Accounting & Finance

What Is a Fixed Cost? Fixed Expenses Definition, Formula, & Examples

a piggy bank full of fixed expenses calculated with the average fixed cost formula

Understanding all costs within your business is crucial to achieving success in the market—and that includes fixed costs. By fully grasping the finances of your operations, as well as potential, hidden, or unexpected costs, you can better plan for the future.

This article will focus on fixed costs, providing examples and formulas to help you determine your business’s fixed costs accurately.

What Is a Fixed Expense?

agents answer how to calculate fixed cost while assessing financial documents

Fixed costs are expenses that don’t change, no matter how much a business produces or earns. Examples include rent, insurance, and employee salaries. If you didn’t produce a single unit of product or sell a single unit to a customer, you would still owe these expenses at the end of a day, week, month, or year (depending on the chosen unit). 

Fixed costs are important for businesses to understand in order to plan their budget and use resources wisely. Effective management of fixed costs can provide a solid financial foundation for future growth and success.

How to Calculate Fixed Cost

Understanding total fixed costs and average fixed costs is paramount for a successful business operation. In summary, the total fixed cost represents the cumulative sum a business allocates to expenses such as rent, salaries, and equipment; this sum remains unchanged irrespective of the volume of production.

You can calculate the average fixed cost by dividing the total fixed cost by the number of units produced. This calculation helps businesses see how much each unit costs in fixed expenses. As production increases, the average fixed cost decreases, highlighting the benefits of increasing output.

Green lightening bolt inside a green lightbulb.

Total fixed cost formula

Total fixed cost describes the expenses that a business has to pay every month, no matter how much they sell. 

Let’s compare examples for a small store, like a lemonade stand, and a big store, like a supermarket. Here is how they calculate their total fixed cost: 

Small store with low sales: 

  • Monthly rent for the stand: $300 
  • Website and domain: $10 
  • Equipment (table, chairs, blender, etc.): $200 

Total fixed cost: $510 

Big store with high sales: 

  • Monthly rent for the store: $10,000 
  • Website and domain: $100 
  • Equipment (cash registers, refrigerators, etc.): $20,000 

Total fixed cost: $30,100

To determine your business’s total fixed cost:

  1. Examine all regular bills like rent and website fees.
  2. Think about other regular expenses, like when equipment gets old and needs replacement. 
  3. Make sure all these costs are for your business and not personal expenses. 
  4. Sum these costs for your total fixed cost.
blue lightning bolt inside of blue lightbulb

Average fixed cost formula

Now that you have your business’s fixed costs, you can calculate the average fixed cost for your business. To do this, you’ll need your monthly production volume. Divide your total fixed cost by the number of products you produce each month.

The formula for average fixed cost is: AFC = total fixed costs / total number of units made each month.

How Fixed Costs Are Used in Cost Structure Management

Fixed costs are a crucial element of cost structure management. As these costs remain constant, regardless of production or sales levels, accurately identifying and controlling them can optimize your cost structure and enhance profitability.

Leveraging operating costs

To leverage operating costs, you can focus on things like: 

  • Reducing or removing any excessive expenses 
  • Optimizing processes to increase efficiency 
  • Negotiating better deals with suppliers

You can also invest in technologies or processes that can lower operating costs in the long run, such as automation, outsourcing, or energy-efficient equipment. It’s essential to track and analyze your operating costs regularly. This will help you to identify areas where you can cut back and allocate your resources more effectively.

The break-even analysis

You can use a break-even analysis to determine the number of units you must sell to achieve neither financial loss nor gain within a specified time period.

To perform a break-even analysis, identify your fixed and variable costs. Then, calculate your contribution margin per unit (sales price per unit minus variable cost per unit). Finally, divide your total fixed costs by your contribution margin per unit to determine how many units you need to sell to break even.

Fixed Costs Examples

If you’re struggling to calculate your fixed costs, review these examples of common fixed costs to help you figure it out:

  • Rent. This includes rental payments to a landlord or payments made to a broker for a purchased facility. 
  • Salaries. This is for salaried employees only. Do not factor in hourly employees, as that is not a fixed rate each month. (Instead, that counts as a variable cost, which we explain below.) 
  • Utilities. Some utilities count as fixed—for example, internet or regulated utilities. If you use utilities that vary each month depending on usage, these would fall under the variable cost category.
  • Interest. Any loan taken out by a business that has regular interest counts as a fixed cost. 
  • Insurance. All business insurances count as fixed costs. 
  • Advertising. This can be a broad range of expenses, like a website or domain hosting. Don’t factor in anything that varies, like ad spend.
  • Software subscriptions. Any subscription or service you pay the same amount for regularly.
  • Depreciation: Machine or equipment depreciation counts as a fixed cost companies must take into consideration.

Fixed Costs vs. Variable Costs

As we’ve explored, fixed costs are the financial obligations that remain consistent regardless of the volume of a business’s operations.

In contrast, variable costs fluctuate in accordance with the production and sales levels. For instance, a manufacturing company may experience variable costs that fluctuate due to the changing prices of raw materials and energy used in production.

Importance of Fixed Costs

female small business owner wonders what is fixed expenses as she stares at bag full of coins and dollars

Understanding fixed costs as a business owner or manager is critical for ensuring financial stability and success. Fixed costs, which include ongoing expenses like rent, salaries, and insurance premiums, are incurred regardless of production or sales levels. By effectively managing these costs, you can accurately project budgets, determine pricing strategies, and assess profit margins.

Accurate calculation of fixed costs allows you to make informed decisions about operational adjustments, investments, or cost-cutting measures. It can also help you determine when your sales will break even, providing important insight into your company’s financial performance. Ultimately, a clear understanding of fixed costs is vital for maintaining your business’s competitiveness and establishing a solid foundation for long-term success.

Disadvantages of Fixed Costs

One of the major challenges you may face as a business owner is managing your financial resources, and fixed costs can often feel like a significant drain. These costs persist even during periods of low output, putting pressure on cash flow management.

High fixed costs can limit operational flexibility, making it difficult to adapt to market shifts or pursue new opportunities. This rigidity can stifle innovation and business growth, forcing tough decisions between maintaining fixed costs and exploring new ventures.

In highly competitive markets, businesses with high fixed costs can find themselves at a disadvantage, as they may struggle to lower their prices to stay competitive without cutting into their profits. Overall, fixed costs highlight the necessity of carefully analyzing overhead costs and seeking ways to minimize their impact on financial stability and adaptability.

Final Thoughts on Fixed Expenses

Understanding your fixed costs is critical for maintaining financial stability and facilitating growth. By closely managing and understanding these expenses, you can more accurately predict your cash flow, leading to better decision-making and investment strategies. 

Although fixed costs may seem rigid, exploring innovative ways to reduce them can enhance efficiency. For example, regularly reviewing your credit card processing rates allows you to continually evaluate your financial health and respond to shifts in the market. To start fixing your fixed costs, reach out to PaymentCloud today for a rate review or for information about zero-cost credit card processing.

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Fixed Costs: FAQs

Are fixed costs always considered sunk costs?

Fixed costs do not always become sunk costs. Sunk costs are “gone” and should not influence current or future decision-making. Some fixed costs become sunk costs if they involve non-refundable one-time payments. Others may not be considered sunk as they can be recouped in full or part through the sale of goods or repurposing of resources.

Is interest a fixed cost?

Yes, if the interest is on a fixed bill, it can be counted as a fixed cost. This is because interest doesn’t fluctuate in this scenario. If you have a variable interest rate or a fluctuating bill to pay it on (like a credit card balance that changes), it’s a variable expense. 

Do fixed expenses change?

While they typically remain consistent in the short term, fixed expenses can indeed change due to economic fluctuations, new agreements, or unexpected events. For instance, an increase in property tax rates can lead to a higher monthly property payment, while a reduction in insurance premiums might lower your business’s car insurance bill.

Is depreciation a fixed cost?

Depreciation is considered a fixed cost because it is a non-cash expense that remains fairly constant over an asset’s useful life. Regardless of the level of production or usage, depreciation allows businesses to spread the original cost of an asset over its life span using a pre-determined schedule.

Are overhead costs like utilities considered fixed costs?

Overhead costs like utilities can count as fixed costs because they are consistent and predictable expenses that a business incurs regardless of its production or sales volume. However, some overhead expenses, such as electricity, may vary based on the level of production or sales and are therefore not considered fixed costs.

Is advertising and marketing a fixed cost?

Certain advertising and marketing expenses, such as marketing software subscriptions, website registration fees, or domain hosting, can be considered fixed costs. However, costs that vary, such as advertising or campaign funding, fall under the variable cost category.

Are salaries and labor fixed costs?

Salaries, being consistent business expenses, can be considered fixed costs. However, hourly work or ad hoc labor (like contractors) is typically considered a variable expense due to its fluctuating nature.

Is property tax a fixed cost?

Property tax can be considered a fixed expense because it is a recurring expense that remains relatively constant over time, regardless of the level of production or sales. However, the exact amount of property tax can vary from year to year based on factors such as changes in the property’s assessed value, tax rate adjustments, and local government policies.

Is insurance a fixed cost?

Insurance premiums typically remain constant over an agreed-upon period, such as a month, quarter, or year, and hence, are considered a fixed cost. Unlike variable expenses, these costs don’t fluctuate based on factors such as usage or demand.

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