What Do Relevant Cost Include? A Complete Guide

Relevant costs seem to be the buzzword in the financial world these days. It is no secret that every business aims to make profits and minimize costs along the way. However, not all costs incurred by a business carry the same weight. Relevant costs are the cost incurred by a business that can influence the decision-making process, while irrelevant costs are inconsequential and have no bearing on business decisions.

Relevant costs include everything from salaries and wages, raw materials, and other overheads that are directly related to production or service delivery. These costs are the basis of every business decision made by owners, managers, and stakeholders. Knowing what costs are relevant or not is crucial as it helps to identify the key cost drivers of a business. When analyzing a company’s financial performance, relevant costs form the basis of investment decisions and performance metrics.

When determining the sustainability and profitability of a business, understanding relevant costs is fundamental. Relevant costs paint a picture of the company’s financial performance, highlighting potential areas of growth and where costs can be further reduced. Therefore, it’s always essential to understand relevant costs by separating them from irrelevant costs to make informed decisions. Only then can businesses remain competitive and achieve their long-term goals in a constantly evolving global market.

Definition of Relevant Costs

Relevant costs refer to the costs that are pertinent and essential in making a particular business decision. They are future-oriented costs that impact a company’s future cash flows. Relevant costs help a company to determine the feasibility of a specific project or decision. These expenses are identified by analyzing the costs that differ between alternative courses of action.

  • Future-oriented: Relevant costs consider future expenses rather than past costs or sunk costs, which are already incurred and cannot be recovered.
  • Pertinent and essential: Relevant costs are only those costs that are directly associated with a particular decision and are necessary to make an informed choice.
  • Alternative courses of action: Relevant costs are compared between different courses of action to determine the best option.

To illustrate, suppose a company is deciding to either sell or process further a partially completed product. The relevant costs for this decision would include additional processing expenses, revenue from the sale of the incomplete product, and the estimated selling price after processing. However, the costs that would not be considered relevant for this decision would be the cost of raw materials already used in production, which is a sunk cost.

Relevant Costs Irrelevant Costs
Variable costs Sunk costs
Opportunity costs Fixed costs
Incremental costs Historical costs

Understanding relevant costs is vital in making informed business decisions and evaluating the potential impact on overall financial performance. By focusing on costs that will impact cash flows, a company can effectively allocate resources and make efficient financial decisions.

Types of Relevant Costs

Relevant costs are expenses that are crucial in determining a business strategy or decision. When making a decision, it is essential to consider all the relevant costs that are associated with that decision. The failure to consider relevant costs can lead to wrong decisions, which can lead to significant losses for the business. There are various types of relevant costs that a business should consider when making decisions. They include:

  • Direct costs – These are costs that can be directly attributed to a specific product or service. Examples include direct materials and direct labor.
  • Indirect costs – These are costs that are not directly related to a specific product or service. Examples include rent and utility bills.
  • Opportunity costs – This is the cost of forgoing one alternative for another. It is the cost of the next best option that has been foregone.
  • Sunk costs – These are costs that have already been incurred and cannot be recovered.
  • Marginal costs – These are the costs of producing one additional unit of a product or service.

When making business decisions, it is crucial to understand the types of relevant costs and how they affect the decision. By considering all relevant costs, a business can make a well-informed decision that will lead to better results in the long run.

Relevant Costs in Decision-Making

When making business decisions, it is essential to consider all relevant costs. By analyzing the costs, a business can determine how profitable a decision can be. Relevant costs are used in decision-making to determine whether a certain decision will be worthwhile or not. Some of the key relevant costs that businesses should consider when making decisions include:

  • Differential costs – These are the costs associated with choosing one option over another.
  • Incremental costs – These are the costs of producing or selling one additional unit of a product or service.
  • Marginal costs – These are the costs of producing one additional unit of a product or service.
  • Opportunity costs – This is the cost of forgoing one alternative for another. It is the cost of the next best option that has been foregone.
  • Sunk costs – These are costs that have already been incurred and cannot be recovered.

By considering all relevant costs, a business can make better decisions that will improve its profitability and growth. Failure to consider relevant costs can lead to bad decisions that can negatively affect the business.

Examples of Relevant Costs

To better understand relevant costs, it is essential to look at some examples. Let’s say a company is thinking of producing a new product. The following relevant costs should be considered:

Relevant Costs Description
Development Costs Costs associated with developing the new product
Production Costs Costs associated with producing the new product, including materials, labor, and overhead costs.
Marketing Costs Costs associated with marketing the new product, including advertising, promotions, and sales commissions.
Distribution Costs Costs associated with distributing the new product, including shipping and handling.
Opportunity Costs The cost of not producing other products or services while focusing on the new product.

By analyzing all relevant costs, a business can determine whether it is profitable to produce the new product and at what price it should be sold. Failures to consider all relevant costs will lead to bad decisions that can negatively impact the business.

Opportunity Cost

When we make a decision to choose one thing over another, it’s important to consider what we are giving up. This is where opportunity cost comes in.

Opportunity cost is the cost of not choosing the next best alternative. In other words, it is the benefit or value lost by not choosing the option that provides the highest return.

Here are some examples of opportunity cost:

  • If you choose to invest in stocks, the opportunity cost would be the potential return you could have received by investing in real estate.
  • If you decide to buy a new car now, the opportunity cost would be the money you could have saved by continuing to drive your old car for another year and investing the savings.
  • If you decide to go back to school full time, the opportunity cost would be the potential income you would have earned by continuing to work instead.

Opportunity cost is often difficult to quantify because it requires predicting a hypothetical outcome. However, considering opportunity cost can help us make better decisions by weighing the benefits and drawbacks of each option.

Here is an example of an opportunity cost table:

Option Cost Return Opportunity Cost
Invest in Stocks $10,000 10% return $1,000 (potential real estate returns)
Invest in Real Estate $50,000 5% return $5,000 (potential stock returns)

By considering the opportunity cost, we can see that investing in stocks provides the highest return, even though the initial cost is lower.

When making a decision, it’s important to weigh the opportunity cost against the potential benefit. By doing so, we can make more informed choices and maximize our returns.

Sunk Cost

Sunk costs refer to any expenses that have already been incurred and cannot be recovered. These costs are not relevant to future decision-making processes and should be ignored when considering the overall cost of a project or investment. It is important to understand the concept of sunk costs because failing to do so can lead to poor decision-making that results in additional losses.

When considering sunk costs, it is crucial to avoid the sunk cost fallacy, which is the tendency to continue investing in a project or decision because of the resources already committed to it, even if it no longer makes sense to do so.

To give a simple example, imagine that you purchase a ticket to a concert for $100, but on the day of the event, you fall ill and cannot attend. Although you may feel as though you have lost $100, the cost is actually sunk since it cannot be recovered. As a result, the sunk cost should not factor into any future decision-making processes.

Examples of Sunk Costs

  • Past advertising or marketing expenses
  • Research and development costs for a failed project
  • Legal fees for a lawsuit that has been settled

How to Deal with Sunk Costs

When faced with sunk costs, decision-makers should focus on the future costs and benefits of a particular action or investment. This means considering the incremental cost, or the change in costs as a result of making a particular decision. Ignoring sunk costs can be difficult, but it is essential to make rational decisions that prioritize future outcomes rather than past investments.

One of the most common ways to deal with sunk costs is to forget about them. This can be difficult, especially if you have invested time, money, or emotions, but it is necessary to make sound decisions. Decision-makers need to look forward rather than backward and avoid trying to recoup any losses they may have sustained due to sunk costs.

Summary of Sunk Cost

Sunk costs are expenses that have been incurred and cannot be recovered. They are not relevant to future decision-making processes, and it is important to avoid the sunk cost fallacy when considering them. Instead, decision-makers should focus on the incremental cost and ensure that they make informed decisions based on future outcomes.

Key Takeaways
1. Sunk costs are expenses that have already been incurred and cannot be recovered.
2. Ignoring sunk costs is important when making future investment decisions.
3. Decision-makers should avoid the sunk cost fallacy and focus on incremental costs.

By understanding sunk costs, decision-makers can avoid making poor decisions based on past investments and make informed choices for the future.

Differential Cost

Differential cost, also known as incremental cost, represents the variance in cost between two possible alternatives. The differential cost analysis compares the costs associated with two options to determine which alternative is more economical. This process can help companies to make informed business decisions by analyzing the potential gains and losses associated with each alternative.

  • Differential cost only measures the relevant costs associated with the decision-making process.
  • Irrelevant costs, such as sunk costs, are not included in the differential cost analysis.
  • The differential cost analysis can be used to compare options like leasing vs buying or accepting a special order vs declining it.

For example, consider a business that is considering outsourcing their manufacturing operations to a third-party vendor. The cost of manufacturing in-house is $20 per unit, while the cost of outsourcing is $15 per unit. The differential cost of outsourcing is $5 per unit. In this scenario, outsourcing is the more economical option because it costs $5 less per unit to outsource than to manufacture in-house.

The following table provides an example of a differential cost analysis:

Option Costs Revenue Profit
Option A $100,000 $150,000 $50,000
Option B $75,000 $130,000 $55,000

In this scenario, the differential cost of Option B is $25,000. Although Option B has a slightly lower revenue stream, it has the potential to generate a higher profit because it has a lower cost associated with it.

Incremental Cost

Relevant cost is a crucial factor in decision making, and one important component of relevant costs is incremental cost. Incremental cost is the additional cost incurred by a company as a result of its decision to produce or sell one more unit of a product or service. These costs are incremental because they increase or decrease with each additional unit produced or sold.

  • Incremental cost is also known as marginal cost.
  • These costs should be considered when making decisions such as whether to produce an extra unit, whether or not to continue producing a product or service, or determining the most profitable level of production.
  • Incremental costs include direct costs, such as raw materials, labor, and overhead costs, and indirect costs that may be incurred as production increases, such as rent, utilities, and additional equipment.


To better illustrate incremental cost, let’s take a look at an example. Suppose a bakery produces cakes and sells them for $50 each. The variable costs, which increase with each additional cake produced or sold, include the cost of ingredients, labor, and packaging, totaling $25. A cake’s fixed cost, which remains the same regardless of how many cakes are produced, includes oven depreciation, rent, and utilities, totaling $1,000 per month.

Units Produced and Sold Variable Cost Fixed Cost Total Cost Price per Unit Total Revenue Profit
1 $25 $1000 $1025 $50 $50 -$975
2 $50 $1000 $1050 $50 $100 -$950
3 $75 $1000 $1075 $50 $150 -$925

As the table shows, the incremental cost of each additional cake is $25. So, if the bakery decides to produce and sell one additional cake, the incremental cost will be $25, assuming all costs remain constant.

Knowing the incremental cost is crucial to determining profitability and proper pricing. With this information, the bakery can decide on the best price to sell their cakes or the number of cakes they need to produce to reach a specific profit margin.

Marginal Cost

Marginal cost is one of the most important concepts in economics, especially when it comes to business decision making. In simple terms, it is the additional cost incurred in producing one more unit of output, or the cost per unit of the next item produced. This cost calculation is useful for businesses to determine whether they should increase or decrease their production levels.

  • Marginal costs include both variable and direct costs that increase or decrease based on the level of production. These may include raw materials, labor, and energy costs, for example.
  • While average costs might have a steady decline as output increases due to economies of scale, marginal costs may rise due to diminishing returns or increased complexity of each additional unit.
  • By analyzing the marginal cost compared to the price at which the good or service is sold, businesses can determine the optimal level of production for maximum profit.

Marginal cost plays a crucial role in pricing decisions. If the price of a good is set above the marginal cost, the business is making a profit on that item. But if the price is set below the marginal cost, it is actually losing money on each unit sold.

To better understand the concept of marginal cost, here is an example table showing different levels of production and their associated costs:

Units Produced Total Cost Marginal Cost
0 $0 N/A
1 $10 $10
2 $18 $8
3 $24 $6
4 $30 $6

From the table, we can see that as output increases, the total cost also rises, but not necessarily at a constant rate. The marginal cost column shows that while the first unit costs $10, the second unit only costs an additional $8 to produce. Therefore, if the business were to sell the product for $12, it would make a profit on both units.

Avoidable Cost

When it comes to relevant cost, one important concept to understand is avoidable cost. Avoidable costs are costs that can be eliminated or reduced if a particular course of action is taken. Essentially, these costs are considered avoidable because they only happen if a decision is made to take a certain action.

  • Avoidable costs can include things like labor, materials, and overhead expenses that are only necessary for a specific project or activity.
  • These costs can also include expenses that can be reduced or eliminated if certain decisions are made. For example, a company may choose to outsource a particular service to an outside vendor to reduce labor costs.
  • It is important for businesses to identify avoidable costs when making decisions about whether or not to pursue a particular project or course of action. By understanding which costs can be eliminated or reduced, businesses can make more informed decisions that ultimately lead to greater profitability.

Below is an example of avoidable costs in a business scenario:

A local bakery is considering expanding their operations to meet increasing demand for their products. The bakery owner conducts a cost analysis to determine if the expansion will be profitable. In doing so, they identify certain costs that can be classified as avoidable, such as leasing additional space for a new kitchen and hiring new staff to work in the expanded business. The bakery owner decides to take action on these avoidable costs by seeking out shared kitchen space for rent during peak times and adjusting staffing levels accordingly. By doing so, they are able to reduce the cost of expansion and make the decision to move forward with their plans.

Out-of-Pocket Cost

Out-of-pocket cost refers to the expenses paid by an individual for a product or service that are not covered by insurance and are not reimbursable. These costs are considered a relevant cost because they affect the decision-making process and can impact the overall financial viability of a project or investment.

  • Examples of out-of-pocket costs include:
  • – Deductibles and co-pays for medical treatment
  • – Any expenses not covered by insurance, such as cosmetic surgery
  • – Transportation costs related to receiving medical treatment
  • – Home modifications for medical reasons
  • – Personal protective equipment and safety gear for a job

Some out-of-pocket costs may also have tax implications. For example, medical expenses that exceed a certain percentage of an individual’s income may be tax-deductible.

When evaluating a project or investment, it is important to consider all out-of-pocket costs associated with the venture. These costs can often be overlooked or underestimated, leading to inaccurate projections and potentially negative financial outcomes.

Examples of Out-of-Pocket Costs Approximate Cost
Deductibles and co-pays for medical treatment $50-$500 per visit
Transportation costs related to medical treatment $20-$100 per visit
Personal protective equipment and safety gear for a job $50-$200 per year

By accurately accounting for out-of-pocket costs, individuals and organizations can make more informed decisions and ensure the financial viability of their projects and investments.

Future Costs

When making business decisions, it is important to consider not only the relevant costs of the present, but also the future costs that may arise. These future costs can have a significant impact on the overall profitability of a project or business. Future costs can be broken down into two categories: sunk costs and opportunity costs.

  • Sunk Costs: These are costs that have already been incurred and cannot be recovered. Sunk costs should not be taken into account when making business decisions since they cannot be changed or influenced. Examples of sunk costs include depreciation on fixed assets and expenses already paid for advertising campaigns that have already been completed.
  • Opportunity Costs: These are costs that arise from choosing one option over another. When making business decisions, it is important to consider the potential benefits that could have been gained if an alternative option was chosen. For example, if a business decides to invest in a new product line, it must consider the potential profits that could have been made if the investment was instead used to expand an existing product line. Opportunity costs are not recorded in accounting statements, but they are important to consider when making strategic business decisions.

When considering future costs, it is also important to take into account any potential changes in the market or economy. The cost of raw materials may increase, the demand for a product may decrease, or new competitors may enter the market. Performing a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) can help businesses identify potential future costs and make informed decisions.

Future costs can also be estimated through the use of financial models. These models use historical data and assumptions about future trends to make predictions about future costs and revenues. Sensitivity analysis can also be performed to test how changes in assumptions could affect the accuracy of the financial models. By taking into account both sunk costs and opportunity costs, as well as potential changes in the market or economy, businesses can make better decisions and increase their chances of success.

Advantages of considering future costs: Disadvantages of not considering future costs:
Allows for better decision-making May lead to short-term thinking
Helps identify potential risks May result in missed opportunities
Increases chances of long-term success May result in unforeseen costs

Overall, considering future costs is essential to making informed business decisions. By taking into account both sunk costs and opportunity costs, as well as potential changes in the market or economy, businesses can increase their chances of success and long-term profitability.

What Do Relevant Cost Include: FAQs

Q: What do relevant cost include?
A: Relevant cost includes all the expenses which are directly related to the product or decision being made. These costs include the cost of raw material, labor, and any expenses that are required to make the product.

Q: Are sunk costs considered as relevant costs?
A: No, sunk costs are not considered as relevant costs as they are already incurred and cannot be recovered.

Q: Do overhead costs come under relevant costs?
A: It depends on the situation, if the overhead costs are specific to the product being evaluated, then they can be considered as relevant costs.

Q: What is the significance of relevant cost in decision making?
A: Relevant cost plays a vital role in decision making as it helps in determining the profitability of a particular product or decision.

Q: Can opportunity cost be considered a relevant cost?
A: Yes, opportunity cost is considered a relevant cost as it is the cost of the opportunity forgone by making a particular decision.

Q: What is marginal cost, and does it come under relevant cost?
A: Marginal cost is the cost of producing one additional unit of a product, and yes, it is considered as a relevant cost.

Q: How can relevant cost help in making an effective decision?
A: By identifying the relevant costs, decision-makers can evaluate the profitability of each option, thereby making an informed decision based on which option provides the highest return on investment.


We hope this article has provided you with a better understanding of what relevant cost includes. By knowing the expenses associated with making a product or decision, you can make informed business decisions that will help your business thrive. Thanks for reading! We look forward to seeing you again for more informative content.