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Nature of contribution costing technique

Business Studies Notes and

Related Essays

Approaches to Costing

 A Level/AS Level/O Level

Your Burning Questions Answered!

Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using absorption costing compared to marginal costing.

Explain the concept of contribution margin and describe its significance in decision-making.

Analyze the role of fixed and variable costs in the contribution costing technique.

Evaluate the usefulness of contribution costing in short-term planning and decision-making.

Discuss the ethical considerations and potential limitations associated with the use of contribution costing.

Approaches to Costing: Understanding How Businesses Price Their Products

Ever wondered how businesses decide on the price tag for a new phone or the cost of a coffee at your favorite cafe? That's where costing comes into play! Costing is the process of determining the total cost of producing a good or service, which helps businesses set prices, make informed decisions about production, and track their profitability.

There are several different approaches to costing – each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Here's a breakdown of two common approaches:

1. Absorption Costing (Traditional Costing)

-What it is:

Absorption costing assigns all costs (both fixed and variable costs) to the products produced. This includes direct costs like raw materials and labor, as well as indirect costs like rent, utilities, and administrative expenses.

-How it works:

The total cost is divided by the number of units produced to determine the cost per unit. This cost per unit is then used to set the selling price.


Imagine a bakery making cupcakes. The direct costs would include flour, sugar, eggs, and the baker's wages. Indirect costs would be the rent for the bakery, the cost of electricity, and the bakery manager's salary. Absorption costing would add up all these costs, divide them by the number of cupcakes produced, and then add a markup to determine the selling price of each cupcake.


  • Simple and straightforward to understand and implement.
  • Satisfies GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles) for external reporting.


  • Can be misleading in decision-making since it doesn't distinguish between fixed and variable costs.
  • Doesn't highlight the impact of volume changes on profitability.

2. Contribution Costing (Marginal Costing)

-What it is:

Contribution costing focuses on the contribution margin, which is the difference between the selling price per unit and the variable cost per unit. Only variable costs are allocated to the product.

-How it works:

The contribution margin is used to cover fixed costs and generate profit. This approach is particularly useful for short-term decision-making.


Let's stick with the bakery. The variable cost of a cupcake would be the cost of flour, sugar, eggs, and the direct labor for making the cupcake (we're assuming the baker is paid based on the cupcakes produced). Fixed costs would be rent, electricity, and the manager's salary. Contribution costing would calculate the contribution margin by subtracting the variable cost per cupcake from the selling price. This margin is then used to cover the fixed costs and generate profit.


  • Provides a clear picture of the impact of volume changes on profitability.
  • Useful for short-term decision-making, like deciding whether to accept a special order or increase production.


  • Not suitable for external financial reporting since it doesn't allocate all costs to products.

Nature of Contribution Costing Technique

Contribution costing is a powerful tool for understanding profitability and making strategic decisions. It highlights the relationship between volume and profitability, allowing businesses to:

  • Break-Even Analysis: Determine the sales volume needed to cover all fixed costs (the break-even point).
  • Profit Planning: Forecast profits based on different sales volumes and cost structures.
  • Pricing Decisions: Make informed pricing decisions by considering the contribution margin and target profit levels.
  • Short-Term Decision-Making: Quickly assess the profitability of short-term opportunities, like accepting special orders or adding new products.

Real-World Example: The Smartphone Industry

Imagine a smartphone company like Samsung. They use contribution costing to analyze the profitability of each smartphone model. By calculating the contribution margin (selling price minus variable costs), they can determine the most profitable models and make decisions about production levels, pricing strategies, and marketing efforts.

Key Takeaway:

Both absorption costing and contribution costing have their own advantages. The best approach depends on the specific circumstances and the type of decision being made. Understanding the differences between these approaches allows businesses to make informed decisions about pricing, production, and profitability.

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