The higher production volumes also reduce the variable proportion of costs too. The high-low method can be used to identify these patterns and can split the portions of variable and fixed costs. The variable cost per unit is equal to the slope of the cost volume line (i.e. change in total cost ÷ change in number of units produced). The highest activity for the bakery occurred in October when it baked the highest number of cakes, while August had the lowest activity level with only 70 cakes baked at a cost of $3,750.

  • If the business is established, this could be done by comparing the same time period in different years.
  • (Be sure to use the MHs that occurred between the meter reading dates appearing on the bill.) The cost of electricity was $16,000 in the month when its lowest activity was 100,000 MHs.
  • Fixed costs (also known as overheads) stay the same regardless of the level of business activity.

Data x represents the number of units while y represents the corresponding cost. Our goal is to deliver the most understandable and comprehensive explanations of financial topics using simple writing complemented by helpful graphics and animation videos. High-low method is a method of estimating a cost function that uses only the highest and values of the cost driver within the relevant range. Due to its unreliability, high low method should be carefully used, usually in cases where the data is simple and not too scattered.

Advantages and disadvantages of the high-low method accounting formula

The high-low method is a simple analysis that takes less calculation work. It only requires the high and low points of the data and can be worked through scan and track receipts for free 2020 with a simple calculator. Simply adding the fixed cost (Step 3) and variable cost (Step 4) gives us the total cost of factory overheads in April.

  • Suppose the variable cost per unit is fixed, and fixed costs at the highest and lowest production levels remain the same.
  • Thus, the high-low method should only be used when it is not possible to obtain actual billing data.
  • Cost accounting is useful because it can show where a company spends money, how much it earns, and where it loses money.
  • Fixed costs can be found be deducting the total variable cost for a given activity level (i.e. 6000 or 4000) from the total cost of that activity level.
  • The average activity level and the average cost for the periods in the database are then computed.

Get instant access to lessons taught by experienced private equity pros and bulge bracket investment bankers including financial statement modeling, DCF, M&A, LBO, Comps and Excel Modeling. We should be really careful when choosing the data for calculation with this tool, as any small mistake can lead to an inaccurate result. This method has disadvantages in that it fits a straight line to any set of cost data, regardless of how unpredictable the cost behavior pattern is. Furthermore, unless you have access to a computer, computations necessitated by the least squares approach are tedious and time-consuming. However, to identify these costs, we need to observe the cost behaviors strongly. An example of a relevant cost is future cost and opportunity cost, whereas irrelevant cost is sunk cost and committed cost.

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Relevant/ Irrelevant costs – These are also known as avoidable and unavoidable costs. Avoidable costs are the ones that are affected by the decision of a manager, whereas unavoidable costs are costs that are not affected by the decision of managers. Some common examples of these costs are supervision costs and marketing costs.

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The highest activity level is 1000 hours in June with a cost of $4,400, and the lowest activity level is 500 hours in May with a cost of $3,400. For the last 12 months, you have noted the monthly cost and the number of burgers sold in the corresponding month. Now you want to use a high-low method to segregate fixed and variable costs. Fixed costs (also known as overheads) stay the same regardless of the level of business activity. Variable costs, by contrast, increase and decrease in line with output (also known as unit activity). The challenge of the high-low method is therefore to calculate, or at least estimate, the variable costs accurately.

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This cost includes a fixed charge and a variable element (fixed cost + variable element). Let’s assume that the company is billed monthly for its electricity usage. The cost of electricity was $18,000 in the month when its highest activity was 120,000 machine hours (MHs). (Be sure to use the MHs that occurred between the meter reading dates appearing on the bill.) The cost of electricity was $16,000 in the month when its lowest activity was 100,000 MHs. This shows that the total monthly cost of electricity changed by $2,000 ($18,000 vs. $16,000) when the number of MHs changed by 20,000 (120,000 vs. 100,000). In other words, the variable cost rate was $0.10 per machine hour ($2,000/20,000 MHs).

Although the high-low method is designed to be used to calculate costs at maximum and minimum output, the formula can be used for any level of output. It can be useful to apply the formula to different levels of production if any of your variable costs increase in a non-linear way. This is standard practice with costs that relate to contracts for goods or services. Hence, when we deduct USD 45,000 in USD 55,000, the fixed cost is net and the variable cost to the extent of equality in the level of production is eliminated. In other words, as fixed cost is the same in both months, the fixed cost has been eliminated by deduction. Consider the total production cost of February was USD 45,000 and the number of units produced was 10,000.


We can calculate the variable cost and fixed cost components by using the High-Low method. Although easy to understand, high low method may be unreliable because it ignores all the data except for the two extremes. It can be argued that activity-cost pairs (i.e. activity level and the corresponding total cost) which are not representative of the set of data should be excluded before using high-low method. The highest activity level is 18,000 in Q4, and the lowest activity level is 10,000 in Q1. Using either the high or low activity cost should yield approximately the same fixed cost value.

The analysis can also provide useful forecasts for future activity level cost analysis. However, the reliability of the variable costs with two extreme activity levels poses questions over the effectiveness of the method. In cost accounting, the high-low method is a way of attempting to separate out fixed and variable costs given a limited amount of data. The high-low method involves taking the highest level of activity and the lowest level of activity and comparing the total costs at each level. The biggest advantage of the High-Low method is that uses a simple mathematical equation to find out the variable cost per unit.

If it’s higher, then it could make sense to apply the high-low calculation to each tier as well as to the overall maximum and minimum points. Cost accounting is used for several purposes, such as standard costing, activity-based costing, lean accounting, and marginal costing. To understand the high-low method, first, we need to understand management accounting. The high-low method is used in the field of management accounting, which is an essential part of accounting.

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