# What is a cost variance? However, a negative or unfavorable variance does not necessarily mean that your project is in trouble. It could simply mean that the original budget was too optimistic and that you need to take action to ensure all costs stay under control. In this post, we’ll explain what cost variance is and how you can apply the cost variance formula. We’ll also look at different individual cost variance formulas and how to calculate each. In order to solve for CPI, you must divide earned value by actual costs. A cost variance percentage is the percentage over or under budget for a project is.

Cost Variance indicates how much over or under budget the project is in terms of percentage. The purpose of Cost Variance is to help you track your finances as your project progresses and allow the Program Manager and program personnel to determine how best to utilize their remaining resources. Access and download collection of free Templates to help power your productivity and performance. When I introduced job-order costing in Chapter 4, I simultaneously introduced “normal costing” (from the illustration linked above) even without naming it as such. Cost Variance % indicates how much over – or under-budget the project is in terms of percentage.

## 8.1 Mix Variances

There is an unfavorable variance when the actual cost incurred is greater than the budgeted amount. There is a favorable variance when the actual cost incurred is lower than the budgeted amount. Whether a variance ends up being positive or negative is partially due to the care with which the original budget was assembled. If there is no reasonable foundation for a budgeted cost, then the resulting variance may be irrelevant from a management perspective. The
cumulative cost variance is often calculated for a time horizon from the
beginning of a project to the most recent period. For
instance, if you are in month 4 of a project, you would calculate the
point-in-time cost variance of that period by using the actual cost (AC) and
earned value (EV) of the 4th month only.

• An unfavorable direct materials quantity variance suggests the firm is being inefficient with its direct materials on the production floor.
• During the period, 600,000 feet of flat nylon cord costing \$330,000 were purchased and used.
• The completed top section of the template contains all the numbers needed to compute the variable manufacturing overhead efficiency (quantity) and rate (price) variances.
• For example, some managers may decide that variances under 10% of the standard cost aren’t worth investigating.

Indirect materials are not easily and economically traced to a particular product. Examples of indirect materials are items such as nails, screws, sandpaper, and glue. Indirect materials are included in the manufacturing overhead category, not the direct materials category.

Often, by analyzing these variances, companies are able to use the information to identify a problem so that it can be fixed or simply to improve overall company performance. Let’s say the firm used 10,000 units of input A and 16,000 units of input B and produced 5,000 finished goods units. The yield variance reflects the variation between standard finished goods output (given inputs) and the actual finished goods output (given inputs).

## Cost Variance (CV) Tools and Resources

Each unit should require 0.25 direct labor hours for total variable manufacturing overhead costs per unit of \$0.75. It is important to note that cost standards are established before the work is started. Production managers are responsible for controlling costs and meeting the target cost, which is \$7.35 per unit in this case. Actual manufacturing data are collected after the period under consideration is finished. It could also be related to the firm’s differentiation strategy and purchasing high-quality direct materials. With a little investigative effort, the firm can develop an action plan to improve this variance. Projects that require direct materials will have a material cost variance, which calculates the difference between the amount budgeted for materials and the amount actually spent. Cost variance (also referred to as CV) is the difference between project costs estimated during the planning phase and the actual costs.

## What is Variance Analysis?

A number of standard costing systems have been designed to present Material, Labour and Overhead cost variances as discussed earlier. No doubt, these variables are invaluable, but many accountants do think that a system will remain incomplete if sales variances are not included in the presentation of information to the management. Based on the equation above, a positive price variance means the actual costs have increased over the standard price, and a negative price variance means the actual costs have decreased over the standard price. Standard costing can technically be combined with any of the costing systems described in Chapters 4, 5, and 6.

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ProjectManager fills formulas with the correct values automatically and prevents any human error that can lead to major budgeting mistakes. Factors like total budget, actual costs, earned values and more are updated in real-time so that you’re always seeing the most current data. One example of cost variance is comparing the planned cost of materials to bake a cake with the actual cost of materials to bake a cake.

Sales volume variance is actionable because it reflects the overall volume of sales. An unfavorable sales volume variance could reflect an unmotivated sales force, poor brand recognition, lack of consumer confidence, or competitive pressure. So I don’t think it’s fair to call this process a truly “scientific” process. The first key to keeping a project’s costs under control is to ensure that initial costs estimates are reasonably accurate.

## Finance – Cost variance formula

While a project plan always includes the cost of labor, this can also vary from prediction to actual result. Labor cost variance is a way to compare the plan with the actual cost spent on labor. There are four variables required to apply the labor cost variance formula. This variance should be investigated to determine if the savings will be ongoing or temporary. Variance analysis can be summarized as an analysis of the difference between planned and actual numbers. The sum of all variances gives a picture of the overall over-performance or under-performance for a particular reporting period.

That’s because the “standard costs versus normal costs versus actual costs” decision answers a different question than the “job-order costing versus activity-based costing versus process costing” decision. The difference between the two goes to the direct materials quantity variance. That line of the journal entry is a debit, meaning the variance is unfavorable. An unfavorable quantity variance suggests the firm is spending more time than budgeted on each unit produced. This might be due to poor training, poor retention (which lowers the average tenure and skill level of each employee), or excessive re-work due to low quality materials. With a little investigation a plan of action can be easily developed from this variance.

This variance should be investigated to determine if the actual wages paid for direct labor can be lowered in future periods or if the standard direct labor rate per hour needs to be adjusted. For example, an investigation could reveal that the company had to pay a higher rate to attract employees, so the standard hourly direct labor rate needs to be adjusted. This result is interpreted identity thieves used leaked pii to steal adp payroll info as the organization paid \$30,000 more for materials used in production than they planned. This direct materials price variance could indicate a purchasing issue, such as the purchasing department paying more than the agreed-upon amount (purchase order amount). Or the cause could be a supplier or sourcing issue in which the material can be sourced cheaper elsewhere.

The formula for fixed overhead variance is standard (or budgeted) overhead cost minus actual overhead cost. Both figures are overhead totals, so they encompass the total cost of all of your overhead expenses for a given period. Before starting a project, project managers develop a project plan and a budget. This states how many hours it should take, how many people, any physical resources needed, the overall timeline, and costs broken down by type. A good estimate in the project plan will help the project stay on track and meet the goals of the project manager.

Refer to the total variable manufacturing overhead variance in the top section of the template. Total standard quantity is calculated as standard quantity of the cost driver per unit times actual production, or 0.25 direct labor hours per unit times 150,000 units produced equals 37,500 direct labor hours. The standard variable manufacturing overhead rate per direct labor hour was established as \$3. Each tool has its own strengths and features, so project managers should choose the one that fits best with the needs of their project and their organization’s general approach to project management. You are a project manager with a \$100,000 budget and 12 months to complete the project. You’ve spent \$60,000 for six months but have only completed 40% of the job.

Cost variances are a key part of the standard costing system used by some manufacturers. In such a system, the cost variances direct attention to the difference between 1) the standard, predetermined and expected costs of the good output, and 2) the actual manufacturing costs incurred. These cost variances send a signal to management that the company is experiencing actual costs that are different from the company’s plan. As demonstrated in this chapter, standard costs and variance analysis are tools used to project manufacturing product costs and evaluate production performance. Standard costs variance analysis is used to determine the variances between the standard amounts projected for manufacturing costs and the actual amounts incurred.

When multiple types of inputs go into a quantity variance, that variance is less useful. That means accumulating some costs at the job-level and some costs at the process-level (hybrid systems are sometimes called “operation costing”). Backflush cost accumulation is listed as well, which we’ll cover in Chapter 8.

Cost variances are most commonly tracked for expense line items, but can also be tracked at the job or project level, as long as there is a budget or standard against which it can be calculated. These variances form a standard part of many management reporting systems. Cost Variance (CV) is an indicator of the difference between earned value and actual costs in a project.

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