Cost Behavior: Introduction to Fixed and Variable Costs

what is cost behavior

A “cost function” is a financial term used by economists to express how different costs in any business behave under other circumstances. In that case, it is beneficial to understand the different types of cost behavior to develop a stable cost structure and find the best path to profitability. Cost behavior indicates how a cost will change when an activity changes.

A cost behavior analysis shows how a particular cost responds to changing levels of business activity. As commonly observed, some costs vary while others stay the same. Where C is the total cost of production, FC is the total fixed cost, V is the variable cost, and x is the number of units involved. Some costs stay the same proportionately with changes in business operations. Firms typically use mathematical cost functions to study cost behavior. When quickly looking at the example, it would appear that the manufacturing costs are variable because they are expressed as a per unit rate.

what is cost behavior

In the content above, we examined two methods of analyzing cost behaviors. However, many companies often examine the relationship between multiple independent variables and a single dependent variable. This allows a manager to effectively manage costs and predict profits or losses as production and sales volumes change in the course of growing the business operations. The second assumption is that linear cost functions exist in the activities involved.

What is Cost Behavior Analysis?

Two of the most common drivers used in managerial accounting are units and hours, but there are lots of different drivers that could be used like customers or miles. If you can determine that a cost is driven by a particular activity, you can use that driver to calculate a variable cost. The high-low method net realizable value definition is a method of separating fixed and variable cost components from the total cost. It involves comparing the highest and lowest activity levels and the costs for each class. The general types of cost behavior fall into three categories, which are for variable costs, fixed costs, and mixed costs.

  1. For example, rent, full-time salaries, insurance, and depreciation are all examples of fixed costs.
  2. Cost behavior is the change in a particular cost or expenditure pool due to a change in business activity.
  3. The general types of cost behavior fall into three categories, which are for variable costs, fixed costs, and mixed costs.
  4. Most fixed costs are expressed in terms of time, like per month or per year.
  5. For example, an Internet access fee includes a standard monthly access fee (which is fixed) and a broadband usage fee (which is variable).
  6. Some of the monthly gas bill is a flat fee charged by the utility and some of the gas bill is the cost of heating the building.

However, in real-life situations, not all cost functions are linear, and also are not explained by a single cost driver. Second is fixed costs, which do not change in response to business activity levels. For example, the rent on a building will not change, even if the sales level of the tenant changes dramatically. Fixed costs are more likely to be found in the selling, general and administrative expense area. This makes the slope of the line, the variable cost, $0.25 ($6,000 ÷ 24,000), and the fixed costs $5,000.

For each unit that is produced, the total cost of direct materials increases by $4. Some costs, called mixed costs, have characteristics of both fixed and variable costs. For example, a company pays a fee of $1,000 for the first 800 local phone calls in a month and $0.10 per local call made above 800. It is common for management to use quantitative analysis methods to illustrate cost functions. This method uses only the highest and lowest values of the cost driver and its respective costs to determine the cost function. The relevant range here refers to the range of activity in which the relationship between the total cost and the level of activity is maintained.

Mixed Cost Behavior

Additionally, one should look for a relationship between activity levels and expenses. However, it is worth noting that not all costs change with changes in business activities; for example, a company has to pay an insurance premium whether or not it is operating. An example of a variable cost is the cost of flour for a bakery that produces artisan breads. The greater the number of loaves produced, the greater the total cost of the flour used by the bakery. To calculate the total cost of materials, take the rate and multiply by the activity. A good understanding of cost behavior is important for managers for several reasons.

what is cost behavior

Fixed costs are incurred even if the company provides no goods or services. Using the same example above, let’s assume Company ABC has a fixed monthly cost of $10,000 on account of the machines it uses to make tiles. Therefore, the management could exercise and control expenses more effectively and increase the profit margin due to this concept’s effective application. Understanding cost behavior is also essential for cost-volume-benefit analysis. A Cost-Volume-Profit (CVP) analysis examines the impact of changes in cost and volume on profit.

The study of this change is called cost behavior analysis. Finally, there are mixed costs, which contain fixed and variable elements. For example, an Internet access fee includes a standard monthly access fee (which is fixed) and a broadband usage fee (which is variable). Will the per unit rate for fixed manufacturing overhead be the same if we produce 12,000 units instead of 10,000 units?

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Three types of cost categories are commonly discussed in cost accounting and business accounting. Knowing cost behavior helps managers plan operations and determine alternative courses of action. However, some parts are covered (third-party coverage), and others are not covered (collision coverage) under insurance. Additionally, wrecks or tickets may increase the cost of coverage. Conceptually, fuel consumption is a variable cost that depends on kilometers.

What is cost behavior?

These leads people to believe that these are actually variable costs. It is possible to express a fixed cost on a per unit basis but remember that the total cost is not driven by that activity. The total cost is still the same no matter how many units of activity occur.

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