What Is Price Variance?

By Thomas Bennett Financial expert at Priceva
Published on March 30, 2023
Budgeting is an essential component of a business's financial responsibility, and the ability to use price variation can boost its effectiveness. Price variance might indicate whether supplies are matching projected budgets, or where to investigate if the price is different. You can use the variance to your financial advantage by understanding how to interpret it in light of the circumstances. In this post, we provide a definition of price variance, explain how to calculate it, and provide some practical tips.

Price Variance Formula

You can calculate price variance (or cost fluctuation)by subtracting the actual price from the standard price and multiplying by the total product count:

(Standard Price – Actual Price) x Quantity of Products

If you get an unfavorable purchase price variance (PPV), it means that the company's expenses have grown and it has to spend more on raw materials (or whatever is used to produce the item). A favorable price variance suggests that expenses are declining, and the company has to spend less.

The Importance of Price Variance

In cost accounting, this concept is crucial for assessing how well the company's annual budgeting process is working. The amount that management anticipates paying for preparing the budget is the normal pricing. Since the team creates the budget months before the actual procurement of the raw materials, there is always some sort of price variance.

Say, in the first quarter, Company N projects to require 2,000 units of a good in the second quarter, each costing $5. On these units, it will get a 20% discount, reducing the cost to $4. However, at the end of the first quarter, the company finds out that it will need only 1,000 units. Now it will get a 10% discount, taking the cost to $4.5. In this case, the cost fluctuation per unit is $0.50 ($4.5 - $4).

Types of Price Variances

Variance can be used for different sorts of costs:

  • Labor costs
  • Materials
  • Variable overhead
  • Fixed overhead

Let us observe some of them in detail.

Material variance

The material variance aids businesses in identifying areas where they could be consuming more materials than necessary. For instance, if a business places a second order for supplies due to quality issues, the analysis may reveal a variance in the additional prices.

The business can use this data to decide whether to work with the same material supplier or look for a different one.

Labor variance

Businesses can determine how well they use labor and how effective their pricing is by using the labor variance. For instance, if a business analyzes variation and discovers inefficiencies or greater labor costs, it may decide to make adjustments for the following fiscal year. The company may be able to further simplify its processes and save money with this information.

Fixed overhead variance

The fixed overhead variance aids a business in determining discrepancies between the number of utilized overhead costs and the number of planned overhead costs, which it may determine based on production levels.

For instance, if a business wishes to review its spending plans, it can utilize fixed overhead variance to see whether it can cut the amount already authorized. Using this knowledge, a company might be able to allocate funds to other parts of the business or increase savings.

Direct Material Price Variance

All expenses, including labor costs, administrative costs, direct material prices, and more, are applicable to the concept of price variance idea. Let's see how the concept may be used to reduce direct material expenses. The idea is that if the notion works for one sort of cost, it will work just as well for other types of costs.

The difference between the actual price a company pays for a certain amount of direct material and the typical (expected) price of the direct material is known as the direct material price or rate variation.

Direct purchase price variance (PPV) is calculated in the following way:

Direct Material Price Variance = (SP − AP) × AQ

SP – Standard Price per unit
AP – Actual Price per unit
AQ – Quantity of purchased direct material

This variation provides insight into the purchase managers’ effectiveness in finding direct materials at reasonable prices. If there is a positive direct material price variance, the purchasing department will be able to buy the raw material at lower prices than the predicted value.

It's important to keep in mind that a company may not always benefit from a favorable direct material rate variation. Sometimes they have to order lower-quality materials when trying to have cost savings. Consequently, it is necessary to include both direct material quantity variance and direct material rate variance.

Selling Price or Revenue Variance

The notion of sales cost fluctuation is not merely related to the cost, as was previously stated. It may also be used to determine sales price or income.

The difference between actual revenue and planned revenue is known as the revenue variance. It can occur because real selling prices have changed from what was anticipated when budgets were being created.

For instance, let’s look at Company ABC: based on the quantity of units they plan to create and the price for sale, the company plans its sales and earnings for the upcoming year (2023). Following the first quarter of 2023, the business discovers that clients are unwilling to pay the prices they had anticipated, since a competitor has lowered the cost of their goods. The price of Company ABC's goods has now also been reduced. An unfavorable selling price variation is the effect of this price reduction activity. Naturally, any change in revenue will also have an impact on profitability.

The difference in the aforementioned situation was brought about by the shift in selling prices. If a brand sells less or more units than anticipated, it may also experience variance.

Problems with Price Variance

The main issue with purchase price variance (PPV) is that it is based on a standard cost, which is essentially an employee's opinion. The standard cost will always have a deceptive price variation attached to it if it is set at an unreasonable level. Price variation also tends to encourage supply managers to make larger purchases in an effort to reduce the disparity, which may lead to a disproportionate investment in inventory.

Final Words

Price variance displays the difference between the anticipated price of a product and the actual price. It is calculated with various formulas and usually serves to show whether purchasing managers/purchasing department have correctly planned the standard price and assessed the value of the product itself. Cost fluctuation can be favorable or unfavorable, and it gives an understanding of how pricing should work based on the knowledge of product value, materials, quantity and what cost savings is possible to have.

One of factors that impacts price variance is competitors’ rates, so you should always take them into account. There is no need to track their prices manually – just implement Priceva’s price tracker. This tool will automatically monitor rates on the market and provide you with up-to-date information, enabling to charge optimal prices.


How do I calculate purchase price variance?

Purchase cost fluctuation is calculated by multiplying the number of real units purchased by the actual unit cost of the item minus the standard cost.

How do I calculate materials price variance?

The materials price variance is the discrepancy between the calculated projections of a material's cost and the actual cost of that material. It is calculated using the following formula:

Material price variance = quantity of materials used x (budgeted price per unit of materials − actual price per unit of materials)

What is PPV in accounting?

Purchase price variance (PPV) is the distinction between the price you actually pay for an item or service and its normal cost, commonly referred to as the baseline price.

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