What Is A Variable Expense? How They Affect Your Budget Leave a comment

what is a variable expense

This way, if your grocery bill is higher than usual one month, you won’t have to worry about it putting a dent in your other financial goals. For example, if your variable cost ratio is 25%, then your CM ratio is 75%. So, $0.25 out of every $1.00 in your net sales (after losses and returns) goes toward the variable cost of production. The remaining $0.75 contributes to your fixed costs until you reach your break-even point and then contributes to your profits. Variable expense ratio looks at variable expenses as a parcentage of company sales.

what is a variable expense

Many variable costs, such as inventory and freight, go up in line with the number of sales a business is making. Investments in marketing, trade shows, and sales travel might be intended to drive up sales, but they won’t always match depreciable assets up perfectly. If money is already spent and we cannot recoup it, we call it a “sunk cost”. We refer to some fixed expenses as sunk costs, but not all of them. Variable expenses can be difficult to budget for as they are unpredictable.

It’s hard to feel in control of your finances when many costs are out of your hands. Fixed expenses such as car payments generally stay the same, but variable expenses change over time. Fixed expenses include things like your mortgage payments, cell phone bill, loan payments, or car payment—regular budget items that are generally the same amount each month. With fixed costs, you know the total cost, you know the due date, and adding both to your budget is easy peasy.

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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. Variable costs are usually viewed as short-term costs as they can be adjusted quickly.

Instead, you may budget for those kinds of variable expenses using sinking funds—money that you set aside for this purpose. Other less common fixed expenses may include child support payments, alimony, back tax payments you’re making through an installment plan or payments made to satisfy a judgment from a lawsuit. These kinds of payments can be the same each month for the entire period of time in which you’re obligated to pay them. When creating your budget, calculating your total fixed costs is fairly simple. If you happen to have a fixed expense you pay less frequently, you can determine the monthly expense by figuring out what you pay on that expense annually and dividing it by 12.

To understand what the variable expense ratio is and what it really measures, the first step is to understand the difference between those two kinds of expenses. Bankrate’s editorial team writes on behalf of YOU – the reader. Our goal is to give you the best advice to help you make smart personal finance decisions. We follow strict guidelines to ensure that our editorial content is not influenced by advertisers.

What are variable expenses?

Therefore, if the business has sales of $10,000 in the month of June, the business will have a credit card expense of $300. If July’s sales are $30,000 the credit card expense will be $900. The total credit card expense varies with sales because the fee has a constant rate of 3% of sales. One of the key elements to gaining financial stability is learning how to budget your variable expenses. Since they are unpredictable, variable expenses may come up when we least expect them and derail our spending plans for the month. Daphne Foreman is a former Banking and Personal Finance Analyst for Forbes Advisor.

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Some variable expenses can be more easily controlled than others. When purchasing clothing, for example, you can opt to buy cheaper items or wait for a sale to save money. Other variable expenses can’t be controlled, such as emergency medical expenses. If you get sick and need to see a doctor urgently, you may need to cover some or all of the costs, depending on whether you have health insurance.

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When the bakery does not bake any cake, its variable costs drop to zero. And because they fluctuate, variable expenses can be difficult to budget for. This is where calculating the average cost of your variable expenses can come in handy.

  • However, they aren’t an absolute mystery, as there is historical data to help you determine what you can reasonably expect to pay every period.
  • Many other expenses, such as rent expense, are fixed within a certain activity range.
  • For example, raw materials may cost $0.50 per pound for the first 1,000 pounds.

Saving money on housing, on the other hand, might require you to move or refinance your mortgage. Budgeting for variable expenses can be more challenging, as you may not be able to pinpoint exactly how much they’ll add up to from one month to another. If you’re not tracking variable expenses regularly, it could be very easy to under- or overestimate how much of your budget you should allocate to them. This is something you can easily do with a budgeting app, however, which can minimize the odds of variable expenses sideswiping your spending plan.

How to Budget for Variable Expenses

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  • Other variable expenses might include commissions for sales representatives or anyone else on staff who is paid based on productivity.
  • Investments in marketing, trade shows, and sales travel might be intended to drive up sales, but they won’t always match up perfectly.
  • This article will explore how the variable expense ratio is calculated and where it’s used.
  • This includes investments, building an emergency fund, paying off debt, and saving for retirement.
  • A variable expense is an ongoing cost that changes from month to month.

A corporation may gain economies of scale in this way by raising production and lowering costs. So, comparing the variable costs of a vehicle manufacturer and an appliance manufacturer won’t add up. This is due to the fact that their product output is incomparable.

So let’s break them down and look at what fixed, and variable expenses are – and aren’t. Sometimes, no matter how much you control your variable expenses, they still crop up unexpectedly and cause financial strain. You can mitigate this with a rainy day or emergency fund or by trimming your discretionary expenses. Most experts say to save money until you’ve set aside three to six months’ worth of earnings or living expenses in a savings account. An emergency fund will give you the padding you need to cover big expenses and give you peace of mind if you lose your job or source of income. No matter what your financial situation is, doing a regular budget and keeping track of your fixed and variable expenses will help you create the life you want to live.

We are an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. Another example would be if a salesperson gets paid on commission. Although this employee’s basic pay is constant, the commission they receive from each sale is not.

So, in the case of the hiking backpack, the contribution margin would be 90%. The contribution margin for the month of tennis racket sales would be 95%. 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.

what is a variable expense

When it comes to saving money, it’s all about hard work, sacrifice and remembering your goals. If you don’t have a goal you’re running after, it can be hard to remember why you’re eating the same homemade lunch day after day after day. YNAB’s easy-to-use budgeting app makes it simple to turn those 100-lb sharks into less scary, smaller sharks by giving you clear goals to save for each month.

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this post may contain references to products from our partners. The more fixed costs a company has, the more it must earn to break even.

To express the result as a percentage, simply multiply it by 100. A fixed expense does not change based on a business’s other activities. Costs like rent and administrative salaries are fixed costs, which remain the same no matter how much a business is producing.

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