What is cost and its types – Definition, Explanation and Examples


Cost is the sacrifice made, usually measured by the resources given up, to achieve a particular purpose. Sacrifice made in order to obtain some goods or services

  • Costs are not always Expenses.
  • Some costs are Assets, other costs are Expenses
  • Expenses are Expired (Used up) Costs

Eventually, costs will become expenses.

Types of cost

Product cost

It is cost assigned to goods either purchased or manufactured for resale. Costs that are incurred for
producing or buying a product. Product costs are initially identified as part of inventory on hand. (Raw
materials, Work-in-process, Finished goods).

Inventoriable cost

It is another name for product cost, and it is stored as the cost of inventory until the goods are sold. Become expenses (Cost of goods sold) when the product is sold.

Period cost

Period costs are expensed during the time period in which they are incurred. Costs that are treated as expenses of the period in which the costs are incurred.


An expense is the consumption of assets for the purpose of generating revenue.

Direct cost

Cost that can be traced to specific segments of operations

Indirect cost

Cost that cannot be identified with particular segments. Conunon costs, Shared by multiple segments.


Segments = Plastic chairs (P) & Wood chairs (W)

Cost and its types - Example

Manufacturing cost

Product costs consisting of:

Direct material (DM)
Direct labor (DL)
Manufacturing overhead (MOH, OH)

Manufacturing cost formula:

Manufacturing costs = DM + DL + MOH

Direct material (DM)

It is raw material that is physically incorporated into the finished product.

Direct labor cost

It is the cost of salaries, wages, and fringe benefits for personnel who work directly on the manufactured products.

Manufacturing overhead

Manufacturing costs other than direct material and direct labor costs.

  • Indirect material
    These are required for the production process but do not become an integral part of the finished product.
  • Indirect labor
    It is the cost of personnel who do not work directly on the product. but whose services are necessary for the manufacturing process.

Conversion cost

Conversion costs are direct labor costs plus manufacturing-overhead costs.

Prime costs

These are costs of direct material and direct labor.

Non-manufacturing cost

Period costs (expenses) incurred in and Administrative activities.

Variable cost

A variable cost changes in total in direct proportion to a change in the level of activity.

Fixed cost

It does not change in total as activity changes.

Marginal cost

Extra cost incurred in producing an additional unit is called marginal cost.

Incremental cost

These types of costs are the difference between costs for the corresponding items under each alternative
being considered. For example, incremental cost increasing output from $1 000 to $1 100 units per week is the additional cost of producing an extra 100 units per week.

Difference between marginal and incremental cost

The main difference is that marginal cost represents the additional cost of one extra unit of output whereas incremental cost represents the additional cost resulting from a group of additional units of output.

Sunk cost

These are the costs that have been created by a decision made in the past and that cannot be changed by any decision that will be made in the future. Written down values of any asset previously purchased are the examples of sunk costs.

Opportunity cost

It is a cost that measures the opportunity that is lost or sacrificed when the choice of one course of action requires that an alternative course of action be given up. It is important to note that opportunity cost only applies to such resources that have some alternative uses. If no alternative use of resources exists then the opportunity cost is zero.

Cost of goods sold

It is the expense measured by the cost of the finished goods sold during a period of time.

Work in process

Partially completed products not yet ready for sale.

Finished goods

Completed goods available for sale.

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