Contribution Margin

What is a Contribution Margin?

In a very simple language, contribution margin means the excess of selling price over the variable cost of manufacturing. This term has two words – Contribution and Margin.

Contribution is the pool or pool of funds/revenues which is available to the entity after deducting all the variable costs for manufacture and supply of the product(s). This is the overall revenue available and is at the disposal of the entity for meeting all other fixed operating expenses and residual as profits.

When this contribution is expressed as a ratio or percentage of product price/ selling price, it is called Contribution Margin.

The availability of the contribution pool indicates that the entity is able to meet its variable costs comfortably. The higher the contribution pool, the higher the chance of breaking even and making profits. Contribution margin means the selling price minus the variable cost incurred on the product.

Thus, it is the leftover revenue after deducting the variable costs. It is the ability of the firm to cover its variable cost with the revenue.

Importance of Contribution Margin

The calculation of contribution margin is of great significance for any business for that matter. This is irrespective of the field and size of the business. It helps the business prompt a detailed cost analysis and guides the level of profitability. And whether the current contribution level is sufficient to break even, earn profits or sustain the business on a long-term basis.

Besides helping in knowing the profitability status at current price and revenue levels, it also helps in guiding and leading to many financial analyses and decisions.

  1. It can help to know which products are giving the highest contribution or which products the company is selling at a loss, or which product line is underperforming.
  2. Which process attracts the maximum costs and whether that can be outsourced to reduce the overall cost and increase the contribution to know the margins of different product lines.
  3. It can help evaluate whether the company should continue to manufacture or buy the product at a mid-process stage to save cost.
  4. This will suggest whether the extra bulk orders and at what minimum quantity and price the business should accept.

Thus, based on these analyses, after calculating and evaluating the Contribution Margin, the business can frame strategies and take necessary actions. By compiling the data, the company can increase the sales of the products that yield higher margins.

Let us now understand how to find a contribution margin.

How to Find?

The contribution margin concept gives the business the actual amount the company needs to cover its fixed costs after paying its variable cost. The formula for calculation or determining the contribution margin is as given below:

Contribution Margin Formula

Contribution (and loosely called contribution margin) = Sales Revenue – all Variable Expenses

The formula of Contribution Margin =  Contribution / Total Revenue

Expressed in Ratio (for example, 2:5)  Or in percentage (for example, 40%)     


Contribution / Selling Price is again expressed as a ratio or percentage.

Let us take an example to better understand the contribution margin formula’s application.

Example of Contribution Margin

Suppose ABC Ltd. sells a product for $ 200. The variable cost per unit is $ 80. The variable cost per unit includes direct material expense, labor expense, and variable overhead cost. The fixed overhead cost is $ 20. Calculate the contribution margin.

In the question, the fixed overhead cost is given separately. It shall not be included in the calculation as it does not form part of the formula.

Contribution (Margin)= Sales Revenue – Variable Expenses

= $ 200 – $ 80

= $ 120

Therefore, the contribution per unit is $ 120.

Contribution Margin= Contribution / Selling Price = $120/ $200 = 60% or 3:5

You can also refer Contribution Margin vs EBITDA


The contribution margin is very useful for businesses. By using this formula, the business can frame its pricing policies. The actual worth of it is known when the business has a proposal, and a decision regarding its acceptance or rejection is to be made. In such a scenario, contribution margin calculation comes handy. The business can evaluate the worthiness of the proposal by looking at the contribution margin.

Using this concept, the business can give a lease of life to the business by allocating more resources towards products with a higher contribution margin per unit. Thus, it will not be wrong to say that every business uses. Instead, it must use the contribution margin formula to know the returns from different products.

Recommended Read:

Quiz on Contribution margin

This quiz will help you to take a quick test of what you have read here.

Sanjay Borad

Sanjay Bulaki Borad

Sanjay Borad is the founder & CEO of eFinanceManagement. He is passionate about keeping and making things simple and easy. Running this blog since 2009 and trying to explain "Financial Management Concepts in Layman's Terms".

Leave a Comment