What Are the Types of Costs in Cost Accounting?

what is a cost

When conducting financial analysis or making investment decisions, it’s important to understand the difference between cost and price and how they impact a company’s financial profile. In this context, variable costs and direct costs are arguably the most relevant. With the increase in the size of the firm, the economies of scale also increase and as a result the cost of per unit production comes down. There is a positive relation between the cost and the output, as the output increases the cost also increases and vice-versa. Likewise, the price of inputs is directly related to the price, as the input price increases the cost of production also increases. But however, the technology is inversely related to the cost, i.e. with an improved technology the cost of production decreases.

Because these can sometimes require special terms, variable costs are included in the final amount. Cost accounting is a form of managerial accounting that aims to capture a company’s total cost of production by assessing the variable costs of each step of production as well as fixed costs, such as a lease expense. As the term predicts, fixed costs don’t change in the volume of output.

Total cost refers to the total expense incurred in reaching a particular level of output; if such total cost is divided by the quantity produced, average or unit cost is obtained. Variable costs, like the costs of labour or raw materials, change with the level of output. With heightened competition in today’s world, companies are urged to make maximum profits. The company’s decision to maximize earnings relies on the behavior of its costs and revenues. Besides the concept of opportunity cost, there are several other concepts of cost namely fixed costs, explicit costs, social costs, implicit costs, social costs, and replacement costs. The polluted waters or polluted air also created as part of the process of producing the car is an external cost borne by those who are affected by the pollution or who value unpolluted air or water.

Operating Costs

For example, suppose that market forces determine a widget costs $5. A widget buyer is, therefore, willing to forgo the utility in $5 to possess the widget, and the widget seller perceives $5 as a fair price for the widget. This simple theory of determining prices is one of the core principles underlying economic theory. These two examples consist of cash outlays relating to purchase and selling inventory, but some businesses make their own inventory. Manufacturers invest large amounts of money in equipment and machines needed to produce and assemble products.

what is a cost

Value streams are the profit centers of a company, which is any branch or division that directly adds to its bottom-line profitability. The appropriate price of a product or service is based on supply and demand. The two opposing forces are always trying to achieve equilibrium, whereby the quantity of goods or services provided matches the market demand and its ability to acquire the goods or service. The concept allows for price adjustments as market conditions change. Every company must determine the price customers will be willing to pay for their product or service, while also being mindful of the cost of bringing that product or service to market. These machines are recorded on the balance sheet for the amount of money the business paid for them plus any expenses required to put them into service.


According to Ray H. Garrison, period costs are all the costs that are not included in product costs. A cost that remains constant within a given period and range of activity despite changes in production. Per unit fixed cost varies with the change in the volume of production. Cost classification involves the separation of a group of expenses into different categories. A classification system is used to bring to management’s attention certain costs that are considered more crucial than others, or to engage in financial modeling.

  • It refers to the amount of payment made to acquire any goods and services.
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  • Price, on the other hand, is what the customer is willing to pay for a product or service.

A cost can instead be designated as a fixed cost, which means that it does not vary with changes in the level of activity. For example, the lease of a building will not vary, irrespective of the revenues of a business housed within that facility. For example, a company decides to buy a new piece of manufacturing equipment rather than lease it.

The idea of opportunity cost in the concept of the cost was first begun by John Stuart Mill, a major in Economics. The idea behind the concept of opportunity cost is that the cost of one item is the lost opportunity to do something else. For example, by being married to a person, one could lose the opportunity to marry some other person or by investing more capital in video games, one might lose the opportunity in watching movies. Indirect costs are those in which costs are not directly related to production or manufacture. Direct costs are those in which cost directly related to production or maintenance.

Element wise classification of cost

In a simpler way, the concept of cost is a financial valuation of resources, materials, risks, time and utilities consumed to purchase goods and services. From an economist’s point of view, the cost of manufacturing any goods and services is often said to be the concept of opportunity cost. In other words, the cost analysis is concerned with determining money value of inputs (labor, raw material), called as the overall cost of production which helps in deciding the optimum level of production. The cost increases or decreases in the same proportion in which the units produced are termed as a variable cost.

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In order to make a reasonable business decision, it is necessary to know the primary variations and uses of the major concepts of cost. This is the importance of types of cost concepts in the business world. The Institute of Cost Accountants has constituted the Cost Accounting Standards Board (CASB) to procure suggestions and uniformity in Costing. The board has issued 24 standards to create a better knowledge of distinct components of cost and better procedures to be used.

Cost accounting can be much more flexible and specific, particularly when it comes to the subdivision of costs and inventory valuation. Cost-accounting methods and techniques will vary from firm to firm and can become quite complex. The main goal of lean accounting is to improve financial management practices within an organization. Lean accounting is an extension of the philosophy of lean manufacturing and production, which has the stated intention of minimizing waste while optimizing productivity. For example, if an accounting department is able to cut down on wasted time, employees can focus that saved time more productively on value-added tasks.

cost American Dictionary

For a consumer with a fixed income, the opportunity cost of purchasing a new domestic appliance may be, for example, the value of a vacation trip not taken. Irrelevant costs do not affect the future cash flow while the relevant costs affect the future cash flow. The irrelevant cost is a cost that will not change as the result of a management decision. This is the primary difference between relevant and irrelevant types of cost concepts.

what is a cost

A variable cost increases as the production volume increases, and it falls as the production volume decreases. Cost is typically the expense incurred for creating a product or service a company sells. The cost to manufacture a product might include the cost of raw materials used. The amount of cost that goes into producing a product can directly impact its price and profit earned from each sale.

Thus, the cost analysis is pivotal in business decision-making as the cost incurred in the input and output is to be carefully understood before planning the production capacity of the firm. So, costs that can be attributed to time intervals are termed as period costs. These costs are shown as expenses in the income statement in the period in which they are incurred.

The different types of cost accounting include standard costing, activity-based costing, lean accounting, and marginal costing. Standard costing uses standard costs rather than actual costs for cost of goods sold (COGS) and inventory. Activity-based costing takes overhead costs from different departments and pairs them with certain cost objects.

what is a cost

The company has to pay $2,000 per month to cover the cost of the lease, no matter how many products that machine is used to make. The lease payment is considered a fixed cost as it remains unchanged. From a seller’s point of view, cost is the amount of money that is spent to produce a good or product. If a producer were to sell his products at the production price, his costs and income would break even, meaning that he would not lose money on the sales.

Thus, the nature of a cost drives the type of expense to which it is eventually assigned. My Accounting Course  is a world-class educational resource developed by experts to simplify accounting, finance, & investment analysis topics, so students and professionals can learn and propel their careers. However, it’s worth emphasizing how tricky that balance is to make work.

The example of indirect costs is Oil and scrap materials, [indirect materials], the salary of factory supervisors [indirect labor], rent rates and depreciation [indirect expenses]. If the production increases fixed cost per unit decreases and as there is a decrease in production, the fixed cost per unit increases. Rent and insurance of building, depreciation on plant and machinery, the salary of employees, etc., are some examples of fixed costs. Cost is the monetary value that a company has spent to produce something.

  • This approach is used to reduce costs on a temporary basis, particularly when a business anticipates having a brief decline in revenues.
  • These machines are recorded on the balance sheet for the amount of money the business paid for them plus any expenses required to put them into service.
  • With heightened competition in today’s world, companies are urged to make maximum profits.
  • Product costs include all the costs that are involved in making a product.

In investing, it’s the difference in return between a chosen investment and one that is passed up. For companies, opportunity costs do not show up in the financial statements but are useful in planning by management. When using help for kids with auditory processing disorder lean accounting, traditional costing methods are replaced by value-based pricing and lean-focused performance measurements. Financial decision-making is based on the impact on the company’s total value stream profitability.