How To Calculate A Contribution Margin

By Jay White

June 7, 2015   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

A contribution margin affects and measures how a business’s product sales affect its ending profit. The complete contribution margin for volume of sales is calculated by subtracting the variable costs from the amounts of the sales themselves. Variable costs can include manufacturing, administrative or miscellaneous selling costs.

No fixed costs are subtracted when calculating a contribution margin. You’ll need to calculate the gross profit by subtracting the total cost of the goods sold from the total sales. Since the cost of goods sold includes both variable and fixed costs, this amount is not the same as the calculated contribution margin. When computing the contribution margin, you have the options of calculating it as a ratio, as a total amount or per unit sold.

In any of the three forms of a contribution margin, this resulting number can explain the connections and interactions among various components of the company. These include sales volumes, various costs, fixed costs and sales prices. This information can be invaluable for you as a business owner because it can give you insights about how to plan future sales and pricing.

The total contribution margin for a company equals the total sales minus the total variable costs. This amount is instrumental in calculating your company’s overall profitability. Your business’s net income is equal to the excess of contribution margins over the fixed costs. Using your calculated contribution margin, you can create what’s known as a contribution margin statement as a snapshot of your current profitability. This kind of income statement first subtracts the variable costs and then the fixed costs from the total sales. The main advantage of this statement is to make it easier to understand the current cost behavior and the effects of sales on profitability.

Sales, variable costs and contribution margins change and fluctuate in proportion to one another. Fixed costs remain the same, but sales and contribution margins change by the same percentages each time. As long as it’s calculated correctly, the contribution margin income statement should reflect the same total figure as the company’s traditional income statement. Owners and accountants should keep in mind that calculating contribution margins is not considered a part of the generally accepted accounting practices, but this number can still provide useful internal company insights.

Jay White

I started Dumb Little Man many years ago so great authors, writers and bloggers could share their life "hacks" and tips for success with everyone. I hope you find something you like!

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