulating the production level, such an action would increase the company’s expenses (including the amount of bonus) while not increasing its revenue. When a company sells the same quantity of products produced during the period, the resulting net income will be identical whether absorption costing or variable costing is used. When sales equals production, all manufacturing costs are accounted for in net income, and none of the costs are waiting in finished goods inventory to be recognized in a future period. Remember, with absorption costing, all manufacturing costs are added to the cost of the product during the work in process phase; thus, as the goods are sold, all costs have been accounted for.

When considering variable costing, managers logically see that keeping a particular unit in production helps absorb fixed costs and maintain overall profitability. The total expenses incurred by any business consist of fixed costs and variable 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.

For example, if a business that produces 500,000 units per years spends \$50,000 per year in rent, rent costs are allocated to each unit at \$0.10 per unit. If production doubles, rent is now allocated at only \$0.05 per unit, leaving more room for profit on each sale. This will give you an idea of how much of costs are variable costs. You can then compare this figure to historical variable cost data to track variable cost per units increases or decreases.

Selling items that were produced in a prior period defers the recognition of the costs of those products until the future period in which they are sold. The fixed expenses associated with the items produced in a prior period were recognized in the period in which they were incurred, not the period in which the products are sold. This results in fewer expenses and therefore greater income with the variable cost method.

## What Is a Variable Cost?

Combined, a company’s fixed costs and variable costs comprise the total cost of production. When a company sells more than it produces during the current period, this indicates it is selling goods produced in a prior period. This will result in net income under variable costing being greater than under absorption costing. With absorption costing, all manufacturing costs are captured in the finished goods inventory account, and as those goods are sold, those costs become expenses.

In accounting, all costs can be described as either fixed costs or variable costs. Variable costs are inventoriable costs – they are allocated to units of production and recorded in inventory accounts, such as cost of goods sold. Fixed costs, on the other hand, are all costs that are not inventoriable costs.

• In addition, absorption costing does allow for manipulation of income by managers through overproduction.
• Increasing production at year-end results in a higher net income than if the additional goods had not been produced, since increasing the number of units decreases the fixed cost per unit.

The total of direct material, direct labor, and variable overhead is5 per unit with an additional1 in variable sales cost paid when the units are sold. Additionally, fixed overhead is15,000 per year, and fixed sales and administrative expenses are21,000 per year. The difference between fixed and variable costs is essential to know for your business’s future. The amount of raw materials and inventory you buy and the costs of shipping and delivery are all variable. The more in demand your products are, the more the costs go up.

Variable costing expenses fixed costs rather than adding them to products, creating a distortion for actual production costs. A business is sometimes deliberately structured to have a higher proportion of fixed costs than variable costs, so that it generates more profit per unit produced. Of course, this concept only generates outsized profits after all fixed costs for a period have been offset by sales.

Variable costs go up when a production company increases output and decrease when the company slows production. Variable costs are in contrast to fixed costs, which remain relatively constant regardless of the company’s level of production or business activity.

In addition, absorption costing does allow for manipulation of income by managers through overproduction. Increasing production at year-end results in a higher net income than if the additional goods had not been produced, since increasing the number of units decreases the fixed cost per unit. Under absorption costing, these fixed costs follow the units produced and do not become a part of cost of goods sold until they are sold. Instead, a portion of the fixed costs is in the inventory accounts. Why would a manager want to manipulate income by overproducing?

## Variable Cost Formula

The fixed costs of sales and production remain the same for a given period of time. Variable costing does not take into account fixed or absorption costs; therefore profits are likely to increase by the amount earned through the sale of the additional item. In accounting, variable costs are costs that vary with production volume or business activity.

## Understanding a Variable Cost

Under variable costing, fixed manufacturing costs are still in the finished goods inventory account. But under absorption costing, those fixed costs have been expensed during the current production period and thus have reduced net income. A significant disadvantage with variable costing is that it does not conform to generally accepted accounting principles. While companies can use this reporting method, auditors may challenge the use of variable costing. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) has no preference as to how variable fixed costs are handled in a company’s production process.

Companies that use variable costing keep fixed-cost operating expenses separate from production costs. Managers use variable costing to determine which products to offer and which products to discontinue. Rather than discontinuing a product based on negligible profits, a manager can use variable costing to determine the overall costs of keeping a unit in production. For example, if a company offers four products and decides to discontinue two, the two remaining products have to absorb higher overhead expenses. Variable costing illustrates the impact that discontinuing a product has on all costs related to production.

### How do you find the variable cost?

Variable costing is a costing method that includes only variable manufacturing costs—direct materials, direct labor, and variable manufacturing overhead—in unit product costs.

## Total Variable Cost vs. Average Variable Cost

To calculate fixed and variable costs, you will need more information than just the total cost and quantity produced. You will need to know either fixed costs or variable costs incurred during production in order to calculate the other.

Fixed costs include rent, utilities, payments on loans, depreciation and advertising. You can change a fixed cost – move to somewhere with lower rent, for instance – but the costs don’t fluctuate otherwise. Even if the economy craters and your sales drop to zero, fixed costs don’t disappear. In order to calculate volume produced, you will need enough information.