Cost Accounting For Dummies book cover

Cost Accounting For Dummies

Author:
Kenneth W. Boyd
Published: February 15, 2022

Overview

Take control of overhead, budgeting, and profitability with cost accounting

Cost accounting is one of the most important skills in business, and its popularity as a course in undergraduate and graduate business and management programs speaks to its usefulness. But if you’ve ever felt intimidated by the subject’s jargon or concepts, you can stop worrying. Cost accounting is for everyone!

In Cost Accounting For Dummies, you’ll be taken step-by-step through the basic and advanced topics found in a typical cost accounting class, from how to define costs and how to allocate them to products or services. You’ll learn how to determine if a capital expenditure is worth it and how to design a budget model that forecasts changes in costs based on activity levels.

Whether you’re a student in your first cost accounting course or a professional trying to get a grip on your books, you’ll benefit from:

  • Simple methods to evaluate business risks and rewards
  • Explanations of how to manage and control costs during periods of business change and pivots
  • Descriptions of how to use cost accounting to price IT projects

Cost Accounting For Dummies is the gold standard in getting a firm grasp on the challenging and rewarding world of cost accounting.

Take control of overhead, budgeting, and profitability with cost accounting

Cost accounting is one of the most important skills in business, and its popularity as a course in undergraduate and graduate business and management programs speaks to its usefulness. But if you’ve ever felt intimidated by the subject’s jargon or concepts, you can stop worrying. Cost accounting is for everyone!

In Cost Accounting For Dummies, you’ll be taken step-by-step through the basic and advanced topics found in a typical cost accounting class, from how to define costs and how to allocate them to products or services. You’ll learn how to determine

if a capital expenditure is worth it and how to design a budget model that forecasts changes in costs based on activity levels.

Whether you’re a student in your first cost accounting course or a professional trying to get a grip on your books, you’ll benefit from:

  • Simple methods to evaluate business risks and rewards
  • Explanations of how to manage and control costs during periods of business change and pivots
  • Descriptions of how to use cost accounting to price IT projects

Cost Accounting For Dummies is the gold standard in getting a firm grasp on the challenging and rewarding world of cost accounting.

Cost Accounting For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cost accounting is a valuable tool you use to reduce and eliminate costs in a business. You also use cost accounting to determine a price for your product or service that will allow you to earn a reasonable profit. Familiarize yourself with the most important formulas, terms, and principles you need to know to apply cost accounting. You'll also want to get the scoop on text-taking strategies for cost accounting students.

Articles From The Book

103 results

General Accounting Articles

Separable Cost Reduction in Cost Accounting

In cost accounting, the cost of goods available for sale represents the product’s total costs. Total costs have two components — joint costs and separable costs. When possible, you want to reduce separable costs, but first take a look at your company’s joint costs. Assume you manufacture leaf blowers. Your two products are heavy-duty blowers and yardwork blowers. The separable costs are $1,200,000 for the heavy-duty blower and $912,000 for the yardwork blower. If you know the separable costs and the cost of goods available for sale, you can compute the joint cost allocation. This table shows the process. Each company division provides the separable costs. So altogether, this table gives you a joint cost allocation. Now assume that the heavy-duty blower division is able to sharply reduce its separable costs to an amazingly low $500,000. The first table listed heavy-duty separable costs of $1,200,000. Consider what now happens to heavy-duty’s joint cost allocation. Take a look at the next table. Heavy-duty’s joint cost allocation increases to $1,251,163 (from $551,163). That doesn’t seem right. The goal is to analyze costs to reduce or eliminate them. If you do, supposedly you increase your profits. In this case, the heavy-duty division’s reducing separable costs increased its joint cost allocation. There doesn’t seem to be a benefit to operating more efficiently. Here’s an explanation: The gross margin percentage method (calculated as gross margin ÷ total sales value x 100) locks in total costs as a percentage of sales value. If the gross margin is about 12.5 percent of sales value, it means that costs must be about 87.5 percent of sales value. For heavy-duty, that 87.5 percent total cost number is $1,751,163. Those costs are either separable or joint costs. If one increases, the other decreases. The heavy-duty manager may have a problem with this process. The manager works hard (using good old cost accounting) to lower the separable costs. The manager’s “reward” is a higher joint cost allocation. The heavy-duty division has lowered costs but doesn’t get any savings in total costs. The constant gross margin percentage method clarifies the revenue and profit calculations company-wide. This method eliminates some of the variation between company divisions. Although some managers may complain, each division has the same gross margin percentage. The process makes managing company profit easier.

This is one of those “Here’s why the chief financial officer (CFO) makes the big bucks” moments. As CFO, you explain the gross margin percentage method to the heavy-duty division manager. The goal is to allocate joint costs so that each product maintains the same gross margin percentage of about 12.5 percent. If a division reduces separable costs, it must get a bigger joint cost allocation — otherwise, the gross margin percentage would increase.

Now heavy-duty’s manager should be evaluated based on the successful cost reduction. The manager had a success, and you want to encourage more cost savings. Although the gross margin percentage process requires a bigger joint cost allocation, that must not take away from the manager’s good performance.

General Accounting Articles

Cost Accounting: Joint Cost Allocation and Gross Margin Percentage

In cost accounting, the cost of goods available for sale represents the product’s total costs. Total costs have two components — joint costs and separable costs. Assume the cost of goods available for sale are $1,751,163 and $1,260,837 for the heavy-duty blower and the yardwork blower. Say the separable costs are $1,200,000 and $912,000. If you know the separable costs and the cost of goods available for sale, you can compute the joint cost allocation. The first table shows the process. Each company division provides the separable costs. So altogether, the table gives you a joint cost allocation. Now calculate the gross margin percentage. Say your sales values are $2,000,00 and $1,440,000 for heavy-duty and yardwork blowers. The total cost is the cost of goods available for sale from the first table. The gross margin percentage is the gross margin divided by the sales value. For each product, the gross margin percentage is the same (12.442 percent) as the company’s overall gross margin. Here’s the point of this table: it uses the traditional formula to compute gross margin and gross margin percentage. The table verifies that the calculations are correct. If the heavy-duty product has the higher sales value, it ends up with a higher gross margin in dollars than the yardwork product. However, both sale values are multiplied by the same gross margin percentage. Both products have a gross margin of about 12.5 percent (rounded). That means that about 87.5 percent of sales value represents cost of goods available for sale.

General Accounting Articles

Theoretical and Practical Capacity in Cost Accounting

In cost accounting, two types of capacity focus on production: theoretical capacity and practical capacity. Consider how much you could produce if customer demand was unlimited. Select a capacity method that makes sense to you, and use that as a tool to plan production and spending. Theoretical capacity assumes that nothing in your production ever goes wrong. Accountants describe this capacity as working at full efficiency all the time. Consider what your pie-in-the-sky or perfect-world capacity would be. It’s a world in which everything runs perfectly and no machines or equipment ever break down. It’s utopia where no worker ever makes a mistake. That would be great, wouldn’t it? That’s theoretical capacity, and you can’t reach it. It seems silly, but you need to see this level of capacity to understand the others. Say you own a business that makes athletic running shorts and other clothing. At maximum capacity, you can make 200 pairs of shorts per shift. You run three 8-hour shifts per day, 365 days a year. Based on those numbers, here is your theoretical capacity:

Theoretical capacity = shorts x shifts x 365 days
Theoretical capacity = 200 x 3 x 365 days
Theoretical capacity = 219,000
Unfortunately, this level of capacity isn’t attainable. You need to take into account the unavoidable. That gets you to practical capacity. Practical capacity is the level of capacity that includes unavoidable operating interruptions. Another description is unavoidable losses of operating time. Consider maintenance on equipment, employee vacations, and holidays. You’re willing to accept a good, rather than perfect, capacity level. The people in your company can help you determine your practical capacity. Your production and engineering staff can answer questions about machine capacity and repair time. Your human resources staff can forecast employee availability, based on vacations and holidays. You determine that 250 days is a more realistic number of production days, given unavoidable operating interruptions. Also, you decide that two shifts per day are realistic. Here’s the practical capacity calculation:
Practical capacity = shorts x shifts x days
Practical capacity = 200 x 2 x 250
Practical capacity = 100,000
The practical capacity is 100,000 units (pairs of shorts) per year.