The High Low Method: How to Split Variable and Fixed Costs

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. It is important to remember here that it is the highest and lowest activity levels that need to be identified first rather than the highest/lowest cost. Separating variable and fixed costs can help you understand the business’ cost structure.

  1. In any business, three types of costs exist Fixed Cost, Variable Cost, and Mixed Cost (a combination of fixed and variable costs).
  2. The high-low method is an easy way to separate fixed and variable costs.
  3. The one element of the total cost then provides the second element by deducting it from the total costs.
  4. It can be applied in discerning the fixed and variable elements of the cost of a product, machine, store, geographic sales region, product line, etc.

The highest and lowest activity levels are September at 300 client calls and October at 100 client calls. As far as the high-low method is concerned, these are the only data points that we’ll use in the calculation. The high-low method is an accounting technique used to separate out fixed and variable costs in a limited set of data.

Step 1: Determine the Highest and Lowest Activity Levels

To properly budget or manage your business activities, you must know the fixed and variable costs required for its operation. The high low method can be relatively accurate if the highest and lowest activity levels are representative of the overall cost behavior of the company. However, if the two extreme activity levels are systematically different, then the high low method will produce inaccurate results. The fixed cost can then be calculated at the specific activity level i.e. either high level or low level of activity. The manager of a hotel would like to develop a cost model to predict the future costs of running the hotel.

High-Low Method: Learn How to Estimate Fixed & Variable Costs

Managers can implement this technique with ease since it does not require any special tools. Now add the fixed cost (step 3) and variable cost for the new activity (step 4) together to get the total cost of overheads for May. We’ll take a closer look at how you can utilise this technique and learn how to estimate your fixed and variable costs.

Calculate variable cost per unit using identified high and low activity levels

The high-low method is an easy way to separate fixed and variable costs. This tool can help you understand the business’ cost structure and aid in rational decision-making. However, it can produce less accurate and unreliable results since it only uses two extreme data points. In managerial accounting, both the high-low method and regression analysis separate mixed costs into their fixed and variable components.

The accountant at an events management company is preparing a payroll budget based on costs from the past year. The high-low method involves three main steps to calculate the cost for any level of production. Another drawback of the high-low method is the ready availability of better cost estimation tools. For example, the least-squares regression is a method that takes into consideration all data points and creates an optimized cost estimate. Over 1.8 million professionals use CFI to learn accounting, financial analysis, modeling and more. Start with a free account to explore 20+ always-free courses and hundreds of finance templates and cheat sheets.

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. It involves taking the highest level of activity and the lowest level of activity and comparing the total costs at each level. If the variable cost is a fixed charge per unit and fixed costs remain the same, it is possible to work out the fixed and variable costs by solving the equations.

Some popular methods are the scatter plot method, accounting, and regression analysis. But the high-low cost method provides a simple approach to achieve it. While it is easy to apply, it can distort costs and yield more or less accurate results because of its reliance on two extreme values from one data set. The high-low method is a straightforward, if not slightly lengthy, way to figure out your total costs. While the high-low method is an easy one to use, it also has its disadvantages.

We can calculate the variable cost and fixed cost components by using the High-Low method. The first step is to determine the highest and lowest levels of activities and the units produced against each of these levels. The computations above show that the actual total costs and computed total costs using the equation don’t match. This scenario best shows that there will be instances where the cost equation won’t hold true. Therefore, even though we have zero client support calls, we still incur $1,500 client support costs because these are fixed costs.

The high low method determines the fixed and variable components of a cost. It can be applied in discerning the fixed and variable elements of the cost of a product, machine, store, geographic sales region, product line, etc. The third step is to find the fixed cost using the following formula. This can be used to calculate the total cost of various units for the bakery. Let’s say you are a hotel manager and are concerned about the cost of which the hotel is incurring, and you want to derive a model to predict future cost based on historical cost. You have collected data for the last 10 months and want to see the cost for the next 2 months.

High-Low Method Formula

For instance, if the number of client calls in December reaches 1,000 calls, such is considered an outlier since it’s too far from the other observations. The high-low method is relatively unreliable because it only takes two extreme activity levels into consideration. 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. The high-low accounting method estimates these costs for different production levels, mainly if you have limited data to inform your decisions.

Both of these costs have an impact on overall profitability and knowing each will help you make better decisions. Therefore, total fixed costs for client support calls is $1,500 per month. In the side-by-side computation above, we’ve proven our point that regardless of which reference point we use, we still arrive at $1,500.

Suppose a company Green Star provides the following production scenario for the 06 months of the production period. Highest activity level is 21,000 hours in Q4.Lowest activity level is 15,000 hours in Q1. If the data is inaccurate, either method will produce inaccurate results. Good bookkeeping is still essential flexible budget formula to ensure high-quality data for analysis. To learn more about bookkeeping, our guide on small business bookkeeping will teach you how to perform small business bookkeeping and how to organize accounting data appropriately. To substitute the rest except a, we pick either the high or low point as reference.

As the company can use it to predict the portion of fixed costs with fluctuating activity levels. The high-low method in accounting is the simplest and easiest way to separate mixed costs into their fixed and variable components. By using this method, we observe only the highest and lowest points in the data set with the assumption that all the data have a linear relationship. The high-low method is used to calculate the variable and fixed cost of a product or entity with mixed costs.

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