Variable expenses financial definition of variable expenses

what is a variable expense

You should do this because fixed expenses are often necessary to keep your business running, while variable expenses can be more discretionary. As such, it may be easier to cut back on variable costs if you need to reduce your overall spending. A good variable expense ratio is one that leaves you enough sales revenue to cover your fixed expenses with a comfortable target profit margin. It can afford that high variable expense ratio because it can reach its break-even point quickly, covering its fixed expenses with a relatively low number of projects.

what is a variable expense

While employee salaries are a fixed cost for most businesses, there are some situations where they can be considered a variable expense. For example, if your employees are paid hourly, their wages will vary based on the number of hours they work. Additionally, sales commissions and bonuses can also fluctuate from month to month. A business that has a high proportion of variable expenses can usually generate a profit on a low sales level. The reason is that there are few fixed expenses to be paid for in each month, making it easier to achieve a breakeven sales level.

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That way, a business will not lose money when each unit of a product is sold. For example, Amy is quite concerned about her bakery as the revenue generated from sales are below the total costs of running the bakery. Amy asks for your opinion on whether she should close down the business or not. Additionally, she’s already committed to paying for one year of rent, electricity, and employee salaries.

what is a variable expense

Commission is also a variable cost as salespeople only get paid if they sell a product or service. Industries with high fixed costs, like airlines, are less vulnerable to competition. They require huge amounts of investment in machinery and other physical items to start up.

Variable Cost Formula

If you’re not actively budgeting, you may wish to start tracking your expenses for a few months. You can use a tool like Mint or YNAB to track your spending automatically, or take a simple pen-and-paper approach. Other expenses may change once every year or two (like rent), but these would still be considered fixed expenses since they’re the same every month.

  • You can identify areas where you may be overspending by monitoring your spending.
  • That way, a business will not lose money when each unit of a product is sold.
  • If we talk about what are variable expenses, these are the expenses that fluctuate from month to month, such as utilities, fuel, and inventory costs.
  • Along the manufacturing process, there are specific items that are usually variable costs.

Fluctuations in sales and production levels can affect variable costs if factors such as sales commissions are included in per-unit production costs. Meanwhile, fixed costs must still be paid even if production slows down significantly. Property operating expenses that increase and decrease in relatively direct proportion to changes in occupancy. Budget your fixed expenses first, because they make up the majority of your budget and are usually set for longer periods of time. Your variable expenses fluctuate monthly and are easy to adjust as you go, so it’s easier to plan these around your fixed expenses. Fixed expenses are those that stay the same each month, such as rent and loan payments.

You can also look back at your bank or credit card statements and add up everything you’ve spent on that expense category, then calculate the average. 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.

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If you lose your job or aggressively want to start saving, you could devote a few hours to culling your fixed expenses. Ideally, it would be best if you did it every year to maintain a consistent approach. It helps you understand the areas to focus on in the future and what expenses you can afford to cut down.

what is a variable expense

Whether a firm makes sales or not, it must pay its fixed costs, as these costs are independent of output. The best way to ensure that variable expenses don’t impact your budget is to pay attention to past expenses and prepare for future expenses. It is important to remember that while the above lists focus on operating expenses, variable expenses often have a greater impact on your cost of goods sold than common size financial statement: definition, overview & formula any other expense. Variable costs are important for any business that produces products. For example, a law firm with high salaries and expensive downtown offices might need to keep its variable expense ratio very low to cover that fixed overhead and meet its total expenses. It can’t afford to put a lot of money into investigations and expert witnesses unless its cases have a high potential payout.

How to Find Variable Expenses?

The APR (which is the same as your interest rate) Will be between 7.9% – 25.9% per year and will be based on your credit history. Variable expenses can be discretionary — but they can also be necessary. Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page.

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The amount of clay you need to buy depends on the number of flower pots you want to make. It’s important to note that some expenses can fall into both categories. For example, groceries are a non-discretionary expense, but the type of food purchased can be a discretionary expense. Variable expenses represent those daily spending decisions such as eating at restaurants, buying clothes, grabbing coffee at Starbucks, and playing a round of golf with your buddies. Many of the offers appearing on this site are from advertisers from which this website receives compensation for being listed here. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear).

What Are Variable Expenses?

Have you ever wondered how your ‘perfectly planned budget’ suddenly goes out of shape? It doesn’t matter if you’re managing a large enterprise or a monthly budget for family expenses, Variable expenses can ruin even the best budgets. The interest of your business loan is also a fixed payment, and can affect your business cash flow significantly. It’s important for you to understand how business loans work to find the best business loan, especially if you’re looking for a business loan with bad credit.

  • On the other hand, travel is a variable expense — but in many cases, travel is discretionary.
  • If you can cut back on some variable costs in addition to your fixed monthly bills, you’ll free up more money to save for retirement, build an emergency fund, pay off debt, or invest.
  • Still, you can work on bringing cell phone costs down to make sure this fixed expense fits in your budget.
  • Get advice on achieving your financial goals and stay up to date on the day’s top financial stories.
  • On the other hand, the fixed portion could be so large that it isn’t worth trying to tease out that variable cost.
  • Likewise, if you don’t have insurance and you meet with an accident, the hospital bill can be a hefty variable expense.

The amount you pay will depend on the type of coverage you need and the size of your business. If you don’t have your own historical data on a variable expense, you could check with friends, family members and neighbors to see what they spend on average. You could also combine this with general knowledge gleaned from the internet. Expenses like groceries, utility bills and gas are required, but the amount you spend on them changes every month. For instance, your heating bill is a variable expense (it’s likely higher in the winter than the summer), but it wouldn’t be considered discretionary.

What Is A Variable Expense? How They Affect Your Budget

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. The breakeven point of your business is the amount you have to make to cover your monthly expenses.

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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. Variable and fixed costs play into the degree of operating leverage a company has. In short, fixed costs are more risky, generate a greater degree of leverage, and leaves the company with greater upside potential. On the other hand, variable costs are safer, generate less leverage, and leave the company with smaller upside potential. Fixed costs are expenses that remain the same regardless of production output.

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. Along the manufacturing process, there are specific items that are usually variable costs. For the examples of these variable costs below, consider the manufacturing and distribution processes for a major athletic apparel producer. With a clear definition of variable expenses, you can easily account for even the most volatile variable expenses with some planning. For example, sales commissions expense and cost of goods sold will be greater when sales are greater; electricity expense will decrease when machine hours are reduced.

This means that you go beyond simply planning out your budget and commit to the spending rules you’ve laid down for yourself. Living your budget may mean rethinking wants versus needs to avoid overspending. But the advantage of doing so is that you end up with a balanced budget without the risk of racking up high-interest debt. For example, raw materials may cost $0.50 per pound for the first 1,000 pounds.

Again, the advantage here is that planning out your budget may be easier to do with recurring bill payments. If you budget by paycheck or schedule automatic bill payments, having bills due at roughly the same time can help with avoiding late payments and the fees that go along with them. A fixed expense just means an expense in your budget that you can expect to stay the same, or close to it, over time. When you sit down to make your monthly budget, you don’t have to guess how much you’ll pay toward fixed expenses.

But examining your transaction history can help you learn your patterns and be aware of the general cost so you can adjust your budget if necessary. Even if you can’t control prices, you still have the power to set a limit on how much and how often you spend. For example, saving money on renter’s insurance, homeowner’s insurance or car insurance may be as simple as shopping around for a better deal with a different insurer.

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