What Are Variable Expenses? How To Reduce Them in Your Budget

what is a variable expense

Start by listing your expenses by type (fixed or variable) when creating your first business budget. Once you’ve determined the amount of each expense, you can add those amounts to your budget template. This will allow you to compare your budget with actual numbers each month easily. While you could theoretically change your monthly mortgage payment by refinancing your loan or by appealing your property tax assessment, this is not an easy switch. Insurance is a fixed expense that protects your business from risks such as property damage, liability, and theft.

Also, a savings account or emergency fund can provide cash you can dip into at times when your variable expenses are higher than expected. A variable cost is an ongoing cost that changes in value according to factors like sales revenue and output. Businesses with high variable costs such as contract consulting work have lower margins than other companies but also lower break even points, according to Business Dictionary. 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.

We now have a better understanding of variable expenses and other business expenses. 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. Periodic expenses are those costs that are the same and repeat regularly but don’t occur every month (e.g., quarterly). They require planning ahead and budgeting to pay periodically when the expenses are due. Trimming variable costs, on the other hand, requires actively making multiple decisions every day about whether or not to buy certain items or participate in specific events.

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In this article, we’ll focus on one such expense – variable expenses – and explore what they are and how they can affect your budget. We’ll delve into the different types of variable expenses, how to track them, and some tips on how to manage them effectively. While most variable costs represent discretionary spending (such as restaurants, Starbucks, and golf), some variable costs represent necessities. A sudden heatwave might force you to add a few extra hours of cooling that may account for up to 50% addition to your average monthly bill.

what is a variable expense

However, orders of greater than 1,000 pounds of raw material are charged $0.48. In either situation, the variable cost is the charge for the raw materials (either $0.50 per pound or $0.48 per pound). It can be frustrating to create a plan and then have things happen that are beyond your control. It can be difficult to create a budget, especially if your expenses are unpredictable.

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Therefore, when the company has sales of $10,000 the cost of goods will be $6,000. Variable cost and average variable cost may not always be equal due to price increase or pricing discounts. Consider the variable cost of a project that has been worked on for years. An employee’s hourly wages are a variable cost; however, that employee was promoted last year. The current variable cost will be higher than before; the average variable cost will remain something in between.

what is a variable expense

These variable expenses have fluctuating costs, and they are pretty unpredictable too. You can take the help of workflow software to streamline your workflow and create a productive business environment. Now that we’ve looked at the examples of fixed and variable expenses, let’s understand the differences between the two in terms of specific features. 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. When setting prices, one should ensure that at least the variable expenses are included in the price.

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These offers do not represent all available deposit, investment, loan or credit products. I learned a lot about finance after working for a digital marketing company specializing in investing and trading stocks, forex, etc. After that, I got exposed to other verticals such as wealth management and personal finance, which further improved my understanding of the financial world. Essentially, if a cost varies depending on the volume of activity, it is a variable cost. It’s important to track your spending so you know where your money goes and can plan accordingly.

  • Variable expenses can be difficult to budget for as they are unpredictable.
  • It’s important to understand how much of your expenses are fixed and how much are variable so you can budget your money properly.
  • In some cases, the variable cost only shifts by mere pennies each month, making them easier to estimate.
  • They are fixed because they are paid out regularly and are independent of revenue level or production volume.
  • To help you keep your budget in line and protect your cash flow, it is a good idea to have a buffer in your business savings account.

Groceries, eating out, electricity or other usage-based bills, and household items like toiletries and cleaning supplies are some other examples of variable costs in your budget. Variable expenses, also called variable costs, are expenses that can change over time. These costs vary depending on your usage of products or services, and they can change depending on any number of factors. For example, increased use of your car produces a corresponding increase in your variable expenses for fuel and car maintenance.

Contribution Margin

Taking advantage of a 0% introductory balance transfer offer, for instance, could help you save money on credit card interest. This assumes, of course, that you’re able to pay the balance off in full before the promotional rate ends. You could also consider refinancing student loans or consolidating debts with a low-interest rate personal establishing credit terms for customers loan to save money. 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.

Most families, for example, spend variable amounts of money on groceries each month. In addition, you’re likely to spend different amounts each month on putting gasoline in your car and paying for necessary car repairs and maintenance. These bills cannot easily be changed and are usually paid on a regular basis, such as weekly, monthly, quarterly or from year to year. If you are well prepared, you will always be able to handle variable expenses in your business and personal life.

Important factors to remember in calculating your variable expense ratio

If you rent a building for your flower pot company, your monthly rent is a fixed expense. You owe the same amount of money every month whether your company produces thousands of pots or none at all. It’s much easier to budget for fixed expenses than it is to budget for a variable expense or discretionary expense. It can give you a detailed profit or loss report and compare each variable expense separately.

  • In a small business, a variable cost is an expense that changes according to production or, in some businesses, with changing weather conditions.
  • Firstly, it allows you to identify areas where you may be overspending and find ways to reduce your expenses.
  • Every dollar of contribution margin goes directly to paying for fixed costs; once all fixed costs have been paid for, every dollar of contribution margin contributes to profit.

We excluded payments made to cover minimum payments to cards with a lower APR than Tally or to cards that were in a grace period at the time of payment. Essentially, these expenses are costs or spending categories that change over time. While you can’t control the changing prices of categories such as gas and groceries, you can take charge of how you manage these costs. Explore ways to save money on groceries, car costs and other specific variable expenses, or try a budget app. Separate your variable expenses from your fixed expenses to estimate how much you spend on the former. With debt repayment, you may be able to save by refinancing or consolidating bills.

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By creating a budget that accounts for variable expenses and setting realistic goals, individuals can take control of their finances and make smart decisions about their spending. In contrast, fixed expenses like cell phone bills, rent or tuition payments take a fixed portion of your monthly budget. It’s important to understand how much of your expenses are fixed and how much are variable so you can budget your money properly.

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Just like consumers, businesses also have variable and fixed expenses. For instance, say you spent $400 on groceries in January, $500 in February, and $450 in March. Now that you have this number to work with, you can budget $450 every month for groceries—even though it’s a variable expense. If you spend less than the average one month, leave the money you didn’t spend alone so it’s there if you overspend the next month. A variable expense is an ongoing cost that changes from month to month.

Another cost accounting metric that’s related to your variable expense ratio is your contribution margin ratio, or CM ratio. The easiest way to calculate it is to subtract your variable expense ratio, expressed as a percentage, from 100. Fixed expenses, on the other hand, don’t change no matter how much you produce.

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