Break Even Point

What is Break Even Point?

The break-even point (BEP) in economics, business—and specifically cost accounting—is the point at which total cost and total revenue are equal, i.e. “even”. There is no net loss or gain, and one has “broken even”, though opportunity costs have been paid and capital has received the risk-adjusted, expected return. In short, all costs that must be paid are paid, and there is neither profit or loss.

In accounting, the breakeven point formula is determined by dividing the total fixed costs associated with production by the revenue per individual unit minus the variable costs per unit. In this case, fixed costs refer to those which do not change depending upon the number of units sold. Put differently, the breakeven point is the production level at which total revenues for a product equal total expenses.

The term is also used in investing. The breakeven point formula for a stock or futures trade is determined by comparing the market price of an asset to the original cost; the breakeven point is reached when the two prices are equal.

For options trading, the breakeven point is the market price that an underlying asset must reach for an option buyer to avoid a loss if they exercise the option. For a call buyer, the breakeven point is reached when the underlying is equal to the strike price plus the premium paid, while the BEP for a put position is reached when the underlying is equal to the strike price minus the premium paid. The breakeven point doesn’t typically factor in commission costs, although these fees could be included if desired.

Formula for Break Even Analysis

The formula for break even analysis is as follows:

Break even quantity = Fixed costs / (Sales price per unit – Variable cost per unit)

Where:

  • Fixed costs are costs that do not change with varying output (e.g., salary, rent, building machinery).
  • Sales price per unit is the selling price (unit selling price) per unit.
  • Variable cost per unit is the variable costs incurred to create a unit.

It is also helpful to note that sales price per unit minus variable cost per unit is the contribution margin per unit. For example, if a book’s selling price is $100 and its variable costs are $5 to make the book, $95 is the contribution margin per unit and contributes to offsetting the fixed costs.

An Example of Finding the Breakeven Point

XYZ Corporation has calculated that it has fixed costs that consist of its lease, depreciation of its assets, executive salaries, and property taxes. Those fixed costs add up to $60,000. Their product is the widget. Their variable costs associated with producing the widget are raw material, factory labor, and sales commissions. Variable costs have been calculated to be $0.80 per unit. The widget is priced at $2.00 each.
Given this information, we can calculate the breakeven point for XYZ Corporation’s product, the widget, using our formula above:

$60,000 ÷ ($2.00 - $0.80) = 50,000 units

What this answer means is that XYZ Corporation has to produce and sell 50,000 widgets in order to cover their total expenses, fixed and variable. At this level of sales, they will make no profit but will just break even.

What Happens to the Breakeven Point If Sales Change

What if your sales change? For example, if the economy is in a recession, your sales might drop. If sales drop, then you may risk not selling enough to meet your breakeven point. In the example of XYZ Corporation, you might not sell the 50,000 units necessary to break even.

In that case, you would not be able to pay all your expenses. What can you do in this situation? If you look at the breakeven formula, you can see that there are two solutions to this problem: you can either raise the price of your product or you can find ways to cut your costs, both fixed and variable.

How to Use a Break-even Analysis

A break-even analysis allows you to determine your break-even point. But this isn’t the end of your calculations. Once you crunch the numbers, you might find that you have to sell a lot more products than you realized to break even.

At this point, you need to ask yourself whether your current plan is realistic, or whether you need to raise prices, find a way to cut costs, or both. You should also consider whether your products will be successful in the market. Just because the break-even analysis determines the number of products you need to sell, there’s no guarantee that they will sell.

Ideally, you should conduct this analysis before you start a business so you have a good idea of the risk involved. In other words, you should figure out if the business is worth it. Existing businesses should conduct this analysis before launching a new product or service to determine whether or not the potential profit is worth the startup costs.

A break-even analysis isn’t just useful for startup planning. Here are some ways that businesses can use it in their daily operations and planning.

  • Prices: If your analysis shows that your current price is too low to enable you to break even in your desired timeframe, then you might want to raise the item’s cost. Make sure to check the cost of comparable items, though, so you don’t price yourself out of the market.
  • Materials: Are the cost of materials and labor unsustainable? Research how you can maintain your desired level of quality while lowering your costs.
  • New products: Before you launch a new product, take into account both the new variable costs as well as the fixed ones, like design and promotion fees.
  • Planning: When you know exactly how much you need to make, it’s easier to set longer-term goals. For example, if you want to expand your business and move into a larger space with higher rent, you can determine how much more you need to sell to cover new fixed costs.
  • Goals: If you know how many units you need to sell or how much money you need to make to break even, it can serve as a powerful motivational tool for you and your team.

The main purpose of break-even analysis is to determine the minimum output that must be exceeded for a business to profit. It also is a rough indicator of the earnings impact of a marketing activity. A firm can analyze ideal output levels to be knowledgeable on the amount of sales and revenue that would meet and surpass the break-even point. If a business doesn’t meet this level, it often becomes difficult to continue operation.

The break-even point is one of the simplest, yet least-used analytical tools. Identifying a break-even point helps provide a dynamic view of the relationships between sales, costs, and profits. For example, expressing break-even sales as a percentage of actual sales can help managers understand when to expect to break even (by linking the percent to when in the week or month this percent of sales might occur).

The break-even point is a special case of Target Income Sales, where Target Income is 0 (breaking even). This is very important for financial analysis. Any sales made past the breakeven point can be considered profit (after all initial costs have been paid)

Break-even analysis can also provide data that can be useful to the marketing department of a business as well, as it provides financial goals that the business can pass on to marketers so they can try to increase sales.

Break-even analysis can also help businesses see where they could re-structure or cut costs for optimum results. This may help the business become more effective and achieve higher returns. In many cases, if an entrepreneurial venture is seeking to get off of the ground and enter into a market it is advised that they formulate a break-even analysis to suggest to potential financial backers that the business has the potential to be viable and at what points.

Limitations

  • The Break-even analysis is only a supply-side (i.e., costs only) analysis, as it tells you nothing about what sales are actually likely to be for the product at these various prices.
  • It assumes that fixed costs (FC) are constant. Although this is true in the short run, an increase in the scale of production is likely to cause fixed costs to rise.
  • It assumes average variable costs are constant per unit of output, at least in the range of likely quantities of sales. (i.e., linearity).
  • It assumes that the quantity of goods produced is equal to the quantity of goods sold (i.e., there is no change in the quantity of goods held in inventory at the beginning of the period and the quantity of goods held in inventory at the end of the period).
  • In multi-product companies, it assumes that the relative proportions of each product sold and produced are constant (i.e., the sales mix is constant).

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