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May 30, 2023 4:29:36 PM | Sell Your Products Contribution Margin: How To Calculate It + Frequently Asked Questions

Learn what is and how to calculate contribution margin, the difference between fixed and variable expenses, and how these numbers can impact your business!

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Suppose you’re having a hard time covering your e-business expenses. In that case, we’re going to teach you how to calculate contribution margin, the difference between fixed and variable expenses, and how these numbers can impact your business’ balance. 

What is the contribution margin?

The contribution margin is a financial metric that measures a company’s profitability and efficiency of operating expenses. It represents the revenue available to cover a company’s fixed costs, contributing towards its profits after deducting the variable costs associated with producing or delivering a product or service.

In other words, it indicates how much each unit of sale contributes to covering the company's fixed expenses and generating profit! It’s an important metric such as the conversion rate because it can impact businesses' expenses.

The contribution margin is an essential metric for businesses because it helps assess the profitability of individual products, services or business segments.

The higher a company’s contribution margin is, the more significant the proportion of revenue available to cover fixed costs and contribute to profits, providing insights into the pricing strategy, cost structure, and overall financial health of a company.

 

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Variable costs x fixed costs

Various dollars over a blue squared background, representing variable costs and fixed costs and its part on contribution margin.

While working on finances, accountants produce documents such as an income statement or balance sheet, categorizing the company’s revenue, expenses and all the costs involved in maintaining the business. 

To help them prepare it, they usually categorize their total costs into two main categories: variable and fixed costs.

Variable costs

Variable costs are the direct production costs, meaning that they change in direct proportion to the level of production or sales. As the volume of production or sales increases, higher variable costs tend to follow, and vice versa.

For example, let’s suppose you run an ecommerce business and an unexpected increase in sales occurred in May because of a natural phenomenon, and you had to produce more products to address demand. Your total variable costs are higher than normal because your production and sales expenses were successful.

As other examples of expenses that can be considered variable costs, we have raw materials, direct labor, packaging, logistics, transportation expenses and shipping expenses, and every additional direct cost associated with the production or delivery of goods and services.

Fixed costs

A fixed cost is the opposite of a variable cost. Commonly named overhead costs, the fixed costs remain unchanged, no matter the level of production o sales. Regardless of the output volume, they’re incurred to support the company’s operations.

Fixed costs include rent, administrative staff salaries, utilities and insurance. These costs are necessary to keep the business running, even without sales or production activities. Covering fixed costs is the goal when you calculate contribution margin.

How to calculate contribution margin

The ilustration of a calculator represanting how to calculate contribution margin.

Now it’s time to practice! To calculate the contribution margin, you must subtract the total variable costs from the revenue generated by a product or service. The contribution margin formula is:

 

Contribution Margin = Revenue - Variable Costs

 

As we already told you, variable costs are the costs that change in direct proportion to the level of production or sales. Revenue represents the total sales generated by a product or service.

For example, let's say a company sells a product for $1000, and the variable costs associated with producing and selling that product amount to $600. The contribution margin would be:

 

$1000 - $600 = $400

 

Contribution margin ratio

Another important metric in the contribution margin calculation that you must pay attention to is the contribution margin ratio. The contribution margin ratio is a related metric that expresses the contribution margin as a percentage of the total sales revenue. 

It helps in assessing the profitability and efficiency of a company's operations. The formula for the contribution margin ratio is:

 

Contribution Margin Ratio = (Contribution Margin / Revenue) * 100

 

The contribution margin ratio provides a more standardized measure of profitability across different revenue levels. A higher contribution margin ratio indicates that a more significant proportion of each dollar of total revenue is available to cover fixed costs and contribute to profits, giving management an overview of the company’s health.

Contribution margin: conclusion

An ilustration of people around graphics and money bags, representing how we must increase the contribution margin.

Here we are! If you’re here, you’ve probably mastered calculating your business's contribution margin.

Summarizing the key points to ensure you learned everything you need, the contribution margin is a financial metric representing the revenue that can be used to cover the fixed costs and contribute to profits after deducting variable expenses.

It indicates the profitability of a product or service and provides insights into a company’s cost structure and financial health. To calculate it using the contribution margin formula, you need to subtract the variable costs from the revenue generated by a product or service. The resulting value represents the total amount available for your business to cover its overhead costs and contribute to gross profit.

If you got it, now you have all you need to analyze the financial performance of your business, turning it into a profitable company with accurate decisions and knowledge to become a successful entrepreneur.

 

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Contribution margin: FAQ

1. What is the contribution margin?

The contribution margin is a financial metric representing the revenue available to cover fixed costs and contribute to profits after deducting variable expenses. It measures the profitability and efficiency of a product, service or business segment.

2. How is the contribution margin different from the profit margin?

Contribution margin focuses on the portion of revenue available to cover fixed costs and contribute to profits, while profit margin represents the net income as a percentage of total revenue. Profit margin considers all costs, including fixed costs, whereas contribution margin only considers variable costs.

3. What is the significance of a high contribution margin?

A great contribution margin implies that a more significant proportion of each unit of sale contributes towards covering fixed expenses and generating profits. It indicates a more profitable product or service and provides a cushion to withstand unforeseen costs or changes in revenue. Businesses are always trying to avoid a low contribution margin because it means they’re not having a return on investments.

4. How is the contribution margin calculated using variable cost per unit?

To calculate the contribution margin, subtract the variable cost per unit from the selling price per unit. The resulting value represents the contribution margin per unit, which contributes towards covering fixed expenses.

5. How does the contribution margin affect the break-even point?

The break-even point is when your total sales revenue equals total costs, resulting in zero profit. A higher contribution margin lowers the break-even point since each unit sold contributes more towards covering fixed expenses, allowing the business to reach the break-even point faster.

6. Can the contribution margin cover fixed expenses?

Yes, the contribution margin is specifically designed to cover fixed expenses. After covering variable costs, the remaining contribution margin covers fixed expenses and generates net income.

7. How is net profit related to contribution margin and net sales revenue?

Net profit is the final amount after subtracting all expenses, including variable and fixed costs, from the total revenue. The contribution margin is the portion of revenue available to cover fixed costs and contribute towards profits. You can determine net profit by subtracting all expenses, including fixed fees, from the contribution margin. Net sales revenue refers to the total revenue generated from the sales before deducting any expenses.

8. How is net income divided between contribution margin and fixed costs?

Net income results from subtracting all your expenses from the total revenue. The contribution margin represents the revenue available to cover fixed costs and contribute towards profits. Once the contribution margin covers fixed costs, any remaining amount is considered net income. Therefore, net income is divided between the contribution margin and fixed costs, with the contribution margin contributing towards profits.

09. How is contribution margin analysis beneficial for business decision-making?

Contribution margin analysis provides valuable insights into the profitability of different products, services or business segments. By evaluating the contribution margin of each offering, businesses can identify which products or services contribute the most to overall profitability. This analysis helps make informed decisions regarding pricing strategies, resource allocation, product mix optimization, and cost management. It enables businesses to focus on offerings with a high contribution margin to maximize profitability and make strategic adjustments to underperforming products or services.

10. What is the difference between unit contribution margin and contribution margin per unit?

Unit contribution margin is the contribution margin generated by a single unit of a product or service. It represents the revenue available from each unit to cover fixed costs and contribute towards profits. On the other hand, the contribution margin per unit is the same as unit contribution margin and refers to the contribution margin expressed in monetary terms per unit of sale. Both terms are used interchangeably to evaluate the profitability of individual units and determine the overall impact on the business's financial performance.

 

João Gabriel Freitas

About the author: João Gabriel Freitas

João Gabriel Freitas is a Content Marketing Specialist at Shoplazza. He's addicted to discovering new restaurants and loves to walk around the city. When he's at home, he's probably listening to music or trying to learn a new language.